This spring, I’m working on a new choral piece with the Back Bay Chorale, called Anything Can Happen. The five-movement work is by the young Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz, and is based around three poems by Seamus Heaney, and two sections of the Arabic Injeel, the equivalent to the New Testament. The result is a dark, brooding, chilling and spare work that keeps pulling me into its mysteries further each time we rehearse it. As usual, rehearsing with Scott Jarrett is phenomenal, but I’m always especially interested in what happens when he, who so much more often works in early music like Bach, takes on something more contemporary.
The finale – and title poem – of the work is Heaney’s off-putting take on Horace, “Anything Can Happen.” Part translation of Horace’s Ode 1.34, part response to the 9/11 attacks, the poem never fails to fill me with dread, and at the same time a sense of the preciousness of the moment. Don’t forget, it seems to say. Everything you have is right now. And only right now.
It’s a strange kind of gratitude to be imbued with, but its essence is gratitude all the same.
Anything Can Happen
Anything can happen. You know how Jupiter
Will mostly wait for clouds to gather head
Before he hurls the lightning? Well just now
He galloped his thunder cart and his horses
Across a clear blue sky. It shook the earth
and the clogged underearth, the River Styx,
the winding streams, the Atlantic shore itself.
Anything can happen, the tallest towers
Be overturned, those in high places daunted,
Those overlooked regarded. Stropped-beak Fortune
Swoops, making the air gasp, tearing the crest off one,
Setting it down bleeding on the next.
Ground gives. The heaven’s weight
Lifts up off Atlas like a kettle lid.
Capstones shift. Nothing resettles right.
Telluric ash and fire-spores boil away.
from District and Circle, Faber and Faber Ltd., 2006
(See the Chorale perform this as well as Mozart’s Requiem on Sunday, March 17 at 3pm at Sanders Theatre.)