Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks

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SATB a cappella
Secular text in English by Jane Kenyon
Difficulty rating (1-5): 3

This piece is dedicated to Sherri’s friend, Leslie Marino, who suggested that I read some of Jane Kenyon’s poetry. Jane Kenyon was just beginning to write poems of great spirituality and beauty when she died of leukemia at the age of 48. This poem’s greatness lays in the power of its imagery, and also in the fact that it will probably hold a slightly different interpretation for each person who reads it.

My interpretation, and one which I try to imply musically, is that the “It”, (it is interesting than Kenyon decided not to just say “God” here- though certainly It” can mean “God” for many readers), is actually always present, and it is our own limitations or inattention that makes it seem as though “It” enters or exits during our lives, or only enters briefly. In other words, I take her title as being a red herring--  whether she meant it as one or not, I can’t say. Musically, there is a very soft, held D, which, in a sense, represents the presence of “It”, and which colors the harmonies of the music moving around it. I toyed with having this held pitch present throughout the entire piece, but decided against it. First of all, it seemed too simplistic and pedantic, as if I had to force my interpretation on all the singers and audience, and secondly, perhaps because it might be annoying to listen to all the way through!

This piece will be premiered in June 2006 by a new consortium of young composers and conductors in New York City called C4, conducted by Joy Chia.

Complete perusal score available upon request.



I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years . . .

I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper . . .

When the young girl who starves
sits down at a table
she will sit beside me . . .

I am food on the prisoner's plate . . .

I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills . . .

I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden . . .

I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge . . .

I am the heart contracted by joy. . .
the longest hair, white
before the rest . . .

I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow . . .

I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit . . .

I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name . . .



Click to See pdf Score
       (partial score)

 click for audio
"C4" directed by Jonathan David; Recorded live June 9, 2006

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