Voices 2009
1 mvt | 5 min
Greek and English
a cappella

single print license


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Premiered by

The Yale Glee Club
The Esoterics

commissoned by

Jeffrey Douma
and the Yale Glee Club

About this Piece

Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933) was the son of a wealthy Greek shipping magnate who spent most of his life in Alexandria and Istanbul. He is best known for his poetic recreations of classic images of ancient Greece, and is one of my favorite poets. In late 2008, I was immersed in the process of choosing among Cavafy’s poems for two separate commissions – a choral cycle with the title This delicate universe, and a ballet for double chorus and string quartet called Approaching ecstasy. I was translating Cavafy’s poems, and arranging them into libretti when I got the news of Fenno’s passing. As I was reading through these hundreds of verses, Voices (1904) spoke to me as the perfect text to commemorate Fenno’s life, his music, and his ever-abiding effect over generations of choral singers, including me. Fenno was a huge influence over my decision to become a choral conductor and composer, and he was my first teacher in both of these disciplines. While my career as a conductor has taken me beyond the reaches of New Haven, and my compositions embrace languages and singing traditions from all over the world, my debt to Fenno for his early guidance is enormous. Although I am often loathe to admit it, Fenno’s unorthodox gestures and humorous approach to discipline are a huge part of my own conducting; and even though my music sounds very little like his, as I write, I can hear Fenno’s voice in my memory, gently reinforcing his rules that guide me to this day.

Text Credit

Constantine Cavafy

Sample Text

Voices, beloved and perfect,
Of those who are now gone,
Or of those who are now lost to us, like the departed;
Sometimes they speak to us when we are dreaming,
Sometimes we notice them while we are thinking;
And after they return, even if only for a moment,
They resound, like the first poetry of our lives,
Then they recede, like distant music, into the night.