A Litany for Courage and the Seasons

A Litany for Courage and the Seasons2017-03-14T18:48:45+00:00

Project Description

Chorus, Clarinet, and Vibraphone
25 min.

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Geneseo Chamber Singers, Robert M. Isgro, cond.
On the album Geneseo Chamber Singers Vol. IX (1989)


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  1. The Sleep of Poets
  2. Servis Road: A Hymn to St. Francis
  3. The Soundless Sound
  4. On Chestnut Hill
  5. Little Dance: For Barbara Mason
  6. A Litany for Courage and the Seasons

Program Note

A Litany for Courage and the Seasons was composed in 1988 for the Geneseo Chamber Singers (State University of New York at Geneseo), Robert Isgro, conductor. Chamber Singers was a very fine group with a devotion to the performance of new music.

I was on the faculty at Geneseo from 1970 through 1974. The poet, Richard Beale, was there as well. He is primarily a visual artist, a very fine painter, but also a prolific poet. His work always had a strong appeal for me, and I have set over twenty of his poems to music. Included are the seven Sofia songs for my Mass, Black Dog Songs for tenor and piano, and the six songs of A Litany

My way of selecting poetry is to read volumes, noting anything of interest, then to begin culling until a set emerges. What came in this case was a strong mystical journey on the borderline between life and death, one constantly working from both sides: the eager exploration of dream space in “The Sleep of Poets,” the deep agony and yet profound grace of “St. Francis in Service Road,” the thin, evanescent mysticism of “The Soundless Sound,” the unspoken question and pain of “On Chestnut Hill,” the vibrant, living I AM of “Little Dance,” and the final release of “A Litany for Courage and the Seasons.” 

The clarinet and vibraphone create a wonderful foil for choral sound. I have told clarinet players that this is really a clarinet concerto with choral and vibraphone accompaniment.

Program Note by David Maslanka
(January 2016)


Poems by Richard Beale

The sleep of poets is but a travelogue of a dream,
Mars tonight and the crab nebulae tomorrow.
The voice of God, the colorless silences
are his paragraphs, Dark holes, the dimples of his mind.
O come morning with your vivid dawn
and your rain and winds, to see if you can rival
the augury and majesty of dream.

After a hard winter of work spring comes at last,
with warming winds which find even the deepest culverts.
In my heart St. Francis is stirring.
His blindness and the remedy of hot irons disrupts me,
as I walk along this country road.
I wonder what God would have done to prepare a man for that,
Both the pain and the disfiguration.
I ask St. Francis to pray for me because
I need the recommendation of a good man.
The sky is blue with no clouds.
The freshets gurgle pleasantly beneath
the sounds of countless peepers and new birds.
I walk along briskly remembering my body,
trying to awaken it from a long chill,
as though it had been asleep under the snow.
The sun surrounds me with a flowing light
and shows me the configurations and colors
of things I have come to know and love.
I wonder why my own blindness wasn’t healed
by this transfiguration.
Blessed Francis, guide me through my awakening
while my spirit is still heavy with sleep
and while I have trouble focusing my eyes.
Speaking is a way of knowing Psalms from a lover’s soul
on the heart’s hearth newly glowing like ignited coal.
The fire’s brand along the temples and the smell of burning hair
the love of God impeached the troubles Brother Ass imprisoned there
Scarred and blistered and blinded still, with ulcers on both feet and hands
Blessed Francis, share your loving with another blinded man.

Further Reading

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Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web. This week, we remember the life of David Maslanka and Alison Matthews with unforgettable performances of Symphony No. 4, "Song for Alison" from Song Book for Alto Saxophone and Marimba, and Symphony No. 10: The River of Time.

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The roots and purpose of music

15 November 1992|0 Comments

Remarks given at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Nov.15.1992, before a performance of Symphony No.3. I want to give a few thoughts on the roots of music and its purpose in human life. Music comes supposedly [...]