Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 May 2020
What would be the good of writing a choral
piece that only professionals could sing?
With Ode to the Virginian Voyage successfully performed in early April 1957, his son Whitney and daughter Varney happily married in late June, and his chairman's duties completed on July 1st, Thompson looked forward to a much-needed sabbatical that began and ended with summer stays abroad. During the first summer he resided once again at Gstaad's Park Hotel from early July through the 28th. “Switzerland is fine as ever. I begin to feel like a new man,” he wrote to recording engineer H. Vos Greenough. He also wrote to his godson Benjamin Fairbank providing him a glimpse of Gstaad and his routine.
… my room faces a tall, tall mountain covered with perennial snow. In the foreground are lovely green fields. They are really hayfields but they look as if they were cut with a lawnmower every day… .
Everybody works so hard from dawn to dusk, looks so well and seems so happy. No problems, no rush… .
Every day I take a picnic lunch down to my studio, in a pink paper bag. It contains buttered bread and rolls, a leg & a wing of chicken, 2 slices of salami; tongue, roast beef, pork or veal, and 2 or 3 slices of bologna sausage; a hard boiled egg, a pear, apricots, and a peach, some cookies, a different kind of cheese daily and a small bar of Swiss Chocolate. T's enough for two mountain climbers and a guide, so I set aside ¾'s of it and give it to my landlady for her little grandson, whose name is Peterli. He doesn't understand anything but Swiss-German, but he shakes hands with me every day even if he's playing games with friends when I come by.
Do you get a tiny picture of what it's like here?
While there he composed a song entitled The Passenger (RT 82), after which he spent time relaxing and travelling. Once returned to Cambridge on Sep¬tember 29th he devoted the fall and winter to composing an extensive a cap¬pella Requiem (RT 83). As he later told a Harvard Crimson reporter:
I had a sabbatical in 1957-8 and my friends assumed that I had left town for the winter.