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Not long ago, one of our transcribers sent me a braille music score to proofread. I assumed it was more material from Mel Bay’s Deluxe Encyclopedia of Guitar Chords, which I had been working on for months.

Instead, it was The Testament of Freedom by Randall Thompson: “The god who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.”

Suddenly I was transported back to my sophomore year of high school, when several schools for the blind combined for a music festival at a church in Pittsburgh.

I noted that the version of Testament that I just received is for mixed voices; whereas the one we sang in high school was for men’s chorus (BRM04796). Singing Thomas Jefferson’s text with Thompson’s stirring music is an experience I will never forget.

“What other works by Randall Thompson do we have in the NLS Music collection?” I wondered.

The first item was a recording called New World Choristers, produced by the Center for Cassette Studies (DBM00158): “Choral music by American and Chilean composers,” the description reads.

From Thompson’s Frostiana, our high school choir had performed “The Road Not Taken” (BRM18863 or BRM29007) and “Choose Something Like a Star” (BRM18864 or BRM29033). The work also includes “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (BRM28978) and “The Telephone” (BRM28969).

During my junior year of high school, our choir sang “Howl Ye” from The Peaceable Kingdom (BRM22008): “Howl ye, for the day of the Lord is at hand,” we nearly shouted, and a few teachers complained. But when a group of kids is performing a classical piece, should they sound over-excited, or half asleep?

Our collection also has the voice parts for The Last Words of David (BRM08265), another piece that I really enjoyed.

Finally, what may be Thompson’s most beloved work, his Alleluia (BRM08227). My wife and  I sang this with our church choir. Get a recording of this, and hear what a great composer can do with a cappella voices singing “Alleluia.”

Comments

  1. I read your blog with pleasure. Having published three books, several articles and two editions or RT’s music (with my wife) I am now compiling a census of performances of his music performed during his lifetime (to July 1984). If you can tell me when you performed Alleluia and the other work (date, location, organization, conductor), if they occur in my time frame, I should be happy to add them. The census has now surpassed 400 pages!

    Cheers,–by the way–he wrote two pieces for my father, A Feast of Praise and Glory to God in the Highest. I studied with him at Harvard the year before he retired. He was a long-time family friend.

    CBS

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