Dan writes, “I first encountered Jake Adam York’s poem, “Abide,” when a friend sent me an article from New York Times Magazine memorializing his untimely death in 2012 at the age of 40. York is known for his collections of poetry elegizing the martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. “Abide,” chosen by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey for the NY Times article, may be his finest. The poem is part of his collection by the same title published in 2012, and was inspired by a vinyl recording of Thelonius Monk performing the classic hymn, “Abide with Me.”
My setting hints at that hymn and seeks to evoke a sense of Americana on a warm late-summer evening. Inspired by York’s own direct manner of reading his own poetry, I chose to set most of his text in a rather homophonic and syllabic style, surrounding it with richer textures which envelop and embrace his own honest voice.
Special thanks to the family of Jake Adam York for granting permission to set his work to music for the first time. York’s poem is worth pondering deeply on many levels, and I hope this musical setting enables repeated and ever-deeper reflection on the work of this gifted poet.
Forgive me if I forget
with the birdsong and the day’s
last glow folding into the hands
of the trees, forgive me the few
syllables of the autumn crickets,
the year’s last firefly winking
like a penny in the shoulder’s weeds,
if I forget the hour, if I forget
the day as the evening star
pours out its whiskey over the gravel
and asphalt I’ve walked
for years alone, if I startle
when you put your hand in mine,
if I wonder how long your light
has taken to reach me here.
Tags: American, New, Professional/Collegiate Repertoire