WHAT ROOM DOES FEAR HAVE
for SATB chorus, string orchestra, 2 horns, and solo mezzo-soprano
"I just wanted you to know that learning and singing your piece, "What Room Does Fear
Have," has been one of the highlights of my time at Jacobs. I've been singing the music over and over again like a mantra for the past few weeks. It's an exquisitely beautiful piece, and I'm so grateful to you for writing with such heart and boldness."
"Again I was very moved by your work. Your music provides a space for the listener to put aside the taxing effort of daily life and simply be. It is a real experience, one like entering a completely different world / atmosphere. Immersed in this soundscape, I was reminded of why I do what I do. And, a very beautiful and personal text that you chose - one that most everyone here can relate to."
"I’m actually going through a really difficult time right now, and I was deeply moved by how relevant, impactful, and profound the scope of the piece and performance were for me at this juncture... nearly brought me to tears, actually. So thank you for your brilliant work."
This work is made up of two main sections. The first is led by the horns personifying the growing presence of fear: mysterious, unknown, and full of sorrow. A solo mezzo-soprano joins the texture, revealing an autobiographical-like passage that ruminates on the pervasive and poisonous nature of fear. As this section progresses, the harmony becomes more and more disjunct, floating around as if searching for solidity. The soloist, with the chorus bolstering her words with their own, finally asks the gripping question, “What Room Does Fear Have?” This question outlines a tritone tonality: unresolved, broken, and empty.
After a startling grand pause, the strings lead the listener into the second half of the piece with a presentation of the same tritone motive from before. This time, the motive does not remain unsettled - it instead resolves into a consonant harmony. The tenors and basses then take over with a triumphant declamation, doubled by the celli and the horns. The chorus and soloist soon rejoin forces and enter into a cinematic and victorious outpouring of hope, listing in quick succession that which can overcome fear. During this section, the horns have been transformed: what was once fear is now joy and hope. The soloist takes one last moment of repose and reflection and unveils a setting of the text to the hymn tune that was present earlier in the piece. The closing section reveals a solo tenor voice that presents a verse from Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and I will give you rest.” A repeated horn call compliments this coda as the solo voices begin to sing in tandem, a union of peace and rest.
I used to be afraid at night. Afraid of the dark. Afraid that the darkness itself would surround me and swallow me up… as if darkness were anything more than simply the absence of light.
I used to be afraid of tomorrow. Afraid that who I was would continually dictate who I am, and that who I would be might be someone who I didn't like very much at all… as if there was no such thing as being made new.
I used to be afraid of opinions. Afraid that though words would not break my bones, they would certainly shatter my dreams… as if I started doing this for the approval of many rather than the glory of One.
I used to be afraid of failure. Afraid of losing. Afraid of falling.
I used to be afraid.
I kept coming up with the same exact question:
What room does fear have?
What room does fear have when I cling to trust? What room does fear have when I lean on hope? What room does fear have when I search for something more, when I discover what's good, and when I stand in awe? When I run with perseverance, when I walk by faith, and when I rest in comfort? What room does fear have when I sing with praise, when I take hold of inspiration, explore the possibilities, and step into freedom? What room does fear have when I discover strength, embrace courage, remember peace, declare truth, choose joy, experience life, and conquer death? What room does fear have when I find perfection in weakness?
What room does fear have when I step out of the darkness, and I bask in the light? When I let the past be the past and the future has no limit. And when failure is nothing more and nothing less than the road by which I walk my path to success.
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary, and I will give you rest.”
What room does fear have when I make room for love?
Text by Jon Jorgensen, adapted by the composer with permission
Hana J. Cai
Horn: Mark Constantine, Ashlyn Christenson Mezzo-soprano: Courtney Jameson Tenor: Chris Albanese