WHOM DO YOU CALL ANGEL NOW?
Instrumentation: soprano or mezzo-soprano, violin (or viola), piano
Duration: 5 minutes
Premiere: Lucy Shelton, soprano, New Music Festival, Cleveland Institute of Music, November 16, 2005
Whom do you call angel now? was taken from a set of poems by David Adams called September Songs which he wrote after September 11. I set this originally as a folk song. In the end, I decided to make it a part of my song cycle about war and violence called Declaration, but this song was written some time before I began the song cycle. Re-setting Whom do you call angel now? as an art song proved to be a real struggle. After trying a plethora of possibilities, I decided the strongest presentation would be to leave the accompaniment simple, even stark at times. The 21st century is a time of plurality in musical styles. The past periods of music are available for composers to draw upon, including the atonal period which lasted for the entire twentieth century (and is still going on). I am exploring this rich referential diversity in my music. Whereas this song and one other called Thorn are tonal and quasi folksong-like, the fury of Alice Walker’s poem, Thousands of Feet Below You, which is used in the third song called for strict twelve-tone treatment.
IV. Whom do you call angel now?
from September Songs, An Angel's Song by David Adams
Whom do you call angel now?
If I am as old as stars,
If I am the speech of God,
Find my shadow in the apple boughs.
Find my green wings in the mountains,
My white tears broken in the seas.
For even as you die,
No stalk bends without its angel.
I have heard wailing centuries.
I am waiting in their silences like snow
To dream the music of a single tongue-
One pure leaf in a voiceless wind.
Whom do you call angel now?
Who will teach you how to love?
"Another connection to 21st Century horror comes in a setting of a David Adams poem from his September Songs: 9/11. “Whom do you call angel now?” is a modern art song set for soprano with viola and piano providing simple accompaniment. The vocal line has an almost Medieval quality in its modal outlines at first and grows into a very beautiful somewhat more romantic-styled harmony as it progresses. The use of the viola is a rather stunning idea providing a perfect warm contrast to the vocal line excellently sung by Sandra Simon. This is another of those hidden gems that is a part of this release." - Cinemusical, June 2014
"The most unusual Brouwer composition was her simple setting for voice, violin and piano of a poem from a cycle by Northeast Ohio writer David Adams...Titled "Whom do you call angel now?" the poem is a meditation on the loss of innocence and the need for a different sort of faith after the 9/11 attacks. Brouwer here employs a mostly modal setting, with vocal and instrumental embroidery that suggests both Hebrew chanting and Middle Eastern melodic embellishment. Mezzo-soprano Beaty admirably caught the darker tone of the music, while Ramsey and Wang were subtle and supportive in this spare but affecting score." - Mark Satola, The Plain Dealer, 2015