To a Locomotive in Winter

For unaccompanied mixed choir

Duration: 6 minutes

Download Perusal PDF

Text · Performance History · Purchase Sheet Music

Greg Bartholomew, a fine composer not afraid of accessibility, set Walt Whitman's To a Locomotive in Winter in a sturdy, lyrical style. Tuneful and diatonic, the music seemed appropriately Whitman-esque.
    — NPR music critic Tom Manoff, the Eugene Register Guard
A very well written piece, in which the composer obviously understands the human voice and has the ability to create an excellent tableau that moves forward with compelling sounds as well as a finely tuned artistic sense. Very attractive is the contemporary harmonic idiom where mostly vertical chordal structures are combined with occasional shifting rhythmic nuances, a quasi declamatory style, contrasting of male/female textures, and an overriding sensitivity to the vowel/consonant combinations so beautifully written by Whitman. Highly recommended! — Gil Seeley, director, Oregon Repertory Singers
    — American Prize Adjudicator David Katz

The text (below) is a poem by Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892) first published in "Two Rivulets" in 1876, and subsequently published in "Leaves of Grass" in 1900. The music was completed in January 2001.

To a Locomotive in Winter first received a reading by the Gregg Smith Singers at the 2001 Adirondack Festival of American Music. The Oregon Repertory Singers presented the premiere performance at the Oregon Bach Festival on Saturday, July 6, 2002. The piece is dedicated to Seattle Pro Musica, who performed the piece on March 8 & 9, 2003, as part of their 30th Anniversary concert entitled "Best of the Northwest."

To a Locomotive in Winter is a Project Encore selection.

Walt Whitman
(1819 - 1892)

To a Locomotive in Winter

THEE for my recitative!
Thee in the driving storm, even as now - the snow - the winter day declining;
Thee in thy panoply, thy measured dual throbbing, and thy beat convulsive;
Thy black cylindric body, golden brass, and silvery steel;
Thy ponderous side-bars, parallel and connecting rods, gyrating, shuttling at thy sides;
Thy metrical, now swelling pant and roar - now tapering in the distance;
Thy great protruding head-light, fix'd in front;
Thy long, pale, floating vapor-pennants, tinged with delicate purple;
The dense and murky clouds out-belching from thy smoke-stack;
Thy knitted frame - thy springs and valves - the tremulous twinkle of thy wheels;
Thy train of cars behind, obedient, merrily-following,
Through gale or calm, now swift, now slack, yet steadily careering:
Type of the modern! emblem of motion and power! pulse of the continent!
For once, come serve the Muse, and merge in verse, even as here I see thee,
With storm, and buffeting gusts of wind, and falling snow;
By day, thy warning, ringing bell to sound its notes,
By night, thy silent signal lamps to swing.

Fierce-throated beauty!
Roll through my chant, with all thy lawless music! thy swinging lamps at night;
Thy piercing, madly-whistled laughter! thy echoes, rumbling like an earthquake, rousing all!
Law of thyself complete, thine own track firmly holding;
(No sweetness debonair of tearful harp or glib piano thine,)
Thy trills of shrieks by rocks and hills return'd,
Launch'd o'er the prairies wide - across the lakes,
To the free skies, unpent, and glad, and strong.

Purchase Sheet Music

Sheet music for To a Locomotive in Winter is available from J. W. Pepper.

Performance History

Premiered July 6, 2002, by the Oregon Repertory Singers, Gil Seeley conducting, Beall Concert Hall, Eugene, Oregon

March 8, 2003, by Seattle Pro Musica, Karen P. Thomas conducting, St. Thomas Chapel, Bothell, Washington

March 9, 2003, by Seattle Pro Musica, Karen P. Thomas conducting, Town Hall, Seattle

July 16, 2011, by The Pink Singers, Murray Hipkin conducting, Bloomsbury Theatre, London

November 19, 2016, by Schola Cantorum on Hudson, under Deborah Simpkin King, at St John's in the Village, New York City.

November 20, 2016, by Schola Cantorum on Hudson, under Deborah Simpkin King, at St Paul's Lutheran Church, Jersey City, New Jersey.