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Fox Chapel High School Madrigal Singers, Craig G. Cannon, Director
The Very Depths of Me
Lara Graham, poet
Drew Fennell, composer

Program Notes

When Craig Cannon and I first discussed the text of this music, I suggested using a Shakespeare sonnet or some beloved poem as a text, and then one of us (I can't remember which) got the idea of using a student work. So, he held a somewhat informal contest among the students at the school to decide which poetry would be set to music.

He left the final decision, among three of the strongest texts, to me. After some consideration, I selected a poem by Fox Chapel Area High School student Lara Graham which I think is quite good. I'm certainly no expert, but I genuinely like the tone of the work. It has a clear point of view and a message which speaks to everyone – especially young people. Below is the text.

The Very Depths of Me
by Lara Graham

And I realize I can’t idealize
About fantasies that never will come true
And I understand that there is a plan
That I must inevitably follow
But can’t I dream a little?
Sing foolishly a little?
Let myself sink into that weakness that you see
So that for one moment you’d comprehend
That in that weakness is me
Open the doors to my soul
Let my voice echo in harmony
Hear me give you a piece of my heart
Don’t close the gates
Leave me in disgrace
Because this is my most precious gift
Listen while you can
To my foolish melody
My silly childhood dream
Because in this world such things are fleeting
But in my heart they’ll be forever beating
And for this one moment you can see
They are the very depths of me

Before getting started with the composition, I spoke briefly with the poet about what she meant to portray – the idea of how nice it would be to detach from what is expected, and as she put it, to “say what I feel without distraction.” When I read the text, I can imagine the perspective of the writer: a young person with hopes and dreams who just wants to express those (maybe unrealistic) passions without feeling foolish about doing so. The words progress from tentative hopefulness to pure exaltation and finally to calm resignation.

In writing the music, I hoped to capture that hopefulness, exaltation and resignation. For me, the words are as if spoken in a prayer or a dream. I tried to keep that in mind when choosing the melodic and harmonic schemes. I wanted the musical phrases to communicate a sense of longing, almost as the moments just before waking from a perfect dream when you want to linger there just a bit longer. I think, alongside the hopefulness and exultation, there is also a pervasive sense of disappointment in the text. The writer, despite living for a moment in reverie, knows reality will always return. I think one of the great gifts of youth is boundless hope for the future, and the unfortunate side effect of growing up is the abandonment of many of those dreams.

Duration: approximately 5 min. 30 sec.

– Drew R. Fennell, April 11, 2008

  • The Very Depths of Me is published by Drew Fennell Publishing.
    Available for SSAATTBB Choir and Piano.

  • Hear The Very Depths of Me (complete) as performed by the Fox Chapel Area High School Madrigal Singers, Craig G. Cannon, Director [SSAATTBB Choir version]*.

*Right click on the link and choose Save Target As... to download the file.

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