A Short Review - Poetry, Music, and the Garden 

We were privileged recently to attend a rehearsal of the Talisker Players Chamber Music Series. All of the pieces performed were for vocalist and string quartet. One of the most pleasant surprises was three short pieces composed by Canadian musician Glen Buhr of Waterloo to poems by Margaret Sweatman of Winnipeg.

Gentle reader, perhaps I am deficient in some way, but occasionally I grow tired of songs with the sole and only subject of love - requited or un-. Do you? If so you would have enjoyed "Iím in love with sleep", whose words I have reproduced below to encourage you to find out more about the works of these two Canadian artists. It manages to be about love, but about the garden too.

Iím in love with sleep               words by Margaret Sweatman

Do the petals of the cherry blossoms moan while they're beautiful, before they go to seed, do they open and moan in the air?
I knew I'd hear the mourning doves and get nothing done. My spade is in the garden and I'm in love with sleep.
How long will the lilac hold its fragrance, will it be lost when you go away and will you go away when the lilac petals fall?
Slowly we're walking on the roads beside roses, through the heat we're barely moving and I'm in love with sleep
The day is thick and blue with heat.
Birds lie on the blanket of hot sky, they don't need to fly, they're held there with the soft brush of air.
How long will the season hold its spell, will it be lost when you go away and will you go away when the cherry blossoms fall?
When only grasses and sun touch my hands you won't be missed, and I'm in love with sleep.
Birds lie on the blanket of hot sky, they don't need to fly, they're held there with the soft brush of air.


A recording of this work performed by the Penderecki Quartet is available on a CD called "Music of Glen Buhr", DDD Marquis Classics 7-7471-81237-2. Buy it, and play this song next May with the windows open.

A more seasonally appropriate piece by Buhr and Sweatman was "learning to fall":

leave us some leaves for jumping
leaves smell of pumpkin and apple and wool
we live at the bottom of an ocean of air
learning to fall
all the way
all the way to fall through the leaves
leave us some leaves for falling.

Later in the concert four songs of the "Wesendonck Lieder" of Richard Wagner were sung. "In the Greenhouse" (Im Treibhaus) was a study for Act III of Tristan und Isolde. The overwrought words were composed by Wagnerís "passionate friend" of the time, Mathilde Wesendonck. Perhaps they are better in the original German, but I can barely stand to quote a few verses of the English translation:

Lofty arches of leaf-crowns,
Emerald canopies,
You children of distant lands,
Tell me why you lament?
Your branches lean out silently,
Tracing runes in the air,
And your sweet scent rises upward,
Mute witness of suffering.

After more of the same, it was I, dear reader, who was suffering, not the greenhouse plants.

A small challenge to the musically inclined: what (in your opinion) are some of the best and worst songs which make use of garden or flower themes? Send them to the Editor or to me and Iíll compile some of my favorites for the Newsletter.

Unfortunately by the time the Newsletter appears the Talisker concert (Nov. 7 at Trinity-St. Pauls Centre) will be over. Taliskerís next performance is on Monday, January 22, 2001, at Trinity-St. Paulís.






Copyright 2001 by Clement Kent, c l e m e n t @ g o d e l . n e t