Pigeons

A greyscale pencil drawing of a city seen from a hill, with pigeons in foreground and background. Artwork by Evan Jacques.

I do get the best texts to work with sometimes. I love this poem by Marnanel Thurman, which I set as part of my Stations of the Cross but also works well as a stand-alone piece:

Pigeons, to me, were always signs of hope:
even the whirl of wings against the air
would right me, show me once again the scope
of who I was and whose I was and where;
as when, in one deep shock of vertigo
I saw the city lie beneath my ledge
as flocks of pigeons played a mile below
and kept my feet from straying near the edge;
as blinking blinding water from my eyes
I rose again to reach the air above
and from the sundered sky, to my surprise
there flew from heights uncountable a dove;
as here, a final time, I watch them fly
and heal my hope as I am lifted high.

The poem references three incidents in the life of Christ — his baptism, temptation and crucifixion — told from the perspective of Jesus. The pigeons are an imaginative development of the traditional Christian symbolism of a dove signifying the Holy Spirit as advocate and comforter. In substituting pigeons – animals that are usually scorned as unclean and unwelcome – for doves, Thurman movingly articulates an affirming and welcoming vision of Christ, who greets the pigeons as signs of hope. I think this is an important message of comfort for people who have traditionally been marginalised, and a call to conscience for oppressors who aspire to Christian virtue.

Here are the robots singing:

Here is the SATB score:
Pigeons 2019-04-30

As usual, this work is free to download and copy under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. You can find a copy of Pigeons at the CPDL website, and if you want to support me in continuing to compose music like this please consider sponsoring my work.

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