Published in 1911, “A Winter Night” is a poem by Sara Teasdale that reflects on the plight of the homeless in the cold of winter. Within the poem, the speaker first reflects on how “bitter cold” the night is before transitioning into an outpouring of empathy in the second stanza for those out in the cold. Then, in the third and final stanza, the speaker remarks at the relative warmness and light in her own room before exclaiming that her “heart is crying in the cold,” demonstrating her unease and sorrow with the plight of the homeless compared to her relative security. When I was researching specific texts to use for a choral piece, this one stuck with me for many reasons. As I write this, I’m currently in quarantine as the world grapples with the COVID-19 Pandemic. The text struck me because, during this pandemic, there are so many unfortunate people who don’t have a home to self-quarantine in, and there will undoubtedly be many more forced into homelessness due to the economic downturn caused by this disease. As Teasdale writes, there are so many people stuck out in the “bitter cold,” both literally and figuratively as we try to get through this. The empathy that Teasdale relays when she writes “God pity all the poor to-night” is essential for getting through these tumultuous times. We can’t just look out for ourselves; we have to find ways to help other less fortunate inhabitants of this Earth. Within the piece, I made a conscious decision to let my harmonic decisions reflect the bleak coldness I was envisioning, both literally and as it pertains to the human spirit. With the text of the second stanza, however, I intentionally shifted the effect towards one of much more warmness and light in an effort to reflect the almost prayer-like devotion the speaker demonstrates in her plea for God to “pity all.” Ultimately, the piece serves as a reminder of the plight of those less fortunate in our society, and a reminder that in times of fear and darkness such as these, it’s essential that we maintain our sense of compassion and kindness for our fellow human beings.
This recording was done by the UofL Collegiate Chorale in the Fall of 2020 in a parking garage. The singers are all socially distanced and mask-wearing.
Soprano Soloist- Brittany Carwile