Sure on This Shining Night | John Anstie

“Sure on This Shining Night” is a poem written in the 1930’s by James Agee. All Poetry says the following of James Agee and shines a light on the impact of the Great Depression and perhaps on the unsustainable effects on human dignity of the unfettered and unsustainable human quest for profit and power: The poet, James Agee (1909-1955), was also a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He was the author of “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”, an eloquent and anguished testimony about the essential human dignity of impoverished sharecroppers during the 1930s. The book is regarded as one of the most significant literary documents associated with the Great Depression.

Sharecroppers were tenant farmers, who, as a result of the economic maelstrom of the 1930’s depression, could no longer pay their rent. Their landlords allowed them to continue growing their crops on the land, take what they needed for themselves and give the rest to the landlord in lieu of their rent. How hard would that have been, both physically and psychologically, particularly in view of the vagaries of the weather and seasons. 

So evocative are the words of this brief poem, that it has been set to music by several composers, notably Morton Lauridsen and Samuel Barber, but none, in my opinion is quite so beautiful and moving an arrangement as this one for double choir (or double quartet) by Jay Giallombardo. Jay is primarily a notable arranger for close harmony ensembles of the Barbershop genre. I also say this with no uncertain bias, because this same arrangement is currently being rehearsed and in the process of entering the repertoire of my own chorus (Hallmark of Harmony), which has given me much impetus to do a little more research behind the poem and its writer.

—John Anstie

Sure on This Shining Night

Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground. 
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth. 
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder 
wand'ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.
The poem, "Sure on This Shining Night", by James Agee,
first appears in 1934 in his book entitled "Permit me Voyage"
(© by the owner and referenced here).

Here it is sung very powerfully by the Westminster Chorus . . .

“Sure on this Shining Night” Arr. Jay Giallombardo.

Poem ©1934 James Agee
Introduction @2023 John Anstie
All rights reserved


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