From the Ninth Elegy (2008)

SSSAAATTTBBB (12-part chamber choir)

5 min. 30 sec.

text by Rainer Maria Rilke; translated by Graham Good

The inspiration for this piece came in equal parts from the 1987 Wim Wenders film, Wings of Desire (Der Himmel Über Berlin), and from my maternal grandmother, Gudrun Joensen, who passed away in 2006. Wings of Desire appealed to me in its imagery and thematic use of angels existing alongside “earthly” beings; the film is based on the writings of poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). The text of my piece is taken from Rilke’s Ninth Duino Elegy, which speaks of the transience of being “earthly”, and yet that the fact of having existed once on this earth is irrevocable. Ever since my grandmother passed away, I had been looking for an opportunity to incorporate her essence somehow into one of my compositions. She was a very gentle person, hence the whispered, hushed quality of the beginning of the piece. The very end of the piece uses a quotation of a Danish lullaby she used to sing. From the Ninth Elegy was written specifically for musica intima (12-voice conductorless chamber choir), and given its premiere on March 21st, 2009, as part of Vancouver Pro Musica’s Sonic Boom Festival, at the Western Front, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.  It was also performed by DaCapo Chamber Choir, in Kitchener, ON, on February 27th, 2010, and by the Vancouver Chamber Choir (with guest conductor Michael Zaugg), on April 20th, 2018.


“But because being here means so much, and because
all of the transient things that are here
seem to need us…
They need us- us, the most transient. Once
for each thing, just once. Once and no more.
Just once for us too… But having been
earthly just this once, even though
it was only once, seems irrevocable.”

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), translated by Graham Good


Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre.