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.”