If I Say Yes | 15'
SATB Chorus, String Quartet, Piano & Percussion
or SATB Chorus & Piano
If I Say Yes was commissioned by the University of Maryland Chamber Singers and Edward Maclary for the 2019 NCCO National Conference, College Park, Maryland.
From the premiere program note:
"Several years ago, when contemplating a program that contained the Stravinsky 'Les Noces,' the thought of commissioning a ‘companion’ work on the theme of marriage came into focus. It was our great fortune to have Dale Trumbore, an alumna of the UMD School of Music (and the UMD Chamber Singers!), accept such a commission. After some mutual searching for appropriate texts, Dale suggested that she would like to take on that task as well.
The result is the stunningly beautiful composition that you will hear tonight, 'If I Say Yes.' Scored for string quartet, piano, percussion, and mixed chorus, 'If I Say Yes' addresses similar themes as Stravinsky’s work – the rituals associated with engagement and marriage, the communal certainty asserted in those rituals, the individual uncertainty experienced by the ceremony’s principals.
As it does in 'Les Noces,' the instrumentation plays a critical role in this work, but in a totally different manner; not by mechanistically objectifying the singing characters, rather by commenting on and amplifying the emotional states suggested by the texts and by connecting the discursive narrative of the poem’s stanzas. The music for the voices is sustained and melodic, with colorful harmonies and variation of texture, dynamic, and (hallelujah!) use of counterpoint."
If I say yes,
it won't be to some unknown future,
some fifty years, but a yes
to what we already have:
half a house and the two of us,
small sparrows in an unfamiliar nest.
If I say yes, it will be to words well-worn
and to ones we can barely speak aloud:
to house, or child, or forever.
If I say yes, know that I may be rusty
at choosing you over me, or me over anything.
I can hardly remember which finger takes a ring.
But I have studied us for years;
I have watched the way your neck greets your shoulders,
I have learned the laugh that means
you've forgotten yourself,
and I will choose that laughter every time.
And you will say yes to uncertainty
saved for meals much smaller than this one,
to the teakettle whistling for minutes,
to the fruit overripe and the tea over-steeped,
to endless and to endlessly-wanted touch.
And I will be sure that,
if I still don't know the answer,
when we stand together overlooking
anything vast and borderless,
those moments are the happiest I've been
to hover over the railing of uncertainty
and reach out to you again
with an unsaid yes.
And if neither of us is certain,
if we live in a land without rain,
then there is a yes to something surer here
even than certainty,
to something surer still than water,
and we have known that, here,
as sure as it does rain twice a year.
And if we are asking each other
time our only matchmaker,
time the tea-kettle's whistle,
time the fruit overripe
and time the tea over-steeped,
time our only choice, and time
always out of our hands—
then let's learn to time our asking.
Let's learn to ask only when the answer
could be yes—will be yes—
so there is some small chance of it staying yes
as long as we both shall live.
When I was small, unable to sleep,
and imagining, somewhere,
a love I hadn't met, imagining that love
awake, imagining that love imagining me too,
I am certain that person was you.
I wish I knew another word for all of this—
I do. I do.
early drafts and composing notes
Click on the score below to magnify it.