As we reckon with the great plague of cancer in our time, we are seeing more and more younger and younger people succumb to this ravaging disease. Lament for a Butterfly honors the fallen youths whose colors, beauty and all too brief lives have affected us greatly. We mourn them and treasure what they have given us. We will never know how much they accomplished in their short lives. We are nevertheless grateful for having shared with them this gift of life. This piece is dedicated to my niece Ariel Rose, 1991-2018.
Performance notes: Throughout the piece the value and tempo of the eighth-note remains constant. In complicated passages, beam groupings have been subdivided as a visual aid for accuracy as well as suggesting articulation and nuance of phrasing. Players will immediately notice the complex rhythms that create the fluttering butterfly, in mm. 7 and 31 Soprano, m. 23 Alto, and mm. 41-45 in all parts but especially in m. 43 Tenor and m. 45 Soprano. The tiny triplet figures should have a random and effortless feel, but still fit within the context of the other voices. To help keep those bits anchored to the underlying beat, tiny visual rhythmic aids have been added above or below the most complicated passages, in the form of subdivided rests and brackets showing the half-measures (m. 23 Alto ; m. 43 Tenor and m. 45 Soprano ). Note that in mm. 43 and 45, the other 3 voices have a straightforward rhythmic core that might be rehearsed separately before adding those two parts.
I had the sad pleasure of preparing and performing this incredibly emotional piece at the memorial service for the composer's niece to whom it is dedicated. The butterfly imagery threading through the upper 3 parts celebrates her capricious youth; the technical challenges it presents can be somewhat overcome by keeping the overall macro-impression in mind rather than striving for absolute rhythmic precision. As in many of JS Bach's darkest works, the final chord in a major key offers an uplifting glimmer of hope, light and redemption.