A Choral Symphony in Three Movements
Commissioned by and dedicated to the Ithaca College School of Music, Karl Paulnack, Dean; and the Ithaca College Choir, Janet Galván, Director of Choral Activities
With every next project, I find myself drawn more and more to collaborations with living artists. I am inspired by the virtuosity and expressivity of the best solo performers, by the insight and curiosity of the best ensemble leaders, and—especially—by the evocative turns of phrase conjured by living poets.
SOLARIS is a work indebted to the contributions of three such wordsmiths: Megan Levad, Misha Penton, and Meghan Guidry. Each has contributed their voices to other projects in my past, and this collaboration is an effort to bring their words together in service of a greater, loftier musical form: the choral symphony.
Each movement progresses in time through an ordinary day, following the solar orbit that gives the work its title. Megan’s poem “that love was you” sparkles with the corona of the mid-day sun—extroverted, exultant, and golden—and my music borrows its energy, agility, and vigor from the rush of emotion one feels when first in love.
Misha’s poem “After Hahn” captures that moment of dusk and twilight, just before living things retreat for the evening. The words are a paean to the earth, forever keeping its mysteries as “the day holds out against a dark insistence.” As Misha takes her French from the composer Reynaldo Hahn’s art song “L’heure exquise,” so too do I borrow Hahn’s music at those moments, existing both out of its own time and present in ours, reminding us that all things come from all others.
Finally, Meghan Guidry wrote “One Lone Star” deliberately for this symphony, and for that I am deeply honored and grateful. Her images are bright and bold, set at night, where the stars provide the light lost from day. The tone is one of optimism and hope, where the frustrations of an older self evaporate with the aura of new love embodied in the soul of another. And its setting is Ithaca, both the source of the commission from Janet Galván and her students, and the place of my very first musical inspirations.
The work is dedicated gratefully to the Ithaca College Choir, to Dean Karl Paulnack, and especially to Janet, who continues to enable and foster my artistry. It has been 15 years since I first joined your chorus, Janet, when I matriculated as an undergraduate on South Hill. My journey since that time has been rich in art, life, and song in no small part because of your guidance. May this work stand as a light for you and the countless students you have touched in your time as an educator. And may its ravishing and unabashed joy be my gift back to you for all you have given to me.
-- Dominick DiOrio, January 2017
I. that love was you
on the round green hill
the one no one
the one who only comes
forehead, eyesquint, palm
to the honeyed sun
that love was you
II. After Hahn
another day turns to darkness and I’m a strange and colorful flower like those odd crucifix
blossoms: a purple stamen and splayed petals— passion vine I think they’re called
closing up for a night’s repose among the garden’s duranta golden berries, sage and cosmos
flower, red clover and andover reed
o bien, aimée...
a world in ever-slowly-slow-motion
genesis / sprout / grow / bloom / metamorph / mature / decay
a spade dives into soil
wind on cheek
mud brushed from brow
i kneel and the earth takes in my breath
the day holds out against a dark insistence
a rustle of little musics peeking out like seraphim haunting the trees
a skein of tiny every days
a requiem for all our moments
c'est l'heure exquise
I have long thought that anyone who does not regularly – or ever – gaze up and see the wonder and glory of a dark night sky filled with countless stars loses a sense of their fundamental connection to the universe — Brian Greene
III. One Lone Star
In winter’s pitch
beside Cayuga Lake
the stars reflect
on mirrored snow,
ablaze in specks
of stolen light.
What I knew of stars
was the space
novas too heavy
to hold in the sky.
These were my stars
when I met
you, who was named
for the light
in Scorpio’s heart.
I can trace
but never guessed
that one lone star,
instead of bursting,
the way home.