work details

Fantastic Shapes in Vivid Blue

  • Instrumentation: SATB and SSA choruses, string quartet, and piano
  • Completed: June 2017
  • Duration: 5 1/2 minutes
  • Texts: Sara Teasdale "A Winter Blue Jay"
  • Video:
    • Fantastic Shapes in Vivid Blue

      Performed by the North Central High School Counterpoints and Descants
      Michael Berg Raunick, conductor

  • Score Preview:
  • Commission and Dedication:

    Commissioned by the Counterpoints and Descants of North Central High School, Indianapolis, IN
    Michael Berg Raunick, Director

  • Program Note:

    Growing up in southern New Hampshire, I witnessed many winter days, some stirring and tempestuous, others still and fragile. I remember the snow falling some times with an almost imperceptible quiet, followed soon by a wind that would howl with ferocity. In Sara Teasdale’s poem, she encapsulates not just the weather of winter, but also its wonder. Where some of her work exudes a deep struggle with depression, here we see only the optimism and joy of a bright and fabulously frigid noon. This is winter as I remember it, imbued with the air of possibility and the energy of life in motion.

    I dedicate this work humbly to Michael Raunick and his fantastic young singers at North Central High School in Indianapolis. They have brought life into many of my already composed works, and I am thrilled that this time they get to breathe first life into this music, with all of its frost and zip.

  • Text:

    A Winter Blue Jay
    by Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

    Crisply the bright snow whispered,
    Crunching beneath our feet;
    Behind us as we walked along the parkway,
    Our shadows danced,
    Fantastic shapes in vivid blue.
    Across the lake the skaters
    Flew to and fro,
    With sharp turns weaving
    A frail invisible net.
    In ecstasy the earth
    Drank the silver sunlight;
    In ecstasy the skaters
    Drank the wine of speed;
    In ecstasy we laughed
    Drinking the wine of love.
    Had not the music of our joy
    Sounded its highest note?
    But no,
    For suddenly, with lifted eyes you said,
    “Oh look!”
    There, on the black bough of a snow flecked maple,
    Fearless and gay as our love,
    A bluejay cocked his crest!
    Oh who can tell the range of joy
    Or set the bounds of beauty?

  • Performances:
    • December 17, 2017 (premiere)
      The Counterpoints and Descants of North Central High School
      Michael Berg Raunick, director
      St. Luke's United Methodist Church - 86th St - Indianapolis, IN
    • December 7, 2019
      Barksdale Treble Choir, William & Mary Choir, Botetourt Chamber Singers
      Winter Choral Concert
      Williamsburg Presbyterian Church - Williamsburg, VA