Composer's Notes for Mater in Memoriam: For Irene
Mater in Memoriam: For Irene, Chamber Ensemble version, is scored for Flute, Oboe, Timpani, Vibraphone, Violin, Viola, Cello, Piano, and SSAA, and has eight movements, one of which is an optional dance movement. The performance time is approximately 40-45 minutes.
Optional dance can also be incorporated as a multi-media presentation.
The Piano version has six movements, with an optional Obor or Flute opening Lament. The dance movement is omitted. The work and lasts ca. 35 minutes. The optional computer graphics also are available with the Piano version.
Mater in Memoriam was originally written with the help of a grant from the Thanks Be to Grandmother Foundation. The original grant stipulated that the work must be of benefit to women. Hence our desire to dedicate this work to our mothers, and to our Mother Earth, Gaia, (See the home page.
Many women helped me with the production and music. I especially owe gratitude to my longtime friend, confidante and collaborator, poet Sue Carroll Moore, who over the years has always encouraged me to pursue my music, and whose beautiful ways with words have made it easy to set her lyrics. Huge thanks to Julie Sibson, who tirelessly went through the scores to make suggestions and corrections, and played the piano part in the premiere West Coast premieres. And thanks to the conductors and singers, past and future, without whose talent and dedication my music would be silent.
This multimedia performance is one of a kind, and meets my longing to return music to its ancient origins as a partner with poetry and dance, a Gesamtkunstwerk in which music and word collaborate with movement to complete the message.
And, of course, last but not least, my gratitude with writing this work goes to my mother Irene, who recognized my musical talent early on and encouraged me to fulfill my soul's purpose of creating and performing music, at a time when few women were visible as composers.
In thinking how I would approach Mater in Memoriam:(or MIMI (as I affectionately call it), several things were absolutely clear.
First, MIMI had to explore my relationship to my mother. To my knowledge, there is only one requiem written specifically for women's voices, and none written for a composer's mother, in which her mother is mentioned.
But MIMI has a more universal appeal,to the Great Earth Mother, or Gaia (see my home page). I want listeners to identify with the multi-faceted feelings in the Oratorio, and apply it to their feelings about their mother, the Planet, our Mother Earth, whom we connect with in much the same way as we do with our mothers.
I used female voices to express this most intimate of relationships,starting out as we all do, in the womb of another female. A female voice explores the various moods and emotions of this special relationship, extending through the entire life cycle from birth to death. I don't exclude the male listener, but rather emphasize a female-female dynamic which has been historically neglected in literature, music or the visual arts. I decided to use my own words together with the fine poetry and poetic sense of Sue Carroll Moore, my gifted collaborator. One poem, Glimmering Girl, is entirely Sue's work, which I honor as the penultimate piece in my work.
MIMI, besides being a symbolic music exploration of our relaionship to the Mother in her guises, is also a personal vision of my mother,Irene. It has several unifying themes which characterize my relationship to her. Each listener can supply her/his own name, mothers, and circumstances. Like any mother-daughter relationship, it had its ups and downs. These emotional cycles are expressed through Irene's favorite themes-melodies, five of which are found in almost all of the pieces.
1.O Sacred Head Now Wounded, a German Lutheran Chorale set in the Renaissance and used often by Bach in various settings, notably the St. Matthew Passion and the Christmas Oratorio. I chose this hymn to be played at my Mother's memorial service in 1993. The very first six notes of the Oboe Introduction of the Requiem are in fact from this Chorale.
2. Danny Boy, a tune my mother loved. This Scottish folk song, set in one of Mother Earth's most beautiful settings, the Scottish Highlands, and was played at my mother's memorial service as well.
3. Joseph Dearest Joseph Mine, a German Christmas Carol from the Middle Ages which my mother especially liked and I have sung many times over the years. Mother Mary, one of our Mothers,is featured prominently in this carol.
4. Abends wenn ich schlafen geh' (Evenings When I Go to Sleep) from Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel. Sung at the point when H&G are lost in the forest and 14 Angels come to their assistance and protection. It was an opera both my mother and I could relate to, and a prayer we both liked. Like the Mother Earth, the Angels watch over us while we sleep. This assurance creates a powerful bond to our mother and Gaia, whoi also wach over us during our sleeping hours.
5. The bell tower chimes at Indiana University, whose chimes I heard daily for 17 years, and whose weekly Saturday Evening Carillon Concerts influenced me more than I ever knew. Bells have high vibrations, and rise above the countryside to heal the tired soul during our work day.
Other melodies are directly quoted: from Marriage of Figaro by Mozart (in Glimmering Girl), Carmen's' Dance from the opera of the same name, a portion of Wake Awake for Night is Flying, another German Lutheran Chorale used in Bach's Cantata 140, which I sang under my mother's conducting. Finally, the Irish Reel is of my own invention, but is similar to the ones my mother loved to hear through her life. Dance is important for release and bonding. Think of it as a dance with the Great Mother!
And to the work itself:
Lament - Set for a soulful melancholy Oboe, this lament expresses at once sadness, virtuosity, exuberance, and determination. The musical ups and down parallel the meandering vicissitudes of our relationship to our earth mother. The Oboe line breaks rules, stretches boundaries, but comes back down to the simple sound of Danny Boy and its doleful call to Danny to leave the Highlands, go to battle, and ultimate death, and reminds us that we too have to leave our mothers and carve out our own lives.
Mama - Records the birth process -- the Timpani maintains a constant heartbeat and solace for the terrified unborn, waiting and yet resisting to be born A cry of exuberance marks the entrance of the reluctant child into the world forcefully, but triumphantly.
Thank You - Gratitude for our earth mother and Gaia is paramount, In my family. my mother spoke of a tradition--you would give your mother a present on your own birthday, a thank you for being borne. This is my thank you for the gift of birth, in spite of all the tumbles and falls and the joy of song that my mother gave me.
The Girl I Couldn't Be - This bold and defiant piece expresses my rebellious feelings in ways I never allowed myself while my mother was living. Every mother has an idea of what her child is to be. We often come into conflict with Gaia, and try to force our will on her. Music is the common bond--and paradoxically our source of greatest tension, because of our conflicting self expectations. What better way to express this conflict than in music? Music sets both of us free. The next thing to is to dance for joy!
Irish Reel (Dance)
Irish dance music was a favorite of Irene's, growing up as she did amongst the Irish in St. Paul MN. If you listen closely, you will hear Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine woven somewhere in between.
Don't we all wish we had just another chance to say something to our mother or departed loved one? This piece explores that dream -- to see her again, to express my love and receive her approval. Another chance for a proper exchange. Listen for the piano as it reflects dreamy and defiant moods.
As a consummate musician Irene introduced me to the vast world of classical and sacred music. But we often differed in just what role this music was to play in our lives. The battle in GG tells of the mythical and whimsical "land of Myrrh and land of Glyn" where mother and daughter can perhaps experience things together on a transformed, magical level.
Sue's use of the word opera was stunningly apt for my relationship to Irene. Opera was a major bone of contention between us. Irene strove to maintain the Apolonian world of the sacred and ethereal Renaissance and Baroque music, while I secretly longed to partake of the Dionysian world of opera. The sacred battled the secular.
Symbolically, each of us longs to go the opera with our mothers. This piece takes us on a whimsical journey to a land like that of Glyn and Myrrh, a metaphoric place where differences can be forgotten, and each can hold the other's hand, where we can live beyond those old tensions and tuggings.
Now You Go to Gentle Rest
Written originally for All Soul's Day as a recessional for SA and hand bells, Now You Go is a musical farewell I wasn't able to offer her at the time of her death. This final piece portrays a reconciliation of Irene's Christian faith with my more ecumenical, spiritual orientation. The Dona Tibi Pacem is a parting nod to Latin Liturgy, concluding with a female centered ending. The university chimes we both knew accompany this farewell.
Thank you for bearing me,
For daring me
For daring me to be
No matter what the price
You let me run and fall
Thank you for my tumbles
But most especially,
Thank you for light and life,
For laughter, love and song
You knew it all along
They were your greatest gifts of all.
The Girl I Couldn't Be
You wanted so for me to be
The girl I couldn't be.
I wanted you to understand
I wanted you to take my hand.
I'm not the girl you thought you bore
Can play that game no more
I'll be the girl I'm meant to be
I'll sing and set me free.
Last night I saw you in my dreams,
You came to say good-bye.
We never had that final word -
I always wondered why.
If I could see you one more time,
What would I say to you?
Would I tell you now the things
Which then I couldn't do?
Could this second chance with you
Ease the pain inside?
What would I want to tell
What would I try to hide?
Could I forgive you finally,
and you forgive me too?
Knowing that this might well be
My one last chance with you.
Last night I saw you in my dreams,
You came to say good-bye.
You said the words I longed to hear.
I love you just the way you are,
My darling daughter, dear.
And maybe I shall go with you, my glimmering girl
To the land of Glyn, to the land of Myrrh
Where cats wear gleaming fine faces and purple fur
And the daisies bend down singing lowly: murr, murr
And maybe we shall go there together my girl
Decked out in moth's wings and juniper fur
To the opera in the land of Myrrh
[Evenings when I go to sleep
fourteen Angels round me keep,
Two to my right, two to my . . .]
The one beyond reckon beyond call and ken
That harks back when.
And maybe we shall go there my glimmering girl
In summertime, in bumblebee time
And maybe we shall go there, my glimmering, glimmering, girl
Now You Go to Gentle Rest
Now you go to gentle rest,
Here no more an earthly guest.
And as I sing my heart's farewell,
I'll let the bells their comfort tell.
In aeternam, dona tibi pacem
There is a place within my heart,
Where you and I will never part.
A place I'm keeping just for you,
Where those who love us visit, too.
In aeternam . . .
So let the bells their comfort tell.
For you will ever in me dwell.
I'll bless you now although you're gone,
And leave you with this tender song.
Pacem, dona nobis pacem
In aeternam, Mother blessed be.