Intimations of Immortality

Key Features:

  • Language: English
  • Forces: SATB Choir, Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Chamber Orchestra Chamber
  • Soprano and Mezzo-Soprano Solo
  • Length: Approx. 20 Minutes
  • Number of Movements: 5
  • Performance Options:
    • Keyboard Only – Piano
    • Chamber Orchestra – Oboe, French Horn, Strings (quartet or 3.3.2.1)

Recorded by Gary Packwood and the Mississippi State University State Singers

INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY

music by Michael John Trotta

text by William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

The piece is based on excerpts from Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, by the English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth. These writings, along with others, represent the “greatest lyrics of his maturity. In these poems Wordsworth presents a fully developed, yet morally flexible, picture of the relationship between human beings and the natural world.”

When Wordsworth completed this work in 1804, he called it simply “Ode,” and the poem carried this title when it was published in 1807. In 1815, when the poem was republished, Wordsworth expanded the title to “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” Intimations means hints, inklings, or indirect suggestions.

Composer Michael John Trotta has set this work for piano, string quintet, oboe, horn, mezzo and soprano soloists, and SATB choir, in five movements. Movement I, “The glory and freshness of a dream” utilizes all forces except the mezzo soloist and is based on stanza one of Wordsworth’s Ode. Movement II, entitled “Ye blessed creatures, I have heard the call,” adds the mezzo soloist, but mutes the soprano, and is based mostly on stanza four. “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting” is the title of movement III. In this movement Trotta allows the choir to present stanza five a cappella. Movement IV, “Full soon thy Soul shall have her earthly freight,” is based on parts of stanzas seven and eight and includes all forces except the oboe and soprano soloist. The final movement, “Of the eternal silence,” reincorporates all instrumental forces, plus soprano and mezzo soloists.

This five-movement work was commissioned by Gary Packwood, director of choral studies, and dedicated to the Mississippi State University State Singers for the opening of the new Music Building.

—Gary Packwood & Michael J. Cummings

 

Here’s what people are saying about composer Michael John Trotta:

“fascinating, infectious … effectively carries out the dialogue between the ancient . . . and the modern listener”- Choral Journal

“informs the thoughts and aspirations of the people and the time” – Choral Scholar

“euphonious” – Gramophone

“weaves rich harmonies and memorable melodic lines into delightful tapestries of sound”– Stage and Cinema

“elegant, singable music with a strong spiritual heft” – Choir and Organ

Text as excerpted from Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations of Immortality

1. The glory and the freshness of a dream

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

The earth, and every common sight, To me did seem

Apparelled in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.

It is not now as it hath been of yore;— Turn wheresoe’er I may,

By night or day.

The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

2. Ye blessèd creatures, I have heard the call

Ye blessèd creatures, I have heard the call

Ye to each other make; I see

The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;

My heart is at your festival, My head hath its coronal,

The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all. Oh evil day! if I were sullen

While Earth herself is adorning, This sweet May-morning,

And the Children are culling On every side,

In a thousand valleys far and wide,

Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,

And the Babe leaps up on his Mother’s arm:— I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!

—But there’s a Tree, of many, one, A single field which I have looked upon,

Both of them speak of something that is gone; The Pansy at my feet

Doth the same tale repeat: Whither is fled the visionary gleam?

Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

3. Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar: Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy! Shades of the prison-house begin to close

Upon the growing Boy,

But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,

He sees it in his joy;

The Youth, who daily farther from the east

Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,

And by the vision splendid

Is on his way attended;

At length the Man perceives it die away, And fade into the light of common day.

4. Full soon thy Soul shall have her earthly freight

[Then will he speak] of business, love, or strife;

But it will not be long

Ere this be thrown aside, And with new joy and pride

The little Actor cons another part;

Filling from time to time his “humorous stage” With all the Persons, down to palsied Age, That Life brings with her in her equipage;

As if his whole vocation Were endless imitation.

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie Thy Soul’s immensity;

Full soon thy Soul shall have her earthly freight, And custom lie upon thee with a weight,

Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!

5. Of the eternal silence

Our noisy years seem moments in the being

Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake, To perish never;

Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour, Nor Man nor Boy,

Nor all that is at enmity with joy, Can utterly abolish or destroy!

Hence in a season of calm weather Though inland far we be,

Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea Which brought us hither,

Can in a moment travel thither, And see the Children sport upon the shore, And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains

Thanks to the human heart by which we live, Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears, To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

Complete text and program notes may be downloaded at: www.mjtrotta.com/programnotes

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