Ahead of All Parting for Mezzo-Soprano, Bassoon, and Harp


Ahead of All Parting explores the emotions of life, death, and what lies beyond as told through the lush sounds of the harp and the dark, sonorous qualities of the mezzo-soprano and bassoon. With some simple staging, this dramatic work calls upon the words of Rilke and E.E. Cummings to wrap the audience in the world of the here and beyond. Commissioned by Darrel Hale, bassoon, of Louisianna State University and premiered April 1, 2019.



Duration approximately 23 minutes

Take a look at the SCORE

Ahead of All Parting takes the listener on a journey through memory, death, and the beyond.  The unique combination of the two texts in this work – interpretation and selections from Rainier Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus as well as E.E. Cummings poem why||do the tell a story coming to terms with loss, and celebrating the memories of someone who is gone. The work explores memory and nostalgia, resignation and finally acceptance.

There is an arc to this journey in that we begin and end with the high, ethereal song of the bassoon, representing what lies beyond. The mezzo-soprano becomes the “she” in the work – first on the side of the living and present, and eventually crossing over. The harp plays the role as the barrier in between these worlds. Throughout the work the music explores the emotions of death, both from the one facing the inevitable, to the ones who deal with the aftermath of saying goodbye. Throughout the work, the “she” moves closer and closer to that physical and ethereal barrier, eventually crossing the barrier of the harp and moving beyond “where we cannot follow.”

The colors of the mezzo, bassoon, and harp lend themselves beautifully and equally to creating, at times, an ethereal and reflective experience, while at other time exploring anger or fear through techniques unique to the harp and bassoon. There is a sharp moment of transition in the harp where the technique of a thunder glissando shakes the mood from reflective to despair, moving into a duet between harp and bassoon, beckoning to the “she” before the final section of the work “Erect no gravestone”.

This work received its world premiere performance at Louisiana State University on April 1st, 2019 with Darrel Hale-bassoon (lead commissioner), Megan Ihnen-mezzo-soprano, and Stephanie Gustafson-harp.

Co-commissioned by:

Brierwood Ensemble
Amy M. Pollard
Javier A. Rodriguez
Barrick Stees – in honor of his sister, Jennifer Stees, and in memory of bassoonist Nancy Lutes
Christin Webb

Text for Ahead of All Parting

Section I – Rilke Sonnets to Orpheus – Part Two, Sonnet XXIX

 Quiet friend of the many distances, Feel

how your breathing expands space.

reaching out like darkness in a bell tower…

and you are the bell. As you ring,


what batters you becomes your strength.

Moving out and in, through transformation

What is this like, such intensity of pain?

If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.


In this uncontainable night,

be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,

be the meaning discovered there


And if the earth bound to forget you,

Say to the silent Earth: I flow.

To the rushing water, speak: I am.


Interlude I – : e.e. cummings fragment


do the


of the lit

tle once beau

tiful la

dy(sitting sew

ing at an o

pen window this

fine morning)fly

instead of dancing

are they possibly



Section II – Rilke Sonnets to Orpheus – Part One, Sonnet IV

enter the breathing…

let it divide itself on your cheeks

behind you it trembles, united again


Blessed ones, whole ones,

you where the heart first beat

You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.

in tears, your smile forever glows.

Fear not the suffering. Let its weight

fall back into the earth;

heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.


The trees you planted in childhood have long ago

grown too heavy.

You cannot bring them along now.

Give yourselves to the air, to what
you cannot hold.


Interlude II: e.e. cummings fragment

afraid that life is

running away from

them(i wonder)or


isn’t she a

ware that life(who

never grows old)

is always beau


tiful and

that nobod

y beauti

ful ev

er hur



Section III – Rilke Sonnets to Orpheus – Part One, Sonnet V

 Erect no gravestone. let the rose

bloom every year for … (A sounds of resignation, not yet ready to speak the name)

For this is metamorphosis:

one thing, then another.


We need not search for other names.

It is you in the singing,

She comes and goes. Is it not enough

that sometimes she outlasts a bowl of roses?


Oh, that I could understand –
she has no choice but to

disappear, even should she long to stay.
As her song exceeds the present moment…


she is gone already where we cannot follow.

The lyre’s strings cannot stay her hand.

Obeying as she moves farther on.


never hurry … my Quiet friend of many distances…



“Sonnets to Orpheus” by Rainer Maria Rilke. Interpreted and curated by Darrel Hale, © 2018 Darrel Hale. Used by permission.

“why//do the”. Copyright © 1958, 1986, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1979 by George James Firmage, from COMPLETE POEMS: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.





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