Child of Song


Soprano solo, SATB chorus and chamber ensemble
(flute, clarinet, horn, vibraphone/marimba, harp)

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The Princeton Singers on "I Have Had Singing" (Arsis)
Margaret Anne Butterfield, soprano
Steven Sametz, director

ECS No. 6933 - full score
ECS No. 6934 - parts
ECS No. 6935 - piano-choral score

Program Notes

Dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina

Life and art often intersect. In the Fall of 2005, I was watching nightly news images of the destruction and loss caused by Hurricane Katrina. I was particularly struck by the stories of families separated from their loved ones. I found myself returning to sketches of a song I’d started in January of 2000, Child of Song. The motivating conception at that time had been to find some means of understanding and sympathy for  friend who had lost her son. In light of more recent events, it seemed to speak of the powerful grief that was touching so many lives in the wake of a natural disaster.

When I considered the addition of the chorus to the original song, I started to think about choral literature expressing the connection of mother and child. For me, the most poignant expression of this is the fifth movement of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, where the soprano solo is heard as a motherly voice from heaven, singing, “You have had sorrow. I will comfort you; I will see you again.” In Child of Song, the soprano sings as a mother who has lost a child and asks that the spirit of her child be with her at her last hour. It is the chorus, quoting from the Brahms’ Requiem, that ethereally speaks the words from the departed child, recognizing the parent’s grief and offering a calm assurance of comfort, as from a mother, that they shall see each other again.

Child of Song is small portrait of the tragedy of a parent who loses a child. It’s offered humbly to all those who mourn for the loss of their children.


Child of song, oh Child of prayer,
Child I held now beyond all care,
Child I held, oh hold me now.

Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit.
(Now you have sorrow.)

Child age is not for you,
Child of my song;
Oh my Child keep trust with me
Ah, until we sing again, my Child.

Child that I held, sing me your song,
Cradle me now, in my final hour.

Child of mine,
Child I held,
Child of Song.
Ich will euch trösten,
(I will trust you,)

Ah, until we sing again, my Child!

Child of song,
oh Child of Prayer,
Child I held,
oh hold me now.

wie einen seine Mutter tröstet,
(as one trusts one’s mother,)
ich will euch wieder sehen.
(I will see you again.)

–English text by Peter Elliot