Circles (1994)

Poem by Wendell Barry
Music by Dave Brubeck

SATB, accompanied

A Note from the Composer

by Dave Brubeck

“The Wheel” and “Circles” are pieces that were commissioned in 1996 by the Concord Chorus of Massachusetts to commemorate their 50th anniversary. Two poems by Wendell Barry that were related in theme were chosen to set for mixed chorus. “Circles,” titled by the author “Song(4)” dedicated to Guy Davenport, and “The Wheel,” dedicated to Robert Penn Warren.

Berry’s poem extols the circles of the seasons and the cycles of life. The circle, we are told, is the most perfect geometric form, having no beginning or end. If you look at the “Circles” score you will see that the notes for women’s voices gradually curve up and then down, while on the staff below the men sing in a curve down and then up, so that the two staves put together form a visible circle.

The opening line of “The Wheel,” “At the first stroke of the fiddler’s bow,” evokes the music of my childhood in rural California when my parents stll danced the traditional steps of the reel and square dance to the shout of “the caller.”

“The Wheel” and “Circles” are metaphors for life with its ever-evolving dance in time and unending cycle of birth, death, rebirth and life. The poet Wendell Berry tells us “only music keeps us here.” It is through music we are brought to a more clear vision of our diving source.
© Dave Brubeck Music

Premiere: Concord, MA, on June 1, 1996, by the Concord Choral Society; F. John Adams, director.
Commissioned by the Concord Choral Society.

Sample Sheet Music