I couldn’t be more excited about our upcoming concert which includes extraordinary music of some quite famous composers — G.F. Handel and the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt. Many of you are familiar with these well-knowns and some of their music, but we are featuring another composer with whom I am betting you are less familiar…
Andrew Imbrie’s piece, On the Beach at Night, is a piece for choir and strings set to the wonderful poem by Walt Whitman. In our shared Conspirare experiences, I love the opportunity to hear a composer’s work when likely most or all of the audience comes without expectations or biases. We can hear the music with fresh ears. We are each free to have our own experience of the music. I chose to include this piece for that shared experience of fresh hearing and also to include the words of one of our great American mystics, Walt Whitman, next to a mystical work by Arvo Pärt, whose spacious and silence-born music points eloquently to the vast unknown. Imbrie sets this text with great care in a 12-minute piece.
I encourage you to get acquainted with the poem printed below. When you come to the concert, enjoy hearing Imbrie’s musical perspective of the poem with which you have acquainted yourself already.
Following the poem, I have included a short biography and a link to an article written by a former student of Imbrie.
“On the Beach at Night”
On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky
Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.
From the beach, the child, holding the hand of her father,
Those burial clouds that lower victorious, soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.
Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious;
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.
Then, dearest child, mournest thou only for Jupiter?
Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?
Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter,
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.
Here is a short bio of Andrew Imbrie (pictured left):
Andrew Imbrie (1921—2007)
Born in New York City on April 6, 1921, Andrew Imbrie studied with Leo Ornstein, Nadia Boulanger, and Roger Sessions, with whom he worked from 1937 to 1948. He taught at the University of California at Berkeley from 1949 and at the San Francisco Conservatory from 1970. Imbrie composed works for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensemble, and stage, and his music has been praised for its profound integrity, ardent expression, and an intense drive and conviction. Imbrie’s list of prestigious commissions and honors begins from his earliest days as a composition student. The first of his five string quartets, written while at Princeton, won the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award in 1944. Other commissions include works for the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Halle Orchestra, San Francisco Opera, the Naumburg Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the Pro Arte Quartet. His awards include the Prix de Rome, two Guggenheim Fellowships, The Walter M. Naumburg Recording Award, and membership in the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Andrew Imbrie passed away on Dec. 5, 2007 at his home in Berkeley, CA.
Here is a link to an article by one of Imbrie’s former students written in remembrance of him and his legacy:
Looking forward to seeing you at the concert!