What is true forgiveness? I suppose I could wax philosophical in an effort to write something beautiful and insightful but I think that (a) I’m nowhere near that poetic (or smart…I mean let’s not mince words here) and (b) there is no way I could ever come as close as Wendell Berry does in his gorgeous text. Reading it for the first time was an amazing, visceral experience.
However, realizing immediately afterwards that I was going to have to set it to music was terrifying. It hits incredibly close to center with regards to being emotionally vulnerable and, at the time, it didn’t seem like it would be a lot of fun. Of course, we see this vulnerability all the time in the world of the confessional singer/songwriter so, in the end, my solution was to take a bit of that persona on in order to write this piece.
I tried to portray that sense of wandering and confusion that leads up to what I think is the revelation of true unconditional love. The opening theme (sung only by the women of the choir) comes back at the close of the piece sung by the entire ensemble and clothed in a warmer harmony than before; like a transgression remembered almost fondly with a wry smile and overwhelming gratitude.
Berry’s original poem is written only to his mother but, for my purposes here, I’ll give it a new title and dedicate this piece to both Alan Shank and Susan Witter-Shank.