Christopher Theofanidis

Press Kit

Messages to Myself (2007) for SSAATTBB a cappella chorus

I. Whitman
II. Rumi
III. Kirsten
IV. Yeats

Duration: 12 minutes
FIRST PERFORMANCE: January 2007/ Houston Chamber Choir/ Robert Simpson

Houston Chamber Choir/Robert Simpson, conducting

I wrote these four unaccompanied choral works at the request of my friend, Robert Simpson, and his excellent group, The Houston Chamber Choir.  I had been thinking of all of the poetry that had been meaningful to me personally over the years, and I decided to choose four of those poems which seemed to have particular staying power in my life and have become a resonating chamber for my way of thinking.  The first is an excerpt from a poem of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.  The second was written by Jellaludin Rumi, the Medieval Persian mystic whose work I have set before in my large scale work, The Here and Now, for chorus and orchestra (translation by Coleman Barks).  The third poem is from Amy Kirsten, a kindred spirit whose words and generosity have meant an enormous amount to me personally in recent years.  The final poem is an excerpt of one of my favorite by William Butler Yeats- When you are old.  I dedicate this work to my daughter, Isabella.

—Christopher Theofanidis


I. Whitman

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much?
Have you reckon’d the earth much?
Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me,
And you shall possess the origins of all poems.
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun
(there are millions of suns left)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand,
Nor look through the eyes of the dead,
Nor feed on the specters in books.
You shall not look through my eyes either,
Nor take things from me.
You shall listen to all sides
And filter them from yourself.

II. Rumi

All day and night music.
A quiet, bright reed-song.
If it fades, we fade.

God picks up the reed-flute world and blows.
Each note is a need coming through one of us,
A passion, a longing pain.

Remember the lips where the wind-breath originated
And let your note be clear.
Don’t try to end it.
Be your note.

Be your note.
I’ll show you how it’s enough.
Go up on the roof tonight
In this city of the soul.
Let everyone climb on their roofs
And sing their notes!

Sing loud.

III. Kirsten

Let love come in whatever way it will.
In music, in friendship, in love for myself,
For others, for my family.
To all who are my family.
Friends on the street.
To the homeless, the broken,
Let love come in whatever way it will.

Let love come.

To the thankful who know how to love,
To the calm, to the awake,
To the joyful,
Let love come.

And when it does
(that gi-gantic, magnificent mirror)
it will tell us at all times and as one,
how beautiful we are.
How Beautiful We are.

Let love come in whatever way it will.

IV. Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire,
Take down this book and slowly read and dream
Of the soft look your eyes had once
And of their shadows deep.

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you
And loved the sorrows of your changing face
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmured a little sadly how love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.