About the Work
Commissioned by Grammy-winning Conspirare and conductor Craig Hella Johnson.
Famed Scottish-American naturalist and conservationist John Muir had a giddy, child-like excitement for the natural world. After a youth spent in Scotland and Wisconsin, he found himself transformed by his first visit, around age 30, to California’s Yosemite Valley. With the vast mountainous landscape and the surreal size of the sequoia and redwood trees, these woods captured him and became his playground, his classroom, and his sanctuary.
Muir was an avid “saunterer” and a profound thinker who would venture into the woods for days with a bit of food and a book of Emerson poetry in hand. Inspired by the beauty of the wilderness and a lifelong love for words, Muir penned a vast collection of eloquent and vivid writings. In one quintessentially Muirian account, he is so fascinated by a storm that he climbs up a tall Douglas Fir to experience it more intensely.
“Come to the Woods” explores Muir’s inspirations and the transporting peace found in the natural world. Using a collage of fragments from Muir’s writings, the work ventures from the boisterous joy of a “glorious day,” to the quiet whispering of wind, to the rejuvenating power of a storm, to the calming “amber light” when the clouds begin to clear. I hope it captures the self-discovery and sustenance one encounters while exploring the outdoors and its vital importance in our lives. As Muir writes, “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
Georgia State University Singers (with subtitles)
View the Score
Come to the Woods
Another glorious day, the air as delicious
to the lungs as nectar to the tongue.
The day was full of sparkling sunshine,
and at the same time enlivened with one of
the most bracing wind storms.
The mountain winds bless the forests with love.
They touch every tree, not one is forgotten.
When the storm began to sound,
I pushed out into the woods to enjoy it.
I should climb one of the trees for a wider look.
The sounds of the storm were glorious with
wild exuberance of light and motion.
Bending and swirling backward and forward, round and round,
in this wild sea of pines.
The storm-tones died away, and turning toward the east,
I beheld the trees, hushed and tranquil.
The setting sun filled them with amber light, and seemed to say,
“Come to the woods, for here is rest.”
Taken from writings by John Muir, adapted by the composer.