The Marshes of Glynn
September 10 @ 7:00 PM
and other Lanier-Darsey works in concert
The music stream of Meridian Herald’s Confluence 2022 features poetry by 19th century Georgia poet, Sidney Lanier set to music by Steven Darsey. Among the several Lanier-Darsey works included are “Song of the Chattahoochee” performed by a Georgia youth choir and the premier performance of Darsey’s setting of Lanier’s “The Marshes of Glynn,” with a symphonic chorus and professional orchestra.
“Somehow my soul seems suddenly free
From the weighing of fate and the sad discussion of sin,
By the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of Glynn.”
Throughout this inspired poem, Sidney Lanier, in a voice imbued with the “holiness of beauty,” addresses the mysteries of life and humanity’s relation to these and to God. His achievement in this poem brought him national critical acclaim and secured his place in American letters. Steven Darsey, after his formal musical training at Cincinnati College-Conservatory, Yale, and Cambridge, returned to Georgia and becoming enamored of Lanier’s poetry, spent decades studying his life and works. When Meridian Herald was founded in 1997, it adopted Steven’s goal of setting “The Marshes of Glynn” to music. He analyzed the poem and worked through Lanier’s book on prosody The Science of English Verse, and applied Lanier’s own analytic techniques to “The Marshes of Glynn.” He spent much time camping near and exploring the Georgia marshes.
Darsey: “During these retreats I strove to encounter nature and to see and understand what Lanier saw. On Cumberland Island, while wrestling with Lanier’s “The Marshes of Glynn,” I had what was to me a revelation – that Lanier could feel the sentience of nature and was able to articulate what he understood. Lanier gave voice to nature. I also perceived that it is my role as composer to comprehend and organize – or compose – these insights into a form that is more directly comprehensible, and through the holy mystery of music, magnify and commend these to our souls.” Steven completed a draft of the oratorio with a skeletal orchestration in early 2008 and the Chancel Choir of Glenn Memorial UMC and the Meridian Chorale gave a performance reading in the Glenn Memorial Auditorium on the Emory University campus March 2, 2008.
Renowned Georgia actress, Brenda Bynum, in her letter recommending Meridian Herald for the Governor’s Award in the Arts and Humanities, wrote this about Darsey’s setting: “… But, perhaps the most stunning work yet from Meridian Herald is Mr. Darsey’s oratorio The Marshes of Glynn. I had heard ideas for it, excerpts from it and even spent a few days with other supporters on Ossabaw Island watching Steven work on the score, but nothing prepared me for the first full concert by Meridian Herald of the completed piece. This is a major work of American musical art and it has grown right out of our native literary tradition and the unspeakable beauty of our Georgia coast…..and of the nurturing soil of Meridian Herald. To hear this piece is to know where you are and why you are there and to be grateful.”
Since that performance, Darsey added additional music and completed the instrumentation for full orchestra. Now we look forward to the September 10 premier performance of the completed work.