« Fells Point Corner Theatre bites into 'The Little Dog Laughed' | Main | John Hurt shines in Beckett play presented by Shakespeare Theatre Co. »

December 1, 2011

For World AIDS Day: 'Walt Whitman in 1989'

To mark World AIDS Day 2011, I wanted to share a remarkably affecting song that I heard for the first time recently, thanks to the New York Festival of Song: "Walt Whitman in 1989."

This performance comes form a new film, "All the Way Through the Evening" by Rohan Spong, a documentary centering on the annual concerts arranged in New York City by Mimi Stern-Wolfe as a tribute to composers lost to HIV/AIDS (she is the pianist in the clip).

The song, with words by Perry Brass and music by Chris DeBlasio, imagines Whitman returning to ...

hospital wards to offer comfort, as he did during the Civil War: "He rocks back and forth in the crisis ... he has written many words about ... the disfigurement of young men and the wars, of hard tongues and closed minds ..."

In the closing verse, Whitman tells a dying man about "the River of dusk and lamentation ... I will carry this young man to your bank ... put him myself on one of your strong, flat boats, and we will sail all the way through the evening."

The composer, Chris DeBlasio, died in New York in 1993. He was 34.


Posted by Tim Smith at 9:09 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, Drama Queens

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
View the Artsmash blog

Baltimore Sun coverage
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop
Famous faces in classical music
Sign up for FREE entertainment alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Most Recent Comments
Stay connected