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Listen to a performance by the New Hampshire Friendship Chorus conducted by Dan Perkins:


  • Score: $3 (for reproduction rights; minimum purchase of 10 required; additional charge for hard copies)
  • For SATB chorus and piano
  • Secular text: English translation of 3 texts by Korean poet So Chong Ju)
  • 8:30
  • Difficulty rating (1-5): 5
  • View a PDF score excerpt
  • Purchase, request full review copy or more information, etc.
  • Commissioned and premiered by the New Hampshire Friendship Chorus, Dan Perkins, Music Director.
  • Selected for performance at the Society of Composers, Inc. national conference.

I was commissioned by the New Hampshire Friendship Chorus to write a choral work for their tour of Asia, which included performances in South Korea. For this work, I decided to set some Korean poetry in English translation, and began reading prospective texts almost at random. When I first encountered the poetry of So Chong Ju, I was deeply moved by its passion and vitality, qualities captured masterfully by translator Brother Anthony of Taizé, Professor of English at Sogang University in Seoul. I hope that the composition I have based on their work conveys the same vigorous desire for communication and love of life.

I.

I’ll become a bell, perhaps; I will if I have to.
Hung high up as I used to ring

here at this crossroads
this four-branched crossroads
with the sun setting
as twilight deepens

I’ll become a bell, perhaps; I will if I have to.
ringing out with a cracked sound if I crack

I don’t know how you feel,
I’m anxious, that’s all,
so anxious
that I’m melting, that’s all.

Though I ring a thousand years at your house’s threshold,
I’ll become a bell, perhaps; I will if I have to.

Even if I make a foul sound now
having cracked and fallen
after lingering and calling
round the castle walls in younger days;

I’ll become a bell, perhaps; I will if I have to.
I’ll become a bell, perhaps; I will if I have to.

II.

Anyway, it’s certain there’s something I’ve lost.
Taking a gourd dipper,
one fit for the weakling I am,
suppose I try scooping up sea water here?

There’s no bolt-hole up in the stars;
if I galloped off on some Australian horse,
there’d be no fraying of veils, I know!
Water gathers, rustling and stale
like my faded blood
and maybe now I’m only pretending
to scoop up this sea water.

Is it like what arises when flesh touches flesh?
If your hand is short, then mine should be long,
if my hand is short, then yours should be long,
or was there no contact, despite the efforts we made?
Anyway, it’s certain there’s something I’ve lost.

III.

Like rubbing cheek against cheek, that’s what it’s like!
The teasiness shown by the west wind, southern breezes,
bleak gusts, all the winds, unable to leave,
is like rubbing cheek against cheek, that’s what it’s like!

Hills, blue hills, less worn than I, who’ve been wearing out
since the days of the Three Wise Emperors long ago;
hills less worn, younger than I am, and taller too:

when my life is done and at last I join you,
the winds will embrace us, toss us, toss
until we turn to pebbles of quartz.
Hills, one day you’ll turn to pebbles of quartz
patterning almost invisible me.

Those pebbles, too, after sitting about like coquetry,
will turn into finest finest grains of sand.
And the dust of those grains will become red clay.

Then, hills, then
we’ll lie together,
the oldest of all old things,
and sustain the waving grass in the fields.

Like rubbing cheek against cheek, that’s what it’s like!
The teasiness shown by the west wind, southern breezes,
bleak gusts, all the winds, unable to leave,
is like rubbing cheek against cheek, that’s what it’s like!

—So Chong Ju, tr. Brother Anthony of Taizé

Texts used with the permission of the Estate of So Chong Ju; English translations used with the permission of Brother Anthony of Taizé.

full chorus, accompanied, poem, poetry, Korea, translated, music, modern, contemporary, classical, contemporary

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Jonathan Santore
Plymouth, NH
info@jonathansantore.com

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