Elixir of the Solar Spectrum

SATB divisi unaccompanied

“How soon in spring, the bees!” This poem, by Carla Shafer, is a simple and beautiful description of six types of honey. The music explores the colors and flavors of the honey, all of it highlighting the importance of bees to the ecosystem.

recorded by the Bellingham Chamber Chorus, Ryan Smit, conducting, June 7, 2014

Reginald Unterseher ยท Elixir of the Solar Spectrum
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Commissioned by the Bellingham Chamber Chorale, Ryan Smit, Artistic Director, for the Chorale’s spring 2014 concert called “Northwest Passages,” we wanted a piece that was an expression of Northeast Washington state, an area close to the Canadian border, bordered by Puget Sound and the North Cascade Mountains. We put out the call for poetry from local poets, and received a wonderful response. This poem immediately grabbed me, though, for several reasons. Bees are so central to the life of plants, and there are many wonderful beekeepers and honey producers in the area. I found all the kinds of honey in the poem, and was amazed at the flavor differences. The length of the lines lent themselves very well to a variety of compositional techniques that allowed me to repeat and explore the words. I wanted to evoke the movement and sound the bees, the waves of a wildflower meadow, the bright colors of the fireweed, each verse with its own color.


How soon in spring, the bees!
Maple flower honey

Sipping a golden fragrance on a puff of air
Apple blossom honey

Indiscriminate suckling in a blooming meadow
Wildflower honey

Pale amber blush of an early sunrise
Clover honey

Wild cousin chasing afternoon’s amethyst sky
Fireweed honey

Field grasses winnowed to sweet mahogany nights
Buckwheat honey

Carla Shafer
used by permission