For the Beauty of the Earth
Concerts December 1, 2 and 9
Last year our wonderful alumni chorus Ragazzi Continuo sang an arrangement of the hymn, For the Beauty of the Earth, and I thought, what a wonderful inclusive theme for our December concerts. “For the love which rounds us lies … For the joy of human love …Lord of all to thee we raise, this our joyful hymn of praise.” Ragazzi singers shared how this Lord can be any lord or just represent faith in the life force itself, and in the power of human resilience in the face of challenges. This force unites us with each other, with nature and with the universe.
As I searched for other songs that explored the theme of earthly beauty, I noticed how many composers have set texts which contrast stories of roses growing from the bleak hard snowy frozen ground, of the sadness of loss with the joy of hope for peace in the world, and of the paradox of light in the midst of winter.
In this season, the rose serves as a metaphor for beauty juxtaposed with painful thorns. Seen as the most perfect flower, it represents for many a symbol of life’s joys and sorrows.
Maria Walks Amid the Thorns by Andrew Carter is set to a medieval text that starts by imitating the plodding walk through the thorns of sorrow that Mary’s baby will face in his life. It ends with the miracle of the rose blooming from a barren bush.
Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming is a well-known carol, and Swedish composer J. Sandström has surrounded it with undulating clusters of music that almost clash, but represent the cold of winter surrounding the miracle of the blooming rose. The expectation of joy and hope is also seen in the text for In the Bleak Midwinter, as set by Harold Darke. What Sweeter Music by Eleanor Daley sets the text of poet Robert Herrick (17th century), where we see December turn to May, with the bringer of hope who turns the “patient ground to flowers.”
Celebration of joy in the dark of winter continues with the Young Men’s Ensemble, who sing Exultate Justi by Viadana, Brightest and Best by Shawn Kirchner, Wendell Whalen’s De’ Mornin’ Come and another version of For the Beauty of the Earth. Our younger singers will contribute the traditional Personet Hodie and a setting of the Spanish carol Riu Riu Chiu.
Our concert includes a sing-along of familiar Christmas carols and YME’s traditional performance of Ave Maria by Franz Biebl.
Our community embraces members who hold many different beliefs and it is important that we honor all faiths with our music. In the past we have sung Jewish, Islamic, Sufi, and Hindu music. We all have different interpretations of the divine, but we all count on the beauty of the earth, the blooming of the rose, the outbreak of spring and the renewal of hope in the midst of the dreariness of winter.
-Joyce Keil, Founder and Artistic Director