Commissioned by the 2018-2019 Oakland Gay Men's Chorus for their 20th Anniversary Season
Dr. William Sauerland, Artistic Director, and dedicated to Mel Terry and Geert Botzen.
Feeling Infinite was written for my dear friend William Sauerland, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Oakland Gay Men’s Chorus. Billy had the beautiful idea of asking the young poet Eleanor Wikstrom for a text for the commission, and Eleanor graced us with the “wise beyond her years” setting of Infinity. The text is pensive and probing, evocative and intelligent, as it explores the essence of memory on our waking world. Needless to say, it is an absolutely perfect text for music.
I have endeavored to match Eleanor’s poem with music that is not too fast or too slow, with a piano part that never quite settles as it reaches back into the past, struggling to give form to memories that exist no longer as sharp images but as blurry clouds. With this ever-searching quality, I have layered a text setting that is forthright and clear, so that Eleanor’s words are front and center in the musical portrayal. Alternating between quiet and fervent, the music eventually dies away as the chorus sings in the very top of its range with the hushed sounds of falsetto.
I dedicate this piece fondly to Billy, to Eleanor, to Mel Terry and Geert Botzen, and to all of the singers of the Oakland Gay Men’s Chorus.
by Eleanor Wikstrom
I remember an old wooden bench nestled in the arms of an oak tree,
hidden in a maze of branches and foliage,
branches caressing the worn scars on its surface
I remember the air infused with petrichor,
fresh leaves and aged wood and damp earth,
the subtle scent of serenity
I remember peeking out from behind the blanket of green leaves,
playing hide-and-seek with the twinkling skyline in the distance,
invisible to all passerby below
I do not remember the names of the winding streets
that led us to the secret park entrance,
or the day and month and year
of our adventure into unknown woods,
or the people who laughed alongside me
as we climbed branches towards the heavens
But I do remember:
when I sat on the gnarled wood,
I faced the curious contradiction
of both existing and not existing at the same time,
of feeling infinite against the dying sky.