picc.2.2.ca.2.bcl.2.cbsn - 4.3.2.btrbn.1 – timp - perc(2): tam-t/glsp/chimes/crash.cym/BD/mar – harp – strings
Wonders was commissioned by Sydney Philharmonia Choirs as a concert companion for Vaughan Williams’ renowned Sea Symphony, and so uses similar forces with large choir and two soloists. Like that work it also features text by Walt Whitman, being a setting of his 1855 poem, Who learns my
lesson complete?, which was renamed Wonders in the 1892 edition of Leaves of Grass. (This substantial collection of poetry also supplied the words for Vaughan Williams’ symphony).
Wonders is a short poem in twenty-six lines of free verse. I was drawn to it for its manifest humanism, its tangible though irreligious spirituality and its powerful expression of communal inclusivity. Although the text functions largely as a soliloquy, its message is meant equally for all, and so in my setting is passed between the soloists and the collective consciousness of the two choirs - large and small. The soloists speak respectively for the male and female principle of the original voice, while the choirs echo the social sentiment of acceptance.
It is hard to not get swept up in the boundless beauty that the poet finds in the simple things that surround us every day: from one’s eyesight, friendship and conversation up to the miracles of childbirth and the unknowable extent of time and the universe. In this concise statement the poet has encapsulated a comprehensive holistic view of humankind and the way we should live together. It is wonderful.
Carl Vine, June 2016