for choir (Soprano I, Soprano II, Alto I, Alto II, Tenor I, Tenore II. Bass I, Bass II)  

Commissioned for Soundstreams’ biennial University Voices event in 2006, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d is based on the lyric elegy written by Walt Whitman upon the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. It began life as a piano piece, Lilacs, which imagined the poem’s free-verse rhythms and cadences as a purely musical narrative. In this version, Rolfe restores Whitman’s words, with the eighty-eight keys and crunching dissonances of the piano compressed into a dense eight-part choral texture. Whitman’s poem progresses from an expression of grief at the loss of Lincoln, America’s “great star disappear’d,” to an affirmation of the natural processes of renewal that occur each spring and an ultimate acceptance of “lovely and soothing death” as the friend that ends all human suffering.

Performed by:
University Voices
Dr. Martin Neary, conductor