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Song of the Day: September 24

from librettist Mark Campbell:

Knoxville: Summer of 1915
Music by Samuel Barber; text by James Agee

I know this is not a “song.” But this is my week, not yours. I first heard this work in 1989 when my mother was diagnosed with cancer—and continued listening to it after she died a few months later. I marvel at the brilliance of this text setting; in Barber’s deft hands, the prose sounds like poetry. But, more personally, this music gave me permission to mourn at a time when I sorely needed it. And I still fall apart at the lines:

“May God bless my people,
My uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father,
Oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble;
And in the hour of their taking away.”

This is a recording of the work with Dawn Upshaw:

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