Voices of the Universe

Conductor Notes:

We first met Nick and this work at our October 2018 Reading Session of New Compositions, where his inspired skill in choral writing was amply evident. He sets a short excerpt from Walt Whitman’s extended poem, ​Proud Music of the Storm,​ in which the poet extols in energetic, vital words the virtues of all kinds of music, exclaiming that he “…​would take them all.”​ Nick’s new work brims with excitement and adventure. Vocal lines are harmonically challenging but make perfect sense and are enjoyable to sing. Our thanks to him for a fabulous addition to Canadian repertoire for women’s voices.

When rehearsing, I encouraged the choir to make sure vowels were tall and somewhat dark. We were especially having trouble with “sounds” sounding bright and spread. I encouraged them to focus on the verbs – the words the poet uses about gathering all kinds of music to himself. We used American English pronunciation but opted to avoid some of the “r”s, for example in “universe”, “Nature’s” and “marches”. We took the fortes with a grain of salt, because the piece is naturally vibrant and full, and too much tone from the first sopranos could push it over the edge.


This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.



Give me to hold all sounds, (I, madly struggling, cry,)
Fill me with all the voices of the universe,
Endow me with their throbbings—Nature’s also,
The tempests, waters, winds—operas and chants—marches and dances,
Utter—pour in—for I would take them all.

from the poem Proud Music of the Storm (excerpt) by Walt Whitman (1819–1892)