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“Villanelle” Choral Arrangement Debuts

5.24.12

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney

Photograph by Stu Rosner

The Commencement Choir, standing on the Memorial Church steps in front of the Commencement platform, sings the premiere of the musical setting of Seamus Heaney's "Villanelle for an Anniversary."

The Commencement Choir, standing on the Memorial Church steps in front of the Commencement platform, sings the premiere of the musical setting of Seamus Heaney's "Villanelle for an Anniversary."

Photograph by Jim Harrison

To celebrate Harvard's 375th anniversary during Commencement Morning Exercises, the University invited former faculty member Seamus Heaney, a 1995 Nobel laureate, to return to Cambridge and to read his "Villanelle for an Anniversary," written and first read for the 350th anniversary exercises in 1986. (Heaney is no stranger to the Commencement stage; he spoke at the Afternoon Exercises in 2000.) After the poet finished his reading, the Commencement Choir came to the front of Tercentenary Theatre, arranged themselves on the Memorial Church steps to face the audience, and sang the premiere of a musical setting of the work, composed for the occasion by Richard Beaudoin, preceptor of music. Read Harvard Magazine's account of the composition, and see the composer's original score.