Carlyle Sharpe: Proud Music of the Storm

Words adapted from “Proud Music of the Storm” by Walt Whitman

Commissioned by The Providence Singers
in celebration of its Thirtieth Anniversary Season

Performances by The Providence Singers

The World Première
8 p.m. Saturday, November 3, 2001
VMA Arts and Cultural Center, Providence

Julian Wachner, conductor

Joanna Mongiardo, soprano
Deborah Rentz-Moore, mezzo-soprano
William Hite, tenor
Curtis Streetman, bass

NEA Festival: American Masterpieces
8 p.m. Saturday, March 3, 2007
VMA Arts and Cultural Center, Providence

Andrew Clark, conductor

Elizabeth Weigle, soprano
Gigi Mitchell-Velasco, mezzo-soprano
Frank Kelley, tenor
Aaron Engebreth, bass

About the Composer

Carlyle in 2006

The music of Carlyle Sharpe (b. 1965) has been performed and broadcast around the world: Montreal, Korea, Rio de Janeiro, Melbourne, Chicago, Boston, San Diego, Aspen, and many other American cities. Among his commissions was a work performed during the 2002 Olympic Games ceremonies in Salt Lake City, celebrating the Cultural Olympiad.

His compositions for chorus, orchestra, organ and other ensembles have received numerous awards, including:

  • the 2000 American Guild of Organists/ECS Publishing Award in Choral Composition for Laudate Nomen (SATB chorus and organ);
  • the 1997-98 Holtkamp/American Guild of Organists Award in Organ Composition for Confitemini Domino (brass quintet and organ);
  • the 1996-97 American Guild of Organists/ECS Publishing Award in Choral Composition for Psalm 122 (SATB chorus, tenor solo and organ);

Sharpe lives and works in Springfield, Mo., where he teaches composition and theory as an associate professor of music at Drury University. He graduated summa cum laude from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, receiving his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in composition. He continued his studies with John Harbison, Charles Fussell and Marjorie Merryman at Boston University, where he earned his Doctor of Musical Arts in composition.

Sharpe has been honored through the ASCAP Foundation Grants to Young Composers, an ASCAP scholarship, and ASCAP and other awards. His music is published by ECS Publishing, Hinshaw Music Inc. and Colla Voce Music Inc.

Text of Proud Music of the Storm

1. Proud music of the storm

Proud music of the storm,
Blast that careers so free, whistling across the prairies,
Strong hum of forest tree-tops—wind of the mountains,
Personified dim shapes—you hidden orchestras,
You serenades of phantoms with instruments alert,
Bending with Nature’s rhythmus all the tongues of nations;
You chords left as by vast composers—you choruses,
You formless, free, religious dances—you from the Orient,
You undertone of rivers, roar of pouring cataracts,
You sounds from distant guns with galloping cavalry,
Echoes of camps with all the different bugle-calls,
Trooping tumultuous, filling the midnight late, bending me powerless ...

Entering my lonesome slumber-chamber,
why have you siez’d me?

2. Come forward O my soul

Come forward O my soul, and let the rest retire,
Listen, lose not, it is t’ward thee they tend,
Parting the midnight, entering my slumber-chamber,
For thee they sing and dance O soul.

3. Now loud approaching drums

Now loud approaching drums ...


See’st thou in powder-smoke the banners torn but flying?
the rout of the baffled?
Hearest those shouts of a conquering army?


(Ah soul, the sobs of women, the wounded groaning in agony,
The hiss and crackle of flames, the blacken’d ruins, the embers of cities,
The dirge and desolation of mankind.)

4. Ah from a little child

Ah from a little child,
Thou knowest soul how to me all sounds became music,
My mother’s voice in lullaby or hymn,
(The voice, O tender voices, mem’ry’s loving voices,
Last miracle of all, O dearest mother’s, sister’s, voices;)
The rain, the growing corn, the breeze among the long-leav’d corn,
The measur’d sea-surf beating on the sand,
The twittering bird, the hawk’s sharp scream,
The wild-fowl’s notes at night as flying low migrating north or south,
The psalm in the country church or mid the clustering trees, the open air camp-meeting,
The fiddler in the tavern, the glee, the long-strung sailor-song,
The lowing cattle, bleating sheep, the crowing cock at dawn.
All songs of current lands come sounding round me ...

5. I hear the dance-music of all nations

I hear the dance-music of all nations,
The waltz, some delicious measure, lapsing, bathing me in bliss ...
I see religious dances old and new,
I hear the sound of the Hebrew lyre,
I see the crusaders marching bearing the cross on high, to the martial clang of cymbals,
I hear dervishes chanting,
I see the rapt religious dances of the Persians and the Arabs,
I see the modern Greeks dancing...
I see again the wild old Corybantian dance,
I see the Roman youth throwing and catching their weapons ...
I hear from the Mussulman mosque the muezzin calling ...
I hear the Egyptian harp of many strings,
The primitive chants of the Nile boatmen,
The sacred imperial hymns of China,
To the delicate sounds of the king,
Orto Hindu flutes and the fretting twang of the vina,
A band of bayaderes.

6. Now Asia, Africa leave me

Now Asia, Africa leave me, Europe seizing inflates me,
To organs huge and bands I hear as from vast concourses of voices ...
You Composers! mighty maestros! (of voices,)
And you, sweet singers of old lands,
To you a new bard caroling in the West,
Obeisant sends his love.
Give me to hold all sounds, (I madly struggling cry,)
Fill me with all the voices of the universe,
Endow me with their throbbings, Nature’s also,
The tempests, waters, winds, operas and chants, marches and dances,
Utter, pour in, for I would take them all!

7. Then I woke softly

Then I woke softly,
And pausing, questioning awhile the music of my dream,
And questioning all those reminiscences, the tempest in its fury,
And all the songs of sopranos and tenors,
And those rapt oriental dances of religious fervor,
And the sweet varied instruments, and the diapason of organs,
And all the artless plaints of love and grief and death,
I said to my silent curious soul out of the bed of the slumber-chamber,
Come, for I have found the clew I sought so long ...

Let us go forth refresh’d amid the day,
Cheerfully tallying life, walking the world, the real,
Nourish’d henceforth by our celestial dream.

8. And I said, moreover

And I said, moreover,
Haply what thou hast heard O soul was not the sound of winds,
Nor dream of raging storm, nor sea-hawk’s flapping wings nor harsh scream,
Nor vocalism of sun-bright Italy,
Nor German organ majestic, nor vast concourse of voices, nor layers of harmonies,
Nor strophes of husbands and wives, nor sound of marching soldiers,
Nor flutes, nor harps, nor the bugle-calls of camps,
But to a new rhythmus fitted for thee,
Poems bridging the way from Life to Death, vaguely wafted in night air ...

Uncaught, unwritten ...

Which let us go forth in the bold day and write.

Text adapted by the composer from Walt Whitman’s “Proud Music of the Storm”