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1.
Ah, there is music! To open one’s mouth In praise of… anything… To utter the sounds That describe one’s soul When words fail. That is God’s gift to us. To open one’s mouth In keening sorrow To utter the bleak places To sing the screaming in us When screaming will not do That is God’s gift. The descent into hell began When I forgot what music was.
2.
The devil came to me one day, and said “sing for me” I sang because I love to sing. The devil heard my voice, and in it the promise that God made to me And the devil made a promise of his own. The same promise he has given for time out of time. Riches, and fame, and all those things which strike some ill-begotten note in us. These things which seem to call to us. “Just this once.” “It will do not harm.” But what the devil was promising was to destroy God’s promise.
3.
In the heart of darkness When there exists nothing But shadow And sorrow When what you see Is what you must believe Because it is all you have When the devil, By whatever name, Has finally convinced you That God is dead, and music is meaningless You are in Hell.
4.
Close your eyes my sparrow. Do not cry any more Look out over the water And watch the waves crash to the shore Then smile and feel the rhythm Of the wind that blows before you, Then turn to me for comfort And do not cry any more. I will sing to you, I will sing to you, I will sing to you, I will open up my mouth and Pour out the contents of my heart I will sing to you, I will sing to you, O. And if you feel sorrow And need someone to care for you I hope you will learn from me That I am always there for you In your darkest hour, Your burdens will I take for you My lantern I shall lift And light the path I make for you And I will sing to you, I will open up my mouth and Pour out the sorrow in my heart I will sing to you I will sing to you, O. Now lift your eyes from darkness And place your foot upon the road Take my hand and walk with me Come and let me share your load Sing with me in joy And feel the wind that blows before you Turn to me for comfort And do not cry any more. I will sing to you, I will open up my mouth and pour out the joy in my heart I will sing to you, I will sing to you, O.
5.
But that was one voice, singing alone, Outside of the nearer insanity of voices Babbling, chittering, Screaming, laughing, There beside me in the darkness of hell. The devil still stood beside me And whispered lies in my ears. The Prince of Lies. Giving with his words And taking with his hands Giving with his hands And taking with his words. Giving once Taking twice Taking thrice Taking Taking
6.
If I am to die today, If this is my appointed hour, I wonder: Will God still be watching? Or has he truly turned his back, Giving me up for lost Dr. Faustus, I know your dilemma: When the devil has been at you, You trust no one. Not even God.
7.
There! A beacon of light, A needle, A shaft. Do I imagine it? Have my eyes Succumbed to lies As well? No! There is another. Even in the pit The darkness is not total. There is a single, narrow path. Is that it? Or has the Prince of Lies been up to his tricks again? Creating hope where there can be no hope. Allowing belief and then destroying it. I will watch some more.
8.
Send your mother away, said he. Do not speak to your father, said he. You can trust no one, he said, but me. I will protect you, said he. You are only safe in darkness, said he. You cannot leave now, he snarled. You owe me
9.
The time has come to leave this place Truth has defeated the dark one again His true nature is revealed His words become nothing The laugh of a hyena The mindless cackle of a toothless beggar. But fear remains, A subtle companion. Bury me, Lord, as you yourself were buried. For three days let him think me gone Until freedom becomes a habit And terror only a dark memory; Then shall I stand in sunlight, The only shadow the shade of your wings. For he remains Lurking, brooding. He conspires in his darkness, his sunless cavern Trying even now to lay a trap Which would shutter in shadow all that is good. Scheming, twisting; This time he has failed. This time
10.
But still the devil followed me With claws around my throat There, in summer sun I read the contract that he wrote My heart was frozen hard in fear Again he showed his skill: “I own those things you hold most dear, to do with as I will.” Then opened I my mouth to sing Alone beside the water And still he sniggered in my soul “But you are Satan’s daughter.” That quiet voice, that vicious whisper Echoed, sneaking, in my head; Where once I sang the angels’ songs Now croaked the voice of the dead. “Thief,” cried I, “I want it back!” But Thief would only mutter. He said, “Come take it if you can! I’ll destroy each note you utter.” I held the contract in the sun And prayed that God would take it, But Satan said, “You broke God’s gift And you cannot remake it.” I took a breath to sing again, To shut out Satan’s words; And from my own mouth came a voice Which only once I’d heard…
11.
… I will sing to you I will open up my mouth And pour out the sorrow in my heart. I will sing to you, I will sing to you, O.
12.
Last night I had a dream: I lived in an old house On a graceful old hill Overlooking a graceful old city. My friend and I raced Through all the rooms Opening up doors and windows To let in as much light as we could. At the top of this house was a door That led to the roof Where we could sit and drink coffee, Where we could watch the sun set From the graceful old hill Overlooking the graceful old city. Exploring further I followed steps down to a mysterious corner Where a mysterious door, Dust-covered, unused, Nearly rusted shut, Beckoned to be opened. “Another door!” thought I. “Perhaps there is more light behind it.” I opened the mysterious door To a great old dusty space Which – better and better! – Opened onto a dusty tiled terrace. There was more light Here in this mysterious hidden room. And, o! when I took a broom To sweep away the dust From this long-forgotten room I found His severed head
13.
Now face the east Stand in the light of the rising sun And know the peace of morning The coming of a new day Joy at beginnings Not sorrow at endings Avalon lies west And it is too soon to go there That is for the ending of your days And not before Now is the time to Look for new things To inhale the scent of spring To cast off the pall Of darkness Open your arms to the warmth Of a new day.
14.
XIV - Finale 01:17
Ah, there is music! I open my mouth In praise of… everything… I utter the sounds That describe my soul Where words fail. This is my offering to God. I open my mouth In keening sorrow And utter the bleak places I sing the screaming in me when screaming will not do This is my offering. The descent into hell is over I remember what music is And I am come home.
15.
XV - Coda 03:19
Why do you wear these scars? Because the devil touched me And I lived to tell the tale.

about

All proceeds from the sale of this release will benefit the National Network to End Domestic Violence (nnedv.org).

Live performance, October 2013, Northern Illinois University.

Beginning life as a poetry cycle, Rachel Rising was turned into a new classical song cycle, receiving its premiere performance in 2008, and excerpts and full performances have been presented in other venues since then. It is in the process of evolving into an immersive, experimental multimedia project. As that evolution is happening it is being presented in other forms, such as spoken word/performance and improvisation.

The poetry cycle came in the creative aftermath of a violent and bizarre domestic situation, but is much more than one person’s simple catharsis. It stands as allegory for anyone who has been through a “dark night of the soul”, whatever one’s faith might be — or not. It is a struggle of dark and light, of violence and peace, of restraint and freedom. In other words, the human experience.

credits

released August 18, 2014

Rebekkah Hilgraves, soprano, poet
Rob Deemer, conductor, composer
Valerie Blair*, piano
Ann Smelser*, violin
David Lee, viola
Linc Smelser*, cello
Gregory Heintz, bass
Greg Barrett*, clarinet & bass clarinet
Kristine Mertens, oboe
Robyn Rogers, bassoon
*NIU School of Music Faculty

Recorded at Northern Illinois University, October 2013
Mastered at RadHausUS (radhaus.us) by Luis Flores
Rebekkah Hilgraves, Executive Producer

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Rebekkah Hilgraves Asheville, North Carolina

Rebekkah Hilgraves was born in Washington, D.C. and now makes her home in Los Angeles. She began training seriously for a vocal career at an early age. She also began broadcasting at WNIU in DeKalb, continuing in broadcasting, commercial and industrial voice-over work in several major markets in the years since. Currently she hosts a weekly program on RadioSpiral.net called The Edges of Dreaming. ... more

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