Fire-Memory/River Memory

for SATB Chorus and Orchestra

James Primosch

Text: Denise Levertov
Duration: 21:30
Publisher: Merion Music, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

"Fire-Memory/River-Memory" commissioned by the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, is my fourth and largest composition on the poetry of Denise Levertov. The two poems I have selected contrast in tone, but are unified, as the title suggests, through their shared concern with memory.

The first poem not only memorializes the victims of war, and laments the loss of their traces, but speaks of acts of memory rendered impossible by war. In this sense, the line "maybe fathers told their sons old tales" becomes the emotional center of the text: for a moment, remembrance was possible. In my setting, I have mostly assigned the poet?s questions about the people of Vietnam to the men of the chorus, while the bitter and elegaic answers are principally sung by the women. Levertov was writing at the height of the Vietnam War, but her powerful images transcend the historical moment of the poem's origin.

The second poem reflects Levertov's love of nature and concern with the spiritual realities. Here memory is a memory of the divine, as embodied in the creation. The poem's opening words are repeated at the end of the piece, turning them into an imperative, challenging us all to acts of mindful remembrance.

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by Mendelssohn Club
Composition Date 1997
Orchestration SATB Chorus; 3(Picc.) 2 2(B.Cl.) 2 - 4 2 2(B.Tbn.) 0; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str.
Premiere April 25th, 1998. Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, Alan Harler, Director, First Baptist Church, 17th & Sansom Streets, Philadelphia, Concerto Soloists orchestra.


I. What Were They Like?
II. Of Rivers

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