Long before Music…

The modern choral composer Ola Gjeilo set part of St. John of the Cross’s “Dark Night of the Soul”* to music.

He then composed a companion piece, with words by Charles Anthony Sylvestri. The second piece is entitled “Luminous Night” and the opening verses spoke to me in ways that I’m still sorting out:

Long before music was sung by a choir,…
Long before poets inspired the heart,
You were the Spirit of all that is art…

You give the author a story to tell;
You are the prayer in the sound of a bell.

(C) Charles Anthony Sylvestri 2011. [The link takes you to the full verses]

The composition begins with a cello meditation, and then the choir comes in quietly, reverently. The first time I sight-read the piece, it moved me, and it is one of few that I still tear up every time I sing it. Sylvestri’s lyrics catch, at least for me, what being a writer, teacher, and singer mean, and Who makes that possible. (If you want to skip the piano interlude, jump to 4:45) And then the piece blossoms into the refrain of “luminous night of the soul” and returns to St. John’s text.

I’m sorry there is not a YouTube version that has the choir better miked. Every one seems to lose the choral diction.

*The part most people know: https://poemsintranslation.blogspot.com/2009/09/saint-john-of-cross-dark-night-of-soul.html

The full text, which is a theological study as well as mystical meditation: http://carmelitemonks.org/Vocation/DarkNight-StJohnoftheCross.pdf

5 thoughts on “Long before Music…

  1. Ewwwwgad, could we change the frame of reference to Elgar’s “The Music Makers?” I was recently reminded of a Manilow connection, that raised the gorge and blood pressure simultaneously.

    When I get a good WiFi link here, I’ll listen and enjoy. IIRC, it’s a good complement to St. Thomas Aquinas.

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