Keep Fast Hold (2016)

SATB with divisi
Text by Emily Dickinson
Duration: ca. 4:00

While the poetry of Emily Dickinson is some of the most read and beloved in the world, here is a fragment of a more informal nature from a personal letter to friends. Free of the meter and rhyme typical of Dickinson’s verses, her prose still captures and distills much in a few lines – the enormity of the world, how we find our place in the small details of a sunrise, an attachment to friends, and the importance of connection when facing the unknown beyond.

The simple, folk-like melody that sets the opening line expands into harmonic enormity at the sunrise, returns to hold hands, and mimics the complexity and cacophony of the sounds at dawn and the whole of the world. I have added two implied words to Dickinson’s prose to make singing the focus, and I have explored the closest intervals of seconds, which expand to greater distances and return to unison, in dissonance and harmony, echoing the ways we venture forth in smaller and larger steps, and return home again.

This world is just a little place
Just the red in the sky before the sun rises
So let us keep fast hold of hands
That when the birds begin [to sing], none of us be missing.