Lines for Winter (SATB with piano accompaniment)

Text by Mark Strand
for SATB with piano (2001, rev. 2005) ca. 5’30”
Commissioned as part of the Dale Warland Singers’ New Choral Music Commissioning Program, with major funding provided by the Jerome Foundation and additional support from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University.

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Sometimes there is great wisdom in simplicity, and I was attracted to this text because of its powerful, simple message: love yourself. In a way, the poem seems a continuation of Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, and certainly the imagery is very Frostian. In my setting of the text I tried to provide a simple accompaniment that is suggestive of walking, sometimes slowly, sometimes moderately, and also to evoke through harmonic color the kinds of imagery pervasive in the poem. At the same time, I saw the poem as ultimately one arc that leads to the final line, and the music is similarly structured.


Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself —
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

— Mark Strand

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