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What If

What If is a quintet from my musical Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings. In it, Exstasis (our heroine) tries to convince four other angels (Pieta, Aia, Fervio, and Gravitas) to follow her on her adventure to get her (and their) wings back.

Craig Hella Johnson saw the 2007 Los Angeles production of Paradise Lost, and asked me if he could arrange What If for percussion ensemble and his excellent ensemble Conspirare. I hesitantly agreed, not knowing what to expect. When he sent me the final product, I couldn’t believe my ears. The choral parts work perfectly as a quintet, and the percussion arrangement is almost note for note what my electronic track was doing. Like everything Craig does, this new arrangement just sounds so fresh and vibrant.

What If

EXSTASIS: You’re hiding.
PIETA: No.
EXSTASIS: Surviving.
PIETA: So?
EXSTASIS: You’re stubborn, too.
PIETA: True.

EXSTASIS: (To Fervio) And you’re frightened.
FERVIO: I’m not!
EXSTASIS: Not knowing…
AIA: What?
EXSTASIS: Your heart.
AIA: And you?
PIETA: And you?
FERVIO: And you?
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: And you?
EXSTASIS: I’m trying…
FERVIO/ PIETA: To?
EXSTASIS: To question.
GRAVITAS/ AIA: And?
EXSTASIS: The answer’s near.
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: Where?
EXSTASIS: Here:

We yearn to soar…
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: So?
EXSTASIS: So, there has to be much more…
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: No.
EXSTASIS: Yes, there must be another way.

It’s time to…
AIA: Fly?
EXSTASIS: That’s right.
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: Then try…
GRAVITAS: …explaining slow.
EXSTASIS: We have to go.
PIETA: Where?
EXSTASIS: High above.
FERVIO: The wall?
EXSTASIS: Of course.
PIETA: We’ll fall!
EXSTASIS: Perhaps, but then we’ll know.
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: Know?
EXSTASIS: Know all the things.
AIA, GRAVITAS: Like what?
EXSTASIS: Like wings and worlds we knew before.
FERVIO: You’re not making sense…
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: …let’s say we yearn to soar.
EXSTASIS: Right.
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: But we don’t have wings anymore.
EXSTASIS: We might. And there must be another way.

What if
All this
Came true
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: Pure Bliss!
EXSTASIS: What if
Your wings
Sailed free
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: We’d sing!
ALL: What if
All this
Came true
Pure Bliss!

What if
Your wings
Sailed free
We’d sing!

EXSTASIS: (To Gravitas) What would…
GRAVITAS: I do?
FERVIO, PIETA: You’d lift…
EXSTASIS: The moon…
GRAVITAS: And make it spin.
EXSTASIS: And spin.
AIA: And spin
PIETA: And spin.
FERVIO: I’d inspire…
EXSTASIS, AIA: Yes?
PIETA, GRAVITAS: What?
FERVIO: A choir…
EXSTASIS: Go on.
FERVIO: Of sapphire winds.
EXSTASIS: (to Pieta and Aia) And you?
PIETA, AIA: Who?
FERVIO, GRAVITAS: You.
PIETA, AIA: We’d sing.
EXSTASIS: What song?
PIETA, AIA: Just harmony.
ALL: And then, we’d sing free,
In perfect harmony.
EXSTASIS: There must be another way.

What if
This time
Your dreams
PIETA, AIA, FERVIO, GRAVITAS: They’d rhyme!
FERVIO: Sublime!

EXSTASIS: What if,
Your voice,
Set free,
ALL: Rejoice!

What if
This time
Your dreams
They’d rhyme!

What if,
Your voice,
Set free,
Rejoice!

And then, we’d sing free,
In perfect harmony.
There must be another way!

Lyrics by David Norona and Eric Whitacre

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