Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Storm Warnings

I woke this morning to a grey sky and yet another storm warning. As I was going about my morning looking at what may need to be re-arranged and checking the diet coke supply in the event of yet another deluge my inner DJ was playing John Rutter's setting of William Shakespeare's Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind. I have loved this arrangement since I sang it many eons ago with my high school choir.

The lyrics come for Act II Scene VII of Shakespeare's As You Like It.

Blow, Blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude:
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! Unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most Jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! Unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Saying nature's a bitch, but people are worse is perhaps not Will's sunniest most life affirming moment, but the elgance and passion with which he says it strikes a chord. I don't think it's all bad news really. Nature is cruel but not because she choses to be, and that's an important lesson in perspective. If it is snowing again it's not because I did something to anger mother nature, it's not personal . The idea that man is worse because he choses to be cruel is a little more distressing, yet underneath that is the idea that the we can chose at all. Yes, we can chose to be unkind, but our choices are not predetermined and we can just as easily choose to be loving. We can also chose to write beautiful poetry and music as a way of dealing with the cruelty.

I couldn't decided between the Northwest Missouri State University Tower Choir's version and the Cambridge Singers version so I'm giving you both. The Barenaked Ladies version is a little bonus. I've been wishing someone would do a modern non-choir setting of this and here is one. I think there's some room though for a few more modern intrepretations so if any of you composers out there want to set it to music send it my way.

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