The Peasant's Congress


The Peasant's Congress


mixed chorus and recorder

  • Premiere:
  • Instrumentation: SATB, recorder
  • Duration: 4'
  • Text: John Reed

Program Note

The first snow of the season brings with it its own strange power.  It allows us to see that which has surrounded us for a lifetime in a new way, as layers of powder smooth over the imperfections of a moment.  We are reminded of our own humanity, as the same snow falls in our lives that caused those before us to stand in wonder, and that might inspire the delighted gazes of those who will follow. The season's first snow touches the deeply rooted human need for hope, for there is great power in witnessing something so completely beyond our control make things beautiful again.

In the first paragraph of "The Peasants' Congress" from Ten Days That Shook the World, John Reed manages to capture the powerful effect of a season's first snowfall in Russia, 1917.   In the midst of social chaos and political upheaval, he freezes a moment of joy that transcends the darkness of the time, the "smoke of falling ruins."  This uniquely poetic passage details a celebration of life - of the human experience - brought about by the coming of snow. 


IT was on November 18th that the snow came.  In the morning we woke to window-ledges heaped white, and snowflakes falling so whirling thick that it was impossible to see ten feet ahead. The mud was gone; in a twinkling the gloomy city became white, dazzling. The droshki with their padded coachmen turned into sleighs, bounding along the uneven street at headlong speed, their drivers' beards stiff and frozen....  In spite of Revolution, all Russia plunging dizzily into the unknown and terrible future, joy swept the city with the coming of the snow. Everybody was smiling; people ran into the streets, holding out their arms to the soft, falling flakes, laughing. Hidden was all the greyness; only the gold and coloured spires and cupolas, with heightened barbaric splendour, gleamed through the white snow.

- John Reed, from Ten Days That Shook the World