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
Winking Waking Wishes Wail is a pensive and sometimes dark art song for soprano and piano. The text is by Susan Jordan, who was the composer’s late aunt. The poem’s text deals with the struggle between reason and dreams. It explores the relationship and interaction between the conscious and subconscious world. The music alternates between dreamy (and perhaps whimsical) and darker, brooding sections. This piece calls for exquisite dynamic control and subtle, expressive tempo alterations.
This song is perfect for a recital or chamber concert.Continue reading Winking Waking Wishes Wail
The Breeze at Dawn is a wonderful translation by Coleman Barks of the hauntingly beautiful Rumi poem. The text delicately describes the subliminal space between the sleeping world and the waking world. The singer invites the listener to live in between those two worlds. The piece would fit well for any chamber ensemble concert that includes Soprano, Flute, Clarinet, and Piano.Continue reading The Breeze at Dawn
From Your Bright Sparkling Eyes, A Death-Bed Adieu combines the poems of two of America’s Founding Fathers: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The first soprano sings the text of one of only two surviving poems written by George Washington, “From Your Bright Sparkling Eyes, I Was Undone”. The first letter of each line of the text spells out the words Frances Alexa, referring to a woman George Washington loved. The poem is incomplete, however, since her full name is Frances Alexander. The second soprano sings the darker poem, “A Death-Bed Adieu” penned by Thomas Jefferson at the end of his life on his death bed. He addressed the poem to his daughter, Martha Randolph. The juxtaposition of these two poems, one youthfully hopeful and the other darkly resigned, creates a strange new work where love and death exist in the same time and space.Continue reading From Your Bright Sparkling Eyes, A Death-Bed Adieu
Along the Bay is a lyrical and reflective duet for soprano and piano. The poem “Along the Bay” is from a larger collection of poems entitled As Time Stops to Rest, written by the composer’s late aunt, Susan Jordan. The text describes the passage of snowflakes as they fall, join the dew, and eventually become the bay, possibly a metaphor for our lives. The references to dancing and Tinker Bell highlight the playful nature of this journey.
While Along the Bay is the third movement from a larger song cycle As Time Stops to Rest, it can also be used as a stand-alone piece in any concert or recital.Continue reading Along the Bay