for SSAATTBB chorus
Commissioned and premiered by
On October 27, 2018, I awoke to reports of yet another mass shooting in the United States, this time at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Feeling distraught, angry, and helpless, I sat down at the keyboard and began composing Beloved.
As a Christian, I have heard 1 John 4:7-8 quoted frequently, but it seems that the lesson these words try to teach still eludes us, as evidenced by the continued acts of violence and hatred that we perpetrate against one another. “Beloved” reflects this dichotomy, juxtaposing the Biblical text with the names of multiple places in the United States that have suffered mass shootings since 1998.
The piece opens quietly with the words, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” As the work progresses, the sopranos and altos repeat these words while an undercurrent of indistinguishable text begins to murmur in the tenors and basses. This litany of places in which mass shootings have occurred – first as city and state names, then as names of businesses, festivals, concerts, schools, and places of worship – gradually drowns out the simultaneous Biblical text, creating a cacophony of sound that crescendos to an anguished cry followed by sudden silence. The piece concludes with a crucial phrase from 1 John, “They that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love,” followed by a return to the opening plea: “Beloved, let us love one another.”
Most composers hope that their pieces will continue to be performed for many years into the future; my hope is that this piece will soon become obsolete, a mere historical artifact to be looked upon with sorrow and regret.
Beloved is dedicated to the memory of all those who have lost their lives to gun violence, in the United States and across the world.