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Lodestar | SATB Chorus & Treble Soloist | 6'

I think of Lodestar as a sort of fable for adults. Diane Thiel's text for the piece, from her poem Nursery Shellgame, describes life in the language of fairy tales and children's stories: "a trail of crumbs," "a handful of blue marbles," "how you wonder what you are." There's darkness here, too: "years spent / following the tracks of other things / that would chew off limbs / to free themselves, knowing / they would never grow back."

 

The last line of Thiel's poem, though, was what persuaded me that I absolutely had to set this poem to music: "Make sure you take a ship with you. Make sure you do. Even a swimmer as strong as you / needs a ship sometimes—even you."

 

I love the lyricism of the writing here, but more than that, this line offers such a quiet reassurance. Life is no fairy tale, and there is no correct path to follow; maybe we're not even as strong as we think we may be. Knowing this, though, we can still look out for ourselves; whatever our "ship" is, when we remember to rely on it, it will be there for us.

 

Lodestar is published in the G. Schirmer Craig Hella Johnson series; preview or purchase the score hereThis piece is also recorded on Choral Arts Initiative's album How to Go On: The Choral Works of Dale Trumbore, featuring soloist Lorraine Joy Welling.

Lodestar was commissioned by Nova Vocal Ensemble (Jonathan Bautista, director) and Yayra Sanchez, soprano.

text

NURSERY SHELLGAME

Maps and mazes are my weaknesses.

So many blue prints in the sand

over-lapping—I leave

a trail of crumbs behind me
that are sometimes gobbled up by morning,

sometimes washed away, sometimes stolen.

It is hard to find the way back

without the lodestone, the lodestar—

how you wonder what you are.

A handful of blue marbles might do

if we were twelve.
But we are so much more than twelve

and so much less—

our lives so full
of so much emptiness.

So many years spent

following the tracks of other things

that would chew off limbs

to free themselves, knowing

they would never grow back—

not like those many pointed star fish

arrowed in every direction
or the winter crab—trading one shell

for another, out of necessity.

Necessity sent me out to sea

somewhat suddenly—she said to me

Make sure you take a ship with you.

Make sure you do.
Even a swimmer as strong as you

needs a ship sometimes—even you.

 

—Diane Thiel

 

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