The Geography of Hope

by Matthew Whittall

for mixed choir

Empty sheet

Matthew Whittall

The Geography of Hope


Asked by my home choir for a work addressing environmental concerns, I
wanted to avoid as much as possible the hectoring, doom-laden tone that
much nature music has taken of late – justified though it may be.
Rather, I set out to take a more positive approach, to sing of an
enduring love of the natural world, caution against its destruction, and
speak of ways to preserve it. For, as I’ve written elsewhere on this
topic, we cannot hope to preserve that which we do not love.

I found such a forward-looking voice in the form of “Wilderness
Letter”, written in 1960 by the American writer and conservationist
Wallace Stegner to a member of a government commission on outdoor
recreation resources. It is a remarkably prescient text, deeply relevant
in our present age of climate crisis, full of wisdom about our
relationship to the natural world, and the point of keeping it pristine
and wild and available to us. (The Finnish surname of his correspondent
was another attraction, and remains in the musical setting.) With the
gracious permission of Stegner’s estate, I condensed the text of the
letter into a prose poem of sorts, extracting the most powerful and
lyrical phrases to form a reverential, bright-toned tapestry of
landscapes, memories, ideas and prayers for the future. The piece
divides into two large sections – The Prairie and The Desert – extolling
the beauty of the environments of Stegner’s youth, and which forged his
appreciation of the wild.




Vocal and Choral Works




Wallace Stegner

Commisioned by / dedications

Commissioned by and dedicated to the Audite Chamber Choir for its 30th anniversary

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