John M. Becker

From The AIDS Quilt Songbook: "A Dream of Nightingales"

Filed By John M. Becker | December 01, 2013 7:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: AIDS, AIDS Memorial Quilt, AIDS Quilt Songbook, David Bergman, Kurt Ollmann, music, Ned Rorem, poetry, vocal music

window.jpgIf you've observed World AIDS Day today, you've probably spent time thinking and learning about HIV/AIDS and remembering those we've lost to the disease. And if you're like me, that process involves music.

I'd like to share with you a song that helped Michael and me collect our thoughts on this important day. It's called "A Dream of Nightingales," and it's part of the AIDS Quilt Songbook. The text is a love poem written by gay poet David Bergman:

The Friday before your funeral I taught
Keats to my sophomore class. Little did they
care for the truth of beauty or the grace of truth,
but his being "half in love with easeful death"
penetrated through the smugness of their youth,
and I thought of you drawing me to the rear
window one early spring to hear in rapture
a bird hidden among the flowering pear.
You held your cat tight so that he could not scare
off such music as hadn't been heard all winter.
When you flew south to escape the arctic blast
and home again heard that dark-winged creature sing,
tell me, did he then reveal himself at last
as you believed he'd be -- pure and beckoning?

Bergman's text is set to music by gay composer Ned Rorem; a recording featuring noted baritone (and my friend and former teacher) Kurt Ollmann is after the jump.

Listen. Reflect. Remember.


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