Robert L. Edwards, Conductor, Consultant, Photographer

Roy Harris “Tears” - Movement 2 from ‘Symphony for Voices’

Roy Harris Tears
Roy Harris self-identified as America’s first great composer. At the time he worked with the Westminster Choir in the mid-late 1930s, he was enjoying the peak of his success, having survived being hailed as a genius. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris after which Serge Koussevitsky commissioned his ‘First Symphony’. The Harris ‘Third Symphony’ (1938) is his most enduring work but his ‘Piano Quintet’ and ‘Violin Sonata’ remain some of the best examples of early 20th Century composition. For a time, he rivaled Copland as “America’s Composer.”

Roy Harris: “Tears” from Symphony For Voices
 - Live Performance
Joan Barnhill, Soprano,
Members of the Temple University Concert Choir.
Robert L. Edwards
- 1973

(If the performance excerpt does not begin to play automatically within 30 seconds, you can click this link. Harris Tears" .)

The ‘Symphony for Voices’ is the second major work for chorus by Roy Harris. It was commissioned by the Westminster Choir in 1938 and dedicated to its founder-director Dr. John Finley Williamson. Harris set text from Walt Whitman's "Sea-drift" scoring it for eight-part a cappella chorus. He uses a three-movement pattern to present the same basic contrasts he set forth in his ‘Symphony 1933’.

The second movement of the Harris ‘Symphony for Voices’ is titled "Tears," and has been described as an almost hysterical wail of anguish. He made obvious use of the word “tears” as a percussive and coloristic device writing polychordal progressions to create a ghostly wailing.

In order to provide permanent documentation of the important sociological and musical contributions of the Greater Hazleton Oratorio Society, Singers’ Guild of Scranton and Sinfonia da Camera to the lives of residents in Northeastern Pennsylvania, some of the 1977-1986 live performance analog recordings of these community groups were rescued, restored, and converted to a digital format. Those restorations and the performance excerpts that appear on this website are intended as historical documents not as an entertainment product. The copying or dissemination of these excerpts is strictly prohibited.

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