Review of Wendell Berry poems performed by Dawn Upshaw

The cycle, setting poems by Jaeger’s fellow Kentuckian, the environmental activist, poet and farmer Wendell Berry, was accompanied by violin, mandolin, clarinet and double bass. It opened with harsh pizzicato notes on the violin — an overly familiar world of dissonance.

The most lyrical moment was accompanied by violin, mandolin and bass used as percussion instruments. Moments of Appalachian folk music, played on the mandolin, only emphasized the overall lack of melody.


Wendell Berry composer profiled

"Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music" took seven years to make, which means Maxfield, 32, has devoted much of his young life to commemorating Berry’s legacy as an American treasure. A man of letters and environmental activism, Berry has influenced numerous Utah writers from Terry Tempest Williams to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner. The latter was also Berry’s mentor.

"[Berry] had a disproportionately large impact on my professional development," said the soft-spoken Maxfield, whose spectacles partially obscure the gleaming curiosity in his eyes. "Though I’m not the first person to write music about him, this is the first project of its kind in its scope."


Wendell Berry works to be performed May 13

The poetry of Wendell Berry hit Congregation Solel pianist Philip Orem close to home, which is why he was moved to compose a song cycle dedicated to his works.

That composition will have its world premiere at Solel in Highland Park on May 13 at 7:30 p.m.

"An Evening of American Song," which is free and open to the public, will feature the Berry song cycle as well as the premiere performance of a song cycle dedicated to the poetry of Langston Hughes.

Orem will accompany soprano Elizabeth Gray and baritone Warren Fremling, who also serves as Solel's music director.


Florida chorale to perform Wendell Berry works

Exsultate!, a chorale located in Venice, Florida, has commissioned composer David Brunner to expand the collection of Wendell Berry poetry that he set to music.  Titled A Timbered Choir:  The Sabbath Poems, 1979-1997, the collection already included “The Circles of Our Lives," “The Wheel," and “We Clasp Hands."  First published in 1998, it can be sampled at

On April 14th, Exsultate! will perform the Berry-based pieces by David Brunner along with Randall Thompson's Frostiana.

Grace United Methodist Church, 400 East Field Ave. at Avenida del Circo, Venice, Florida

via Exsultate!

Wendell Berry's words and David Brunner's music

I have just been made aware of the work of David Brunner, composer and conductor. Dr. Brunner has composed music around several pieces by Mr. Berry and is apparently working on commissions for several others.

"The Wheel" is the title poem from the collection of that name. "The Circles of Our Lives" also comes from The Wheel and is a setting of "Song (for Guy Davenport)"—a.k.a "Song (4)" in New Collected Poems. "We clasp the hands" is taken from section IV of the essay "Healing" in What Are People For?"

Exsultate!, the Venice (FL) Chorale, has commissioned Brunner to compose new works based on the Sabbath Poems, to be called "Songs for a Timbered Choir." He has already produced one, "A Timbered Choir" based on "Slowly, slowly, they return," (I, 1986).

Some of this music can be sampled HERE at David Brunner's site.

More on Wendell Berry poem in choral work

In choosing a theme for the commission, Mr. Scribner says, "We never seriously contemplated anything other than something that celebrates our Earthly home. It's a subject that's absolutely universal and unifying. There are many political views about the Earth, but no one disputes the fact that in some way, shape, or form we have to take care of our home."

The concert is a work in seven movements. Symphonic choruses are based on texts, and four of the movements are poems by the poet Wendell Berry, who was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2010. According Mr. Scribner, the poetry of Mr. Berry "forms the heart and soul of the piece."


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