Wendell Berry reads "A Half Pint of Old Darling"

Many thanks to The Membership Podcast for bringing this video to our attention.

As part of Drennon Springs History Day, Henry County farmer, writer and activist Wendell Berry read his short story “A Half Pint of Old Darlin’,” from Watch with Me, a Port William Membership collection that took place in Goforth, a fictional stand-in loosely based on Drennon Springs, Kentucky.

Listen to The Membership discuss this story and "The Lost Bet" ... HERE.

Composer Gavin Bryars uses Wendell Berry prose in choral piece

English composer Gavin Bryars grounds his latest a cappella work, A Native Hill, on text by Mr. Berry from his 1968 essay. The work will be performed on December 14th and 16th by Philadelphia's well-known chamber choir, The Crossing.

A note at Mr. Bryars' site says,

Following from the huge success of The Fifth Century, written for The Crossing and Prism Saxophone Quartet, which won a Grammy for Best Choral performance in January 2018, Gavin has written a substantial new a capella, work that builds on the considerable experience that he has of working with the choir, and the many close personal friendships within it. For this he has set text from the American writer Wendell Berry's early essay A Native Hill (1968). Berry, now in his eighties, has written a great deal - poetry, essays, novels - from the perspective of his life as a farmer in rural Kentucky, where he has lived and worked for over 50 years. He is one of the world's finest writers, and perhaps because of his apparent isolation has been called a "modern-day Thoreau" and certainly his work is as politically charged as that of his 19th century predecessor. Gavin decided to set prose texts rather than the poetry, although, like Thomas Traherne who was the writer used for The Fifth Century, this "prose" has great poetic beauty.

Philadelphia's public radio station, WRTI, will present live highlights of the work on WRTI's Facebook page on Monday, December 10th at 4:30 PM [Eastern time, I presume], and also on WRTI 90.1 and streaming at WRTI.org on Thursday, December 13th at 12:10 PM. See more information HERE.

Wendell Berry and others inspire songs

The Vision was inspired by a powerful poem written by Wendell Berry that speaks deeply to my feelings about the earth, in all of its destruction and possibility. Upon meeting Wendell two times at his farm, I was amazed at how comfortable I was sitting with him and his amazing wife Tanya. I enjoyed his simplicity and how he cuts to the quick with no hesitancy or apology.

I looked this poem over and again the words that would become a song came to me and I arranged it without much effort. I usually channel poetry arrangements, but since Wendell is alive and well, I wanted to honor him and what I perceived to be his intention as clearly as I could. I did work on it more than other poems, nonetheless, it pretty much arranged itself.

I tend to select poems, melodies, and arrangements that are complex and a bit gut-wrenching and hard to sing. This one takes a lot of air! It also takes a bit of courage to sing because of the state of the world. I love the harmonies John and I do on this one.

Listen to the music and read more by Donna and John Paul Wright at The Thread in the Quilt.

Just Found: March 2014 Review of Wendell Berry Opera

It’s not often that Modern Farmer is the magazine of choice for a preview article about an opera, yet there’s no question but that Payne Hollow, composed by Kentucky-born Shawn Jaeger, was an excellent fit. The opera is based on a verse play by Kentucky poet Wendell Berry about Harlan and Anna Hubbard who, for thirty-five years, lived lightly on the land in their small home along the Ohio River. In keeping with the subject matter of the opera, Berry responded by handwritten letter to Jaeger’s request for permission to use the story and handed Jaeger a completed libretto while they sat together on Berry’s front porch.

Payne Hollow tells a quiet story, limning two quiet lives. The Hubbards lived at once alone and together, alone in their solitary worlds, and together to play Brahms, she on piano, he on violin. There is no powerful dramatic arc. Rather, the story flows along like a river, with occasional turbulence, but also with a steadiness akin to that of companionable lives well lived.

Read more at Prufrock's Dilemma

More on the Wendell Berry opera at Bard College

In order to gain permission to perform an opera at the Bard College Conservatory of Music based on Berry’s short verse play, “Sonata at Payne Hollow,” Jaeger wrote a letter to Berry, who was initially reluctant to participate.

“I thought there was no way he’d be involved in the project,” says Jaeger, “but he wrote back and his letters were handwritten, which we don’t see much anymore. It was really fun to correspond with him in that way.” Encouraged but still pessimistic, Jaeger made “what felt like a pilgrimage” to the Berry homestead in Henry County, Kentucky. While sitting on Berry’s porch — adorned with bird feeders and overlooking the Kentucky River — the writer revealed to Jaeger that he had already adapted his work into a libretto, as requested.

via Modern Farmer

See also "Shawn Jaeger's Payne Hollow" (Prufrock's Dilemma)

Wendell Berry poems to be sung at St. Ambrose University

Three poems by Wendell Berry will be sung by members of the University Chorale to music composed by William Campbell, PhD, associate professor and Music Department chair, in a concert intended to celebrate the 2014 St. Ambrose University project theme of Sustainability.

SAU's Chamber Singers and the Bee Sharp men's vocal ensemble also will perform in the concert that will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 2, in the Galvin Fine Arts Center.

"Wendell Berry is well known for his writings and poems that express the relationship between humans and nature," Campbell said. "My compositions are settings of three of his Sabbath poems from A Timbered Choir: The Clearing Rests in Song and Shade, I Go Among the Trees and Sit Still and All the Earth Shall Sing.

via St. Ambrose University

An Opera based on Wendell Berry's "Payne Hollow"

Bard College Conservatory of Music will be presenting Payne Hollow, an opera by Shawn Jaeger with a libretto from Wendell Berry's Sonata at Payne Hollow. Two performances are scheduled: Friday, March 14 and Sunday, March 16. The opera will be a world premiere in conjunction with a performance of Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw. Go HERE for more information.

I stumbled onto this information via this delightful Twitter conversation:


More on Wendell Berry, Harry Pickens, and Voces Novae

This is the second time Pickens and Voces Novae have worked together on a Wendell Berry performance. Pickens calls these collaborations “a love affair of music and words.”

“Wendell’s sensibility to the miracle of being a human being and the connection with the divine, and connection with family and earth and land and all that is something that inspires me deeply,” he says.

Now entering its 21st season, Louisville’s Voces Novae is a semi-professional community choir dedicated to performing music by living American composers. Heller says working with living American composers like Pickens on original work helps the group evolve along with the contemporary musical landscape.

via wfpl.org