» Choral/Vocal


Ere Sleep Comes Down (2019)

text by Paul Laurence Dunbar

TTBB men’s choir

6 min.

Ere Sleep Comes Down takes its text from three verses of a poem (Ere Sleep Comes Down to Soothe the Weary Eyes) by African-American writer Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906).  While the poetic imagery is vivid— encompassing the range of emotion and intensity of a fully-lived life—I was drawn to the sense of calm and peace found in the final verse.  The soul finding a sense of peace is something I think is we hope to find at the end of any long journey.  The music reflects this sense of calm, with its gentle 12/8 meter, as well as a sense of yearning with its harmonies inspired by traditional gospel and blues. 

Ere Sleep Comes Down was composed for Chor Leoni Men’s Choir (Vancouver, Canada), in early 2019, in response to a call for new scores, and the piece tied for first place in the Chor Leoni’s national Canadian Choral Composition Competition. Elizabeth Knudson received a Barbara Pentland Award for Outstanding Composition (presented by the Canadian Music Centre) for this work. Ere Sleep Comes Down received its premiere on May 10th, 2019 by Chor Leoni Men’s Choir, directed by Erick Lichte, at the Orpheum Annex, Vancouver, Canada.

Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

(sheet music link to come soon)


Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes, 
Which all the day with ceaseless care have sought
The magic gold which from the seeker flies;
Ere dreams put on the gown and cap of thought,
And make the waking world a world of lies--
Of lies most palpable, uncouth, forlorn,
That say life's full of aches and tears and sighs--
Oh, how with more than dreams the soul is torn,
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes.

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes, 
Where ranges forth the spirit far and free?
Through what strange realms and unfamiliar skies
Tends her far course to lands of mystery?
To lands unspeakable-- beyond surmise,
Where shapes unknowable to being spring,
Till, faint of wing, the Fancy fails and dies
Much wearied with the spirit's journeying,
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes.

When sleep comes down to seal the weary eyes,
The last dear sleep whose soft embrace is balm,
And whom sad sorrow teaches us to prize
For kissing all our passions into calm,
Ah, then no more we heed the sad world's cries,
Or seek to probe th' eternal mystery,
Or fret our souls at long-withheld replies,
At glooms through which our visions cannot see,
When sleep comes down to seal the weary eyes.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

From the Ninth Elegy (2008)

SSSAAATTTBBB (12-part chamber choir)

5 min. 30 sec.

text by Rainer Maria Rilke; translated by Graham Good


The inspiration for this piece came in equal parts from the 1987 Wim Wenders film, Wings of Desire (Der Himmel Über Berlin), and from my maternal grandmother, Gudrun Joensen, who passed away in 2006. Wings of Desire appealed to me in its imagery and thematic use of angels existing alongside “earthly” beings; the film is based on the writings of poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). The text of my piece is taken from Rilke’s Ninth Duino Elegy, which speaks of the transience of being “earthly”, and yet that the fact of having existed once on this earth is irrevocable. Ever since my grandmother passed away, I had been looking for an opportunity to incorporate her essence somehow into one of my compositions. She was a very gentle person, hence the whispered, hushed quality of the beginning of the piece. The very end of the piece uses a quotation of a Danish lullaby she used to sing. From the Ninth Elegy was written specifically for musica intima (12-voice conductorless chamber choir), and given its premiere on March 21st, 2009, as part of Vancouver Pro Musica’s Sonic Boom Festival, at the Western Front, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.  It was also performed by DaCapo Chamber Choir, in Kitchener, ON, on February 27th, 2010, and by the Vancouver Chamber Choir (with guest conductor Michael Zaugg), on April 20th, 2018.


But because being here means so much, and because
all of the transient things that are here
seem to need us…
They need us- us, the most transient.Once
for each thing, just once. Once and no more.
Just once for us too… But having been
earthly just this once, even though
it was only once, seems irrevocable.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), translated by Graham Good


Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:


In the Grass (2005)

SSSAAA women's choir

6 min. 30 sec.

Face downward on the grass in reverie
I found how cool and sweet
Are the green blooms that often thoughtlessly
I tread beneath my feet.

In this strange mimic wood where grasses lean–
Elf trees untouched of bark–
I heard the hum of insects, saw the sheen
Of sunlight framing dark,

And felt with thoughts I cannot understand
And know not how to speak,
A daisy reaching up its little hand
To lay it on my cheek.

Ethelwyn Wetherald (1857-1940)


La banqueroute (2005)

TTBB men's choir, plus two tenor soloists

7 min.

text- traditional French-Canadian


A Light exists in Spring (2004)

SSAATTBB mixed choir

6 min.

This piece takes its text from a poem of the same name by 19th century American poet, Emily Dickinson. It draws upon the ideas of prismic light and colour– light waves, as well as the idea of sound waves, in the form of bell-sounds created by the human voice.

“At a suitable distance, church bells could be powerfully evocative, for the strident noises of their clappers are lost and they are given a legato phrasing which wind currents or water will modulate dynamically… Perhaps no sound benefits more from distance and atmosphere.” -Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, from his book, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (1977).


A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period–
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the formula of sound
It passes and we stay–

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)


Premiered by Phoenix Chamber Choir (directed by Ramona Luengen), at Queens Avenue United Church, New Westminster, B.C., Canada, on April 16, 2005.


Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:



A Vagabond Song (2003)

SATB mixed choir

This piece was based upon a poem of the same name by Canadian maritime poet, Bliss Carman. It is a celebration of the vibrant colours and free-spirited feeling that the autumn season can evoke:

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood.
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir:
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill aflame
She calls each vagabond by name.

Bliss Carman (1861-1929)








Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:



Acquainted With the Night (2003)

TTBB men's choir

3 min. 45 sec.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)