In Memoriam is a three-movement song cycle, commissioned by Jonathan Bautista and Nova Vocal Ensemble, for SATB choir and featured soprano and baritone soloists. The song cycle, which sets the text written by Sharon Goldstein, is a commentary on 21st-century American Tragedy, focusing especially on the tragedies that occurred in 2016. The cycle begins and ends with the forward-looking refrain: “An ounce of pain must leaven a pound of love”. This refrain brings a sense of hope that love will always overcome hate and pain, and that communities will overwhelmingly choose love in reaction to acts of hate and violence.
The first movement, “The Fallen”, is dedicated to the African-American victims of law-enforcement-involved shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement. It begins with a patriotic fanfare celebrating the 4th of July and freedom. The movement then takes a dark turn on the 5th of July, when Alton Sterling was killed. The choir and featured soloists engage in a call and response discussing the victims who died at the hands of law enforcement. The choir repeats the line “Do not forget them” as the soloists continue to grapple with these tragic deaths. The movement concludes with the soloists and choir begging the listener to not forget these names on the 4th of July.
The second movement, “The Cities”, is dedicated to the victims of the police officer shootings in Dallas, Texas (July, 2016). The movement begins with dissonant chord clusters and the whispering of tragedy- stricken countries and cities. As the text turns to memorializing these victims, the harmonies become more sonorous and rich. The movement ends with the choir imitating muted strings as a featured soprano soloist laments how “nature cries out in pain” when these victims’ lives are tragically ended too early.
The third movement, “Pulse”, is dedicated to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida (June, 2016). A drum beats a steady pulse while the choir members start building the anthemic line “They will not destroy us” word by word. This middle section is a more hymn-like passage setting the line “Our pain will bring forth love”, with harmonies recalling the first movement. The movement ends with the opening anthemic statement built word by word. The movement concludes with a final striking of the drum.
Overall, this song cycle is an attempt to memorialize all victims of violence while trying to find purpose and hope in the face of overwhelming pain and loss.
I. The Fallen
II. The Cities