Tawnie Olson

Scel lem duib

Year: 2012

Duration (in minutes): 6:30

Difficulty: High (professional)

Publisher: E.C. Schirmer Music Co., Inc.

Description: A medieval Irish monk once wrote: “It is senseless for anyone to cease in the praise of God. The birds, they never cease, and their souls are only air.” As I wrote this piece, I felt overwhelmed by the beauty of creation, the way plants and animals are always growing and changing, driven to take root, to migrate, to bear fruit by a force much deeper than consciousness. I love the poem “Scel lem duib” because its elegant spareness celebrates winter as a thing-in-itself, as yet another instance of nature's awful beauty. Unlike many other poems, it does not use the turning seasons as a metaphor for aging and death. As I set the text that is translated “the bracken reddens/its shape becomes hidden,” however, I found myself thinking that all of the beauty of this world is an echo of another country, one where some whom I love are hidden, and where I hope by God’s grace one day to dwell. But before I could become too lost in this thought, a flock of geese intruded, raucously calling out God's praises in the here and now.
Scel lem duib was commissioned by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music's Robert Baker Commissioning Fund for New Music. It is dedicated to Marguerite Brooks and the chamber choir of the Yale Camerata, with special thanks to harpist Kristan Toczko.

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