Written to commemorate the passing of loved ones, Ascension explores the questions we have when their departure reminds us of our short stay: our purpose; our connectedness. The piece, set in a contemporary American choral style, uses excerpts from Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself.” Whitman writes: “I hear you whispering there O stars of heaven…if you do not say anything how can I say anything?”. His contemplation takes form in an intimate dialogue between himself and the wonders of his existence. The body of Ascension follows that very idea: a close conversation with ourselves as we consider the mystery of life; what it means to leave this world, and how it feels to be left behind. As the piece nears its close, these secrets, personified as Whitman’s “stars of Heaven” provide comfort in the form of a hint, and through it a promise: “Missing me one place, stop search another. I stop somewhere waiting for you.”
This piece was the recipient of the 2017 Brehm Prize in Choral Composition, making Sawyer the youngest, and the first undergraduate winner in the history of the competition.
This performance by the University of Michigan Chamber Choir, Under the direction of Dr. Jerry Blackstone. The performance took place in Hill Auditorium, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in December, 2017.