to a stranger

for double SATB chorus


commissioned by the Living Music Resource.

I have always felt a kinship to the poetry of Walt Whitman, especially his poems about strangers. There is a beauty and imagination there that I find irresistible. But when I originally tried to set one for this piece, nothing felt right. After much deliberation, I decided to take Whitman’s frame and idea, but fill it with modern texts. I made two lists – one of phrases beginning with the words “I am”, and one with the words “You are”- which serve as the text of the piece. I took phrases from the Internet, from Whitman’s poetry, from friends, and some from myself. My idea was to take these little stories- some kind of funny, some heartbreaking, some simple, some deep- and to create a space for them to live side-by-side. I wanted to give voice to all the things we really wish we would say to one another.

“Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me,

     why should you not speak to me?

And why should I not speak to you?”

                                                 -Walt Whitman

Premiere: The University of Mississippi Concert Singers. February 11, 2015. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Oxford, MS.