CRIMSON – the cantata

by Larry Nickel

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featuring the Halifax Camerata directed by Jeff Joudrey
special thanks to Larry Smeets who allowed Nickel to draw from his poetry

LYRICS

1) Day of Remembrance

It’s that time of year again – we set one day aside
to ponder painful questions which will not be denied;
For our homeland, our freedom, was won at such a cost.
Let us reflect together – what was gained and what was lost.

What we hope to say now has all been said before;
but some things need repeating ten thousand times or more.
We will honor, we will cherish, our soldiers who have died.
Still, we keep on praying for a peaceful end to war.

2) Crimson Stain – main theme

What can we give?
what can we say?
to those who suffered for our sake?
We will remember them.

What can we do?
where could we go?
for those who died so long ago?
We will remember them.

So, pin a blood red poppy
on the collar of my coat;
like a crimson stain, close to my heart.
We will remember them.

The wages of freedom are hidden from view,
buried in the cold hard ground.
But there among the tombstones,
pallid white,
red poppies grow.

Like a crimson tide, flowing through the field
red poppies grow.

So let up stop and remember
our brothers and sisters below.

And as we pause, we recognize
the value of each precious life.
We will remember them.

So, pin a blood red poppy
on the collar of my coat;
like a crimson stain, close to my heart.
We will remember them.

3) No Greater Love
(from John 15:13)

There is no greater love than this;
to lay down one’s life for another –
to lay down one’s life for a friend.
How can there be such noble sacrifice?

To risk one’s life, to stand in harm’s way
for protection of another.
There is no greater love.

4) Voices from the Earth

Guns of war fell silent one century ago;
Yet we gather here together and we let our feelings show.
Can you hear a distant echo like whispers from below?
We hear voices rising from the earth.

From the beaches of Normandy – the shore so far from home;
from the trenches of Passendale and the Valley of the Somme;
from the meadows of Flanders- the slopes of Vimy Ridge
we hear voices.

What are you willing to die for?
Was my death of any value at all?
I was young and so naive
when the gale force winds of diplomacy
swept me away from my family and home.
Are your leaders and rulers and royalty and despots
still marching the civilized world ever closer to the edge 
of the abyss?

What was I willing to die for?
Have you you learned any lesson at all?
Why would you cede power 
to those who have at their fingertips
horrendous possibilities?
Why would you cede power 
to those who have at their fingertips
the ultimate obscenity
to end it all?

From the beaches of Normandy the shore so far from home;
from the trenches of Passendale and the Valley of the Somme;
from the meadows of Flanders, the slopes of Vimy Ridge
we hear voices.

5) The Cat and the Snake
a Vietnamese folktale

Can anyone tell me how the war began?
Does anyone remember how the war began?
The cat and the snake – Benjamin and Jake – lived down by the lake.
Daily, they would play to pass the time away.
The cat and the snake.

Two creatures got along
and they would sometimes venture a song –
in harmony.

Then one fateful day their friendship went astray.
The two came out to play but Jake got in the way.
The cat stepped on his tail, the snake began to wail!

“Watch where you’re going you clumsy cat!”
“Stop with your hissing you lazy brat!”
“Haven’t you noticed? – you’re really fat!”
“You are so wrong – your tail is much too long!”
The cat arched his back
the snake did attack
the cat clawed the snake
Jake did retaliate!

What became of two friends?
Was there anyway to make amends?
From deep within the lake there came a hungry crocodile.
From deep within the lake a very nasty crocodile.
They were terrified!

“Oh, why were we fighting when we should be uniting?”
“I forgive you.”

What can we gather from this silly tale of enemies?
Would we not rather try to get along and strive to be
true allies?

6) Passendale

A raw recruit was I – fresh off the farm from southern Manitoba.
My story begins and ends here, in Passendale.

Winter has come to the trenches,
like two black snakes writhing through the snow.
Side by side and not too far apart,

two armies face each other;
ankle deep in mud and misery –
with no man’s land in-between.

No man’s land – where green fields used to flourish.
No man’s land – charcoal trees and broken fences.
No man’s land – crimson red over white snow
No man’s land – such unspeakable carnage.

The Angel of Death – a frequent visitor here.
The Angel of Death – heralded with groans and screams of agony.
My enemy; afraid and bewildered, just like me.

A raw recruit was he – fresh off the farm from southern Bavaria.
His story begins and ends here, in Passendale.
We gaze at each other through the hellish haze;
too remote to know – too remote to hate
We stare at each other – total strangers –
and breathe warm air on our trigger-fingers.

7) Move Him Into the Sun 
(Wilfred Owen – adapted)

Move him into the sun
Gently its touch awoke him once

At home, whispering fields un-sown
Always it woke him, even in France
until this morning and the snow
If anything might rouse him now
the kind old sun will know.
Think of how it wakes the seeds,
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.

Are limbs so dear-achieved
are sides full nerved – still warm – too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?

Move him into the sun
Gently its touch awoke him once.

8) After the Storm 
(Wendell Berry – adapted)

After the storm and the new stillness of the snow
she returns to the graveyard.

As though she might lift the white coverlet
and crawl in beside him as she used to do;
and again, fell beneath her hand
his flesh quicken and turn warm.

But she is not his woman now.
To participate in resurrection, one must first be dead.

And now she goes back into the whitened world, 
alive.

9) Whiter Than Snow
(Isaiah 1:18)

“Come, let us reason together
Come, let us speak with words of comfort”, sayeth the Lord.
For, though our transgressions are red like crimson,
they shall be whiter than snow.
There is redemption for you, for me, and for the world.

10) Crossing Over

Requiem aeternam
Crossing over

What can we give?
what can we say?
to those who suffered for our sake?
We will remember them.

So, pin a blood red poppy
on the collar of my coat;
like a crimson stain, close to my heart.
We will remember them.

Requiem aeternam
et lux perpetua
Grant them peace eternal
and everlasting light
We’ve been mended, forgiven,
through love and sacrifice.
May they cross over
on the road to paradise.

Crossing over
on the road to paradise.

ORDER THE SCORE – “CRIMSON”

SATB SCORE PDF

SATB – with piano and cello  $16.00  CP 1620  – all eleven movements (40 minutes)
Cello part – free when ordered together with choral scores
NOTE: each movement is available separately – upon request.