Samuel Barber

Sunday’s Outlander episode reminded me of how much I love Samuel Barber’s music. It also completely yanked me out of the story, so that was unfortunate. But back to Samuel Barber. I never met a suspension I didn’t love—let alone open fourths and fifths—so his music always grips, moves, and transports me to that place only the arts can take you. So if you loved Adagio for Strings, listen to this and follow Agee’s text here (which he wrote in ninety minutes). 

Knoxville: Summer of 1915
Music by Samuel Barber
Text by James Agee

Renée Fleming, Soprano
Aspen Festival, Lawrence Foster, conductor, Aug. 21, 1993

Goodbye, Summer.

Sea Song

“Sea Song” by Norah Mary Holland (1876-1925); Gwyneth Van Anden Walker, Composer

I will go down to the sea again, to the waste of waters, wild and wide;
I am tired–so tired–of hill and plain and the dull tame face of the country-side.

I will go out across the bar, with a swoop like the flight of a sea-bird’s wings,
To where the winds and the waters are, with their multitudinous thunderings.

My prow shall furrow the whitening sea, out into the teeth of the lashing wind,
Where a thousand billows snarl and flee and break in a smother of foam behind.

O strong and terrible Mother Sea, let me lie once more on your cool white breast,
Your winds have blown through the heart of me and called me back from the land’s dull rest.

For night by night they blow through my sleep, the voice of waves through my slumber rings,
I feel the spell of the steadfast deep; I hear its tramplings and triumphings.

And at last when my hours of life are sped let them make me no grave by hill or plain,
Thy waves, O Mother, shall guard my head; I will go down to my sea again.

Snowy Day Music


Oh the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing;
And the corn it ripens fastest when the frosts are setting in;
And when a young man tells me that my face he’ll soon forget,
Before we part, I’d bet a crown, he’d be fain to follow it yet.

Oh the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing;
And the swallow skims without a thought as long as it is spring;
But when spring blows and winter goes my lad then you’d be fain,
With all your pride for to follow me, were it ‘cross the stormy main.

Oh the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing;
And the bee that flew when summer shone in winter he won’t sing;
And all the flowers in all the land so brightly there they be,
And the snow it melts the soonest when my true love’s for me.

So never say me farewell here, no farewell I’ll receive,
You can meet me at the stile, you’ll kiss and take your leave;
And I’ll wait it till the woodcock crows or the martin takes its leave,
Since the snow it melts the soonest when the winds begin to sing.

Richard Rodney Bennett

Music by Richard Rodney Bennett
“Birds’ lament”, from Madrigals and Chronicles, published 1924
Lyrics by John Clare (1793-1864)

Oh, says the linnet, if I sing,
My love forsook me in the spring
and nevermore will I be seen
without my satin gown of green.

Oh, says the pretty feathered jay,
Now my love is gone away
And for the memory of my dear
A feather of each sort I’ll wear.

Oh, says the rook and eke the crow,
The reason why in black we go
Because our love has us forsook,
So pity us poor crow and rook!

Oh, says the pretty speckled thrush
That changes its note from bush to bush,
My love has left me here alone,
I fear she never will return.