Prayers for a Feverish Planet

Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin (2017) – Beverly Lewis (Canada)

“Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin” (“In peace and joy I now depart”) is a hymn tune composed by Martin Luther in 1524. Luther also wrote the text, which paraphrases, in German, the Nunc dimittis, also known as the Canticle of Simeon. I quote this melody several times in my chorale prelude for piano by the same name. 

The piece is about the oppressive weight of terminal illness and the exhausting waiting associated with it. The blurriness in the piece represents the drug-induced sleep of the dying cancer patient and the tension represents the urgency that takes place when she wakes up and there is someone who wants to talk to her to spill out their feelings when all she wants is to be put out of her misery again. 

The relentless little entr’acte bits of music between where the chorale melody is played represent the endless waiting that is done by the ill patient, waiting for visitors, waiting for test results and more bad news, waiting for the next game plan that the doctor dreams up, waiting for a fix, waiting to die. It also represents the visitor’s waiting for the loved one to wake and converse. 

The drama at the end is representative of the patient’s victory over pain enabled by her life coming to an end. It is also representative of the relief that the visitors feel, even though they are sad and even though they may not have had the chance or seized upon the opportunity to say what they wanted to say. 

Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin was premiered by pianist, Dr. Janet Hammock in Sackville New Brunswick as part of a benefit concert in support of Tantramar Hospice Palliative Care Organization.

I feel that this piece is connected to climate change because of its subject of death and dying, which is exactly what the earth is experiencing as climate change increases and its effects worsen. It is also perhaps worthy of mention that much human terminal cancer is caused, at least in part, by such things as air, water and land pollution, chemical spills, fossil fuels, etc., all of which contribute to climate change. It seems to me that the piece, in fact, provides a rather apt description of the Fevered Earth.

Ann adds: There are a group of pieces submitted that use quotes—Bach, hymns, etc. I like that this selection adds to the variety of this group, both in terms of musical quotation, and in terms of style—it has an almost hypnotic minimalist approach.

Beverly Lewis

Beverly Lewis studied music at Mount Allison University (New Brunswick, Canada), majoring in piano. In 1981, she convocated with Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Education degrees. She currently resides in Toronto, teaching piano at the University Settlement Music and Arts School, directing music at Bathurst United Church and working as a freelance accompanist and chamber musician. Her compositions have been performed in Austria, Canada, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States and her music has been broadcast on CBC Radio and on CFTA FM Radio. She has been awarded prizes from the Amadeus Choir Carol competition and a grant from the Toronto Arts Council.

Bev’s pieces have been commissioned by such musicians as: the Xavier Consort (choral), Dr. Janet Hammock (piano), Joseph Salvalaggio (oboe), Dr. Michele Fiala (English horn), Erik Oland (baritone), Crumlin United Church (choral), and Thames Centre Community Choir (choir). Her compositions have been included in recordings by the Mount Allison Chamber (CD: Choir Christmas at Mount Allison Chapel, 1995), Les Jolies (CD: Tillägnad, 2010 BIEM/n©b TLJCD01, Sweden), Amadeus Choir (CD: Ring-a the News! IBS 1009, 1994), Saskatoon Chamber Singers (CD: Remember – Solace and Consolation SCS01, 2012), and Dr. Michele Fiala (CD: Overheard – New Music for Oboe and English Horn MSR Classics MS1403, 2011).

Bev’s compositions are currently being published by Cypress Choral Music, BC (choral). Renforth Music, NB (choral), Forton Music, UK (woodwind) and Palliser Music, AB (various).