Rest Now, My Sister
An elegy for mixed chorus and orchestra.

Duration: 10' 30"
Difficulty: 4/5

Click here to view score.
Voicing/Instrumentation
VOICES

Mixed Chorus (divisi, no solos)

ORCHESTRA

2 Flutes
1 Oboe
1 English Horn
2 Clarinets
2 Bassoons
2 French Horns
2 Trumpets

Percussion (1 player)
     Timpani
     Altar Bell in D (a Handbell or Tubular Bell may be substituted)
     Tam Tam
     Large Suspended Cymbal
     Gran Cassa

Harp
Strings
Notes
“This work began as a poem written to deal with my own grief and console my wife in the loss of her sister. It has since grown organically into a musical setting for public performance by choir and orchestra. In light of John Donne's reflections that "no man is an island...any man's death diminishes me", this seems both fitting and proper. I hope it will provide opportunity for those who hear the music to consider their own losses, the precious and fragile gift of life, and the hope that calls us forward.” (J.A.C. Redford, from the program notes for the premiere)

“In 1935 composer Herbert Howells lost his nine-year-old son Michael to meningitis. To make his way through his grief he turned, not surprisingly, to music. In his own words: ‘The sudden loss in 1935 of an only son, a loss essentially profound and, in its very nature, beyond argument, might naturally impel a composer, after a time, to seek release and consolation in language and terms most personal to him. Music may well have the power beyond any other medium to offer that release and comfort.’ Contemporary composer Jennifer Higdon composed a piece called blue cathedral in 1999 following the death of her brother who had suffered from melanoma. She says, ‘I began writing this piece at a unique juncture in my life and found myself pondering the question of what makes a life. The recent death of my younger brother, Andrew Blue, made me reflect on the amazing journeys that we all make in our lives, crossing paths with so many individuals singularly and collectively, learning and growing each step of the way. This piece represents the expression of the individual and the group—our inner travels and the places our souls carry us, the lessons we learn, and the growth we experience.’ In the 19th century Johannes Brahms composed the lovely Nanie as a tribute to his friend, painter Anselm Feuerbach, who passed away in 1880 and Bedrich Smetana looked to the intimacy of chamber music when he composed his Trio in G Minor “written in memory of my first child, Bedriska, who enchanted us with her extraordinary musical talent, and yet was snatched away from us by death, aged 4 1⁄2 years.”

Surely there have been hundreds of musical tributes, memorials, and homages composed and dedicated to loved ones over the years. Utah Chamber Artists is honored to perform just such a personal expression at our Collage Concerts, Chant and Contemplation this week. Our musicians have approached this work humbly and with an earnest intent to represent the composer’s vision and to realize the anguish, pain, solace, and peace found in the words and notes.

J.A.C. and LeAnn Redford and their family faced unimaginable tragedy last December when LeAnn’s sister, Kristine Gabel Allred was murdered. Redford looked to words initially, as he says, to ‘to deal with my own grief and console my wife.’ He wrote a sonnet and then subsequently married those words with music. Redford’s poem, Rest Now, My Sister is painfully true to the circumstances of her death, yet as he moves through heartbreak he finds the means to summon peace. The tender counsel ‘rest, now my sister,’ repeated throughout the work, offers healing consolation and hope. Redford bookends his poem with the Latin, ‘Requiescat in pace. Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat ei’ and sets that text to a solo chant melody.

In the body of the poem Redford implements the imagery of birds to communicate his ideas. He explains he is influenced by poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, particularly the poem Peace. ‘When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut, Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs? When, when, Peace, will you, Peace?’ In his own poem, Redford references the ‘wooddove’. ‘...let the wild wood dove light to chant its peace, release its healing store.’ (Here, he also recalls the ‘chant’ he employs earlier in the piece, whereas in the chant portion of the work he foreshadows the upcoming bird imagery with ascending triplets in the orchestra accompaniment evoking their flight). There is also a nod to Dylan Thomas when Redford, unlike Thomas’ admonition, ‘pray[s] that that my sister’s soul may indeed ‘go gentle into that good night’ after a death of such unimaginable violence.’ Other symbols the composer draws upon are the kite, a bird of prey and finally the phoenix that rises from the ashes re-born, often a symbol for Christ.

Rest Now, My Sister is a solemn, courageous and loving tribute to Kristine. J.A.C. Redford, brother-in- law and composer offers her, and others who hear his piece, an exquisite and genuine response to her death and to her life. Just as other composers and artists have turned to what they know best to assuage their feelings, JAC has taken an act of destruction and answered it with an act of creation.

In 1991 musician Eric Clapton worked through the torment of losing his 4 1⁄2 year-old son who had tragically fallen from a 49-story building in New York City by writing Tears in Heaven. When asked if it was ‘tough’ to write the song he replied, ‘The writing of the song is the therapy. The toughness is doing nothing.’” (Becky Durham, Executive Director, Utah Chamber Artists, from “J.A.C. Redford’s Rest Now, My Sister,” Artists of Utah/15 Bytes, 19 September 2011)
Text
Rest Now, My Sister
J.A.C. Redford (1953- )
in memory of Kristine Marie Allred Gabel (1965-2010)

Requiescas in pace, soror mea.

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Requiescas in pace.

Rest now, my sister, rest from every fear
of carrion kite that dove on ragged wing
to rend with bitter claw, from every tear
of shame, my sister, rest from everything.

Rest now, and let the wild wood dove light
to chant its peace, release its healing store,
to ease you gentle into that good night
where sting and talon trouble you no more.

O sister, rest, and let the phoenix rise
from ash and cinder, smoking in the ring.
Where heat once rose to beat against the skies
with longing fierce, O let the phoenix sing.

For birdsong now may weave its golden nest
and heart unclenched at last may learn its rest.

Requiescas in pace, soror mea.

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Requiescas in pace.

Copyright ©2011 by J.A.C. Redford. All rights reserved.
Commission & Performance History
Rest Now, My Sister was commissioned by Barlow Bradford, Artistic Director of Utah Chamber Artists. It premiered on September 19th and 20th, 2011, at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City, UT.
Reviews & Responses
“The focal point of the evening was J.A.C. Redford’s evocative “Rest Now, My Sister,” written to honor Redford’s sister who was murdered last year and which received its world premiere Monday. This is an intensely expressive piece for chorus and orchestra; it is emotionally powerful as it conveys feelings of pain, anguish and sorrow. The choir gave a compelling account under Bradford’s direction that brought out the heartfelt emotions. This was underscored by the orchestra’s solid and gorgeously crafted playing that balanced well with the choir.” (Edward Reichel, from Reichel Recommends, 19 September 2011)

“The centerpiece of Monday’s program was the premiere of J.A.C. Redford’s “Rest Now, My Sister,” written in memory of the composer’s murdered sister-in-law. The beautifully orchestrated piece carries an almost palpable sense of tenderness, and the UCA singers and chamber orchestra gave it a poignant reading. The capacity crowd sat in hushed reverence for several seconds at the work’s conclusion.” (Catherine Reese Newton, “Utah Chamber Artists travel from trial to triumph,” from The Salt Lake Tribune, 20 September 2011)

Rest Now, My Sister is a solemn, courageous and loving tribute to Kristine. J.A.C. Redford, brother-in- law and composer offers her—and others who hear his piece—an exquisite and genuine response to her death and to her life. Just as other composers and artists have turned to what they know best to assuage their feelings, JAC has taken an act of destruction and answered it with an act of creation.” (Notes by Becky Durham, Executive Director, Utah Chamber Artists, “J.A.C. Redford’s Rest Now, My Sister,” Artists of Utah/15 Bytes, 19 September 2011)