the breath of life

“…electrifyingly mystic and magical sound with profoundly beautiful text, …to me, one of the best classical pieces written in the last few years.” –The Montclarion (New Jersey)


the breath of life is Dan Forrest’s evocative reflection on the beauty and joy of new life juxtaposed with the pain of loss. Using choir, strings, piano, solo cello, percussion, organ, and electronics, Forrest creates a rich and poignant soundscape intertwined with profound and compelling texts from Scripture as well as classic and modern poetry. The emotional arc of the music beautifully mirrors that of life, from the miracle of birth to the bereavement of death, the love that makes life meaningful, and the human breath that connects us all.

*Premiered just before the global pandemic, this work’s texts and themes will speak poignantly and deeply in light of what has transpired since.

Choral Scores


Choral Scores (Preview PDF or purchasing) available through our distributor, Beckenhorst Press or from through participating retailers.

Rehearsal Tracks

Rehearsal Tracks are available from Choral Tracks LLC.


  • Piano (rental includes a part specifically optimized for performance with fewer page turns)
  • Strings (recommended minimum, but larger is preferred)
  • Solo Cello (in addition to orchestral strings; may be amplified, and may use pedal delay/reverb if feasible)
  • Percussion 1, 2 (two players)
  • Organ/MIDI (one player can play both parts if needed; see details below under “Electronics/MIDI file download”)

Score/Parts Rental

Rental of score/parts is required for performance; available only from the Rentals page at our distributor, Beckenhorst Press.

Score/Part Purchases (optional)

Full Conductor’s Score (print or digital PDF) and Organ Part (print or digital PDF) are available for purchase for those who wish to own their own copy, preserve markings, etc. Full rental is still required for performance.

Electronics/MIDI File Download

Click the button below to download the Logic Pro X synth patch for the breath of life. Can be triggered by any standard MIDI Keyboard (part can be played by organist), connected to computer running this patch in Logic software, with audio output to amplifier/speakers setup or house P/A.

If organ is not available, the organ part can be played on MIDI keyboard using an organ patch of performer’s choice. Alternatively, the MIDI part may be played on an organ with the most ethereal but subtle registration available, or on a digital keyboard without computer and Logic; but the Logic “breath of life” patch is strongly recommended since the patch itself is part of the composer’s creative work for this piece, and the MIDI part was written to trigger its unique overtones.

the breath of life electronics synth path - free download - (ZIP file)

Audio Recording

Audio recording is now available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, etc.

iTunes / Apple MusicSpotifyYouTube Music

Physical CDs can be purchased from Bel Canto Company website.

Program Notes

Click the button below to download program notes:

the breath of life Program Notes

Also available:


1. et Deus inspiravit (and God breathed)
(Genesis 2:7)

Et Deus inspiravit in faciem eius spiraculum vitae;
et factus est homo in animam viventem.
(and God breathed into him the breath of life;
and man became a living soul.)


2. first breath last breath

When a baby boy is born
and the midwife
holds him up
as he takes
his first breath,
Place him over
the Mother’s face
so when the baby exhales
his first breath on Earth
the Mother breathes it.

And when the Mother dies,
her middle-aged son
the baby grew up to be —
by her side,
his head next to her head —
Follows her breathing with his breath
as it becomes shorter,
and as the dying Mother
exhales her last breath
her son inhales it.


3. the silent kiss
(from “A Man Young and Old”, W. B. Yeats)

In the long echoing street the laughing dancers throng,
The bride is carried to the bridegroom’s chamber
through torchlight and tumultuous song;
I celebrate the silent kiss that ends short life or long.
Never to have lived is best, ancient writers say;
Never to have drawn the breath of life,
never to have looked into the eye of day;
The second best’s a soft goodnight and quickly turn away.


epilogue: time is
(Henry Van Dyke)

Time is
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love…

…Time is not.

Premiere Performance: October 2019, Bel Canto Company, Greensboro, NC, conducted by Dr. Welborn Young.