In Midnight Sleep (2015)

SATB Chorus

Written as a call-to-scores submission for a reading with the IUSB Chorale, and then sent to the South Bend Chamber Singers under the direction of Dr. Nancy Menk for a professional reading. 

Text: 

In midnight sleep, of many a face of anguish, 
Of the look at first of the mortally wounded—of that indescribable look; 
Of the dead on their backs, with arms extended wide, 
I dream, I dream, I dream. 

Of scenes of nature, fields and mountains;
Of skies, so beauteous after a storm—and at night the moon so unearthly bright, 
Shining sweetly, shining down, where we dig the trenches and gather the heaps, 
I dream, I dream, I dream. 

Long, long have they pass’d—faces and trenches and fields; 
Where through the carnage I moved with a callous composure—or away from the fallen,
Onward I sped at the time—But now of their forms at night, 
I dream, I dream, I dream.

Program Notes

This piece was written to musically express the words of American poet Walt Whitman in his poem In Midnight Sleep. One of his lesser known works, In Midnight Sleep amplifies the personal struggle of a soldier, a man who has seen the carnage and the tragedy of war, and now is afflicted with nightmares of watching his fellow troops perish in battle. To create the idea that the soldier is indeed dreaming, I decided to structure the piece so that it comes from nothing and fades into nothing. This is accomplished with the gentle “Lu-lu-lu” phrase at the beginning of the piece which is only ever repeated at the very end as the choir fades into the darkness of the night. These “Lu’s” serve asa melancholic lullaby for the soldier as he dreams. As the piece unfolds, it grows little by little with the intensity of Whitman’s words. There are two major climatic moments in the piece,at measures 25 and 37, the former a very uplifting image of the beauty of nature, so commonly used by Whitman in his Romantic writing,and the latter being one of great agony. From here, the piece dies down, casting a dark shadow over the horrifying images of the soldier's nightmares. The piece concludes with the anaphora aspect of the poem present in all three stanzas, the words "I dream, I dream, I dream," rich in the reminiscence of a grave time past, these words floating over the return of the "Lu's" to let the piece fall into oblivion, into the unknown and fearsome dimensions of midnight sleep.

J.W.G. II