Acclaimed US poet Richard Wilbur has published many books and has twice been awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He is less well known for creating a musical version of Voltaire's “Candide” with Bernstein and Hellman which is still produced throughout the world today.
Back in the 50s I was asked by my friend the composer Richard Winslow to write a hymn for him to set for the purposes of a Wesleyan University Christmas concert, and so I, I did, and Richard set it rather in the manner of John Cage. It was set for one voice and a harpsichord I think, and it came out very lively but not what I had imagined. Since then the hymn has been adopted by the Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Church and many another, and most recently I was delighted to find that it had been set by, by Dave Brubeck. That was a great surprise, and I'm waiting to hear what his choral setting sounds like. This Christmas hymn has a couple of epigraphs from Saint Luke- And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples, and he answered and said unto them, I tell you that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
David Sofield is the Samuel Williston Professor of English at Amherst College, where he has taught the reading and writing of poetry since 1965. He is the co-editor and a contributor to Under Criticism (1998) and the author of a book of poems, Light Disguise (2003).
Christmas, Wesleyan University, A Christmas Hymn, Richard Winslow, Dave Brubeck