Ill on a Journey is a multilingual opera/oratorio about navigating life with chronic illness—the story of Aurelia, an adventure-loving woman whose health increasingly restricts her mobility. Featuring ancient and modern texts from around the world, it explores the theme of travel and alternative means of fulfillment for those who are unable to leave home. The title is taken from the last poem of Matsuo Bashō, a 17th-century Japanese journeyman-poet with whom Aurelia feels an affinity.
Aurelia’s worsening illness precipitates a search for meaning in her favorite activity: traveling. From the isolation of her bedroom, she voraciously reads, trying to pinpoint exactly why traveling is so special to her, and how she might find similar purpose in her new housebound life.
The story takes place over the course of a year and is divided into 12 movements corresponding to each month. The chorus and its soloists present material that Aurelia reads (texts by Han Yu, Matsuo Bashō, Gabriela Mistral, Claude McKay, and Alexander Pushkin, among others, in the original languages), and she responds in solo (soprano) passages, on texts by the composer in English. Three of Aurelia’s solo movements have been independently performed in chamber ensemble arrangements, available below.
The last poem of Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694) begins with the line Tabi ni yande, often translated as “ill on a journey.” Bashō spent years walking around Japan, in good weather and bad, in health and in sickness, allowing the landscapes he encountered to inspire his poetry. The four poems included in this setting exemplify his approach to finding beauty in the world around him, even while suffering.
In May 2010, sixteen-year-old Kalief Browder was accused of robbery, arrested, and imprisoned on Rikers Island in New York to await trial. He was there for three years, much of the time in solitary confinement. Pressured to plead guilty, he insisted he was innocent and wanted to go to court. Continue reading →
This work was composed while living on the large and mostly rural island of Lantau, in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. In recent years the Lantau landscape has undergone dramatic transformations—tourism and transportation developments that can be seen from space, and an exponentially increasing population—with more changes planned for its future. Continue reading →
October 30, 2014 — GHOSTLIGHT Chorus and violist Erin Wight premiered For Lantauat the Church of Notre Dame in New York City. This new work was inspired by the island in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region where Rebekah lived for eight months.
This work’s origins can be traced back to a contemplative neighborhood walk, at a time when I struggled to balance my own needs with those of others who I care about. These words “arrived in mind” as I walked. The music I wrote later was influenced by my thoughts about the relationship between a community and its individual members: the 20-32 sopranos and altos of the choir begin by independently repeating short melodic phrases, each singer making autonomous decisions about tempo and rubato, listening carefully as she negotiates her role within the group. Continue reading →