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A soldier's mother's lullaby

First line:
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
composer
2015
author of text
Anthem for doomed youth
author of text
A soldier's mother's lullaby

 
My grandma’s brother was a soldier and was lost in WWII. They didn’t know where and when he died, and when his death was announced, in the family there were desperate cries like those described so powerfully by Wilfred Owen in his Anthem for doomed youth. But there also were softly whispered prayers like those depicted in A soldier’s mother’s lullaby by Jack Whalen.

In this setting, commissioned by Kent Hatterberg for the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers, I wanted to use Owen’s graphic lyrics—where soldiers 'die as cattle'—contrasted with something gentle, dear and very personal. As I kept thinking about what that might be, in the Library of Congress I finally found an old manuscript from 1918 of A soldier’s mother’s lullaby—a song by Peter C Caporossi with lyrics by Jack Whalen. That was it! The second half of Jack’s poem brought me to tears—a simple, fragile story about the mother of a soldier, humming her lullaby and dreaming of the days long ago when her son was sleeping in his cradle. I imagined the voices of the mother and the soldier echoing each other from thousands of miles away. The next lyrics, 'And as the wind blows' inspired me to paint the flow of time, years, and memories in music for double chorus, in constantly shifting, overlapping harmony. At the very end of the song I gradually switched the perspective from their home to a picture or imagined place in heaven where millions of such lullabies meet.

from notes by Ēriks Ešenvalds © 2020

Recordings

Ešenvalds: There will come soft rains & other choral works
Studio Master: SIGCD603Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Details

Track 8 on SIGCD603 [6'52] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD603 track 8

Artists
ISRC
GB-LLH-19-60308
Duration
6'52
Recording date
10 April 2018
Recording venue
Lagerquist Concert Hall, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington, USA
Recording producer
Adrian Peacock
Recording engineer
John Struzenberg
Hyperion usage
  1. Ešenvalds: There will come soft rains & other choral works (SIGCD603)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: January 2020
    Download only
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