James - first some "back story" ........ My husband is nearly the same "vintage" as Eric 😉 and was, for the most part, a really decent self-taught "chords" guy having taught himself piano keyboard surrepticiously borrowing his older sisters' piano lessons books then also getting skilled on chords in 5th & 6th grade on the ukelele by his Italian uncle (Jay's grandparents immigrated to Cleveland in the 1910's escaping the post-earthquake poverty in Sicily, and Jay's dad Joe and siblings grew up in the Little Italy neighborhood of Cleveland! Jay's dad became a national champion gymnast and eventually got hired to be the first Chicago suburban high school boys gymnastics coach, so that's where Jay and his 3 older sisters were raised! [That's the short story!]).
Jay delved into folk music, playing a stand-up bass he constructed in his parents' living room, starting in jr. high with a locally popular folk music trio that got hired around town for gigs (early 1960's) - yep - jr. high kids getting gigs! 😉 He also took up guitar and was great at that as well, taking lessons from a Chet Atkins' protege. He discovered barbershop music in high school and went "all in" in that direction, allthewhile pursuing a music teaching degree at Boston U. (with teachers such as John Oliver and Leonard Bernstein at the Tanglewood Institute). The Music Composition degree came later at the well-known Big 10 school Northwestern Univ. close to "home" (northern Chicago burbs).
50+ years later, after achieving 1st place gold medals as a barbershop quartet champion AND chorus director (which is a rareified distinction in that genre), my husband's nick name is "The Chord Lord" and he's not only a Hall of Famer but was also recognized with the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award with the Barbershop Harmony Society. The reason I say all that is because Justin Miller was the Music Dir. of the Westminster Chorus for many many years, and Justin's dad John Miller not only was in jr. high and New Trier High School choirs with my husband but was also the bass singer in their quartet - Grandma's Boys (1979 champs).
So ..... (back to the actual explanation about this YouTube footage...) , this commission for this choral work came from Justin right at a time when my husband had just had open heart bypass surgery, so Jay was "laid up" from his regular dayjob of computer programming (that's a whole other story 😉 . When Justin sent him the text of the James Agee poem which served as the lyrics for this work, Jay laid out this composition for double mens chorus in about TWO DAYS! (I was blessed to hear it all unfold because of the FINALE music notation program playback over & over again (hahaha)!
Similar to what Eric has said, "writing the music is the easy part" if you have the lyrics to work with in the first place. And that's what happened here with this a cappella choral music composition set to pre-existing lyrics (yes, our small-ish music publishing company works with the James Agee Estate to share all copyrights 50/50% - I'm technically the Copyrights/Licensing Mgr. for GSB Medal Music 🙂 ).
Westminster Chorus has laid down several recordings, but the "Still Crazy After All These Years" recording with the "Sure On This Shining Night" track is where it's most recently included. Interestingly, Westminster also performed another of Jay's choral arrangements ("Early American Uptempo Medley") at the World Choir Games where they were given both divisional winners and overall grand champion. That track is included on the other recording ("It Only Takes a Moment"). Since all our non-profit, all-volunteer-singer barbershop choruses worldwide have effectively had to halt rehearsals and performances during the pandemic, I'm sure the Westminster Chorus would be very grateful for your purchase of their recording(s)! (It looks like these recordings are also available for download on iTunes, where I'm grateful to have found most all of Eric Carmen's recordings & paid for the downloads in recent weeks! 😉