Because I Will Not Despair

Premiered May 12th 2023

for Female Vocal Ensemble and String Orchestra


It was on a plane ride home from Portland in 2013 when I wrote my 3rd looper piece, and after that the flood gates swung open and I knew I was supposed to be a composer. On that very trip I met Alicia Jo Rabins, a cool violinist/poet/singer/songwriter that I somehow knew would be part of my life down the line. Fast forward five years and I am using some of her poetry, alongside other fierce female living poets, to create my first evening length show “And She”. Fast
forward another five years, and her words are the basis of this work.

I really resonate with the perspective Alicia writes from: being a woman, a mother, a wife, a community builder, a spiritual being, and a creator. Her imagery is already visceral, so it made my job easy to set her words to music. Interestingly, I have been in the midst of my own active healing since last summer, so setting this particular text at this juncture was quite timely and indeed…very cathartic.

Many thanks to Alicia for being herself and writing great poetry, and to David Hattner of the Portland Youth Philharmonic and Anna Song of the vocal ensemble In Mulieribus for making this piece happen. In a time that women are still being questioned and devalued on a daily basis, I dedicate this work to anyone who needs to hear these words right now.


(poetry by Alicia Jo Rabins)


I can’t tell whether I’m healing myself or breaking myself.
Whether I’m in Ancient Greece or the suburbs of Baltimore.
Whether I’m my grandmother or my five year old daughter.
I no longer think a mother is here to heal her daughter
I think we are all here to heal each other.
And ourselves.
And sometimes healing looks like breaking.


And so it was that I came to understand what and who I was.
The rain fell around me on all sides.
Lives blossomed and shriveled, I watched babies grow into old women.
I was myself, and more than myself, all at once.
There were many like me. So many.
What I had was not rare. It was as old as seaweed.
But not all of my sisters knew what they were.
What they carried.
What they knew.
What we knew.
The names beneath our names:


If the cathedral must burn,
Then praise God it burns
Due to human error and not
Human cruelty which is so
Plentiful these days
And maybe always has been.
May I love you in all

Your human error,

May you love me

In mine. Together we make
A cathedral of the simplest

Sunset. We hold each other,

Faces illuminated by the flames.


Because I
Because I will
Because I will not
Because I will not despair
Because I will not despair I
Because I will not despair I resist.