She Weeps Over Rahoon was commissioned by Dr. Jocelyn Kaye Jensen in 1993. In typical composer fashion it wasn’t even close to finished on the day we premiered it.
The singers all had their parts (the same parts that now appear in print) and the English horn player had his part (also the same), and we all had the same number of measures. I had been accompanying the rehearsals, though, and would try different piano parts every time, and the premiere ended up being one big piano improvisation. I even had to go back and listen to the recording of the performance to transcribe some of my playing. Never again. Personally, I had a blast, but I think all of the other musicians were scared to death that I would play something wacky and we would all be over the cliff.
The poetry, by James Joyce, is astonishingly beautiful, and while writing this piece I stumbled upon a choral effect that has become a favorite of mine. Half of the singers sing the written pitches pianissimo, and the other half whisper the same text and rhythms. The effect is a haunting, breathless choral sound that always makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
She Weeps Over Rahoon is dedicated to Dr. Jocelyn Kaye Jensen and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Women’s Chorus, the bravest souls with whom I have ever improvised.
She Weeps Over Rahoon
Rain on Rahoon falls softly, softly falling,
Where my dark lover lies.
Sad is his voice that calls me, sadly calling,
At grey moonrise.
Love, hear thou how soft,
How sad his voice is ever calling,
Ever unanswered, and the dark rain falling,
Then as now.
Dark too our hearts, O love, shall lie and cold
As his sad heart has lain
Under the moongrey nettles, the black mould
And muttering rain.
James Joyce, 1882-1942