“Nothing Gold Can Stay” (NEW WORK!)

Photo by gang coo on Unsplash

Hey everyone, I have a new work in print! I know, even in this crazy year of remote rehearsals and streaming concerts, composers are still writing and publishers are still printing new music. I am so grateful for that.

This new piece is an SATB setting of Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” and I’m so incredibly proud of it. It was commissioned by Dr. Mark Munson at Bowling Green State University and his choirs totally knocked it out of the park. So much so that Cypress Choral Music agreed to publish it. Here’s the recording of it:

When finding poetry to set for choral music, it is important to me that the text not only be expressive, but also have layers of interpretation. Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay meets both criteria in spades.

On the surface, the text is quite bleak, highlighting the fleeting nature of time and how all our most beautiful moments eventually slip away – that nothing lasts forever. But, the more I read it, the more the text reminds me to cherish moments and to be present with those I care about. While nature’s first green is her hardest hue to hold, it is still in fact, gold. While the flower lasts but an hour, we need to appreciate that we have a flower at all.

Upon further reading, I feel a sense of value in these objects or moments ending. The impermanence of life invites us to be grateful for the time we have it. Whether it is our youth or a summer vacation, time with friends or a family meal, playing with a toddler or sharing stories with your grandparents.

This poem also reminds me that there is a surplus of beauty in the world and, while something ends, it is never the last beautiful object or moment. “Dawn goes down to day,” but a new day is only tomorrow.

And hey, isn’t all of this such a representation of the last two years? Of watching our normal actions from the previous years slipping away? Of finding gratitude in things we didn’t know were important to us? Of appreciating untenable moments before they slip away? My goodness, writing this piece was so cathartic, even though I had to drag it out of me kicking and screaming.

When I wrote this, I was up to my eyeballs in remote teaching from home and looking after my then-two-year old son. We had no child care in Spring or Summer of 2020 and my wife works the intake line for a benefits company (so she had to be on the lines, also dealing with things that were confidential), so that left me. Don’t get me wrong, we had help sometimes, and my small fry and I had lots of wonderful experiences, but “the drive to create art” was not where I was in the hierarchy of needs. Plus, I still had to finish the year teaching music at my school. It was a whirlwind, but I accepted this commission in 2019, so I had to finish it and it had to be good.

And, you know, it really did turn out well. This was the first piece since finishing my Master’s at Brandon University where I thought to myself “this is what my advisor (Dr. T. Patrick Carrabré) meant,” as I increased the harmonic and textural complexity in the work. It was a process of discovering how I could do the things he was talking about in my music and still have it sound like my music. I still have a ways to go, but this was the first step.

Please consider purchasing this music for your ensemble!

Stay gold, everyone.
Kenley