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From Cycles of Eternity
a Song Cycle for Treble Vocal Ensemble

  1. Aspiration
  2. Limitations
  3. Life *

Henrietta Cordelia Ray, poet (1849-1916)
Andrea Reinkemeyer, composer (Sherwood, Oregon - 2017)
* The third movement, “Life,” was Commissioned by In Mulieribus in Celebration of their Tenth Concert Series


In Mulieribus' fifth CD, Cycles of Eternity, is their first album of music from contemporary composers featuring significant 21st century contributions to the repertoire for women's voices with a focus on living, local composers, as well as female composers and poets of the past and present. The majority of the music is previously unrecorded.

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Program Notes:

From Cycles of Eternity (2017) is a Song Cycle for Treble Voices (SSSSAA). The third song, “Life,” was commissioned by In Mulieribus, directed by Dr. Anna Song, in celebration of their Tenth Anniversary Season. Henrietta Cordelia Ray's poetry uses musical language and timeless thematic materials, including: the brevity of our individual lives within the great expanse of time, artistic struggle, our relationship with nature, and collective dreams of freedom. As an African-American poet of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries, Ray expresses discontent with her earthly experiences while also looking forward to the, “splendors past the sun” and being “gathered to eternity’s expanse… at the Father’s call.” Musically, this piece draws from both the present and past to further highlight the cyclic nature of human experience.

-- Notes by Andrea Reinkemeyer

From Cycles of Eternity

We climb the slopes of life with throbbing heart,
And eager pulse, like children toward a star.
Sweet siren music cometh from afar,
To lure us on meanwhile. Responsive start
The nightingales to richer song than Art
Can ever teach. No passing shadows mar
Awhile the dewy skies; no inner jar
Of conflict bids us with our quest to part.
We see adown the distance, rainbow-arched,
What melting aisles of liquid light and bloom!
We hasten, tremulous, with lips all parched,
And eyes wide-stretched, nor dream of coming gloom.
Enough that something held almost divine
Within us ever stirs. Can we repine?

The subtlest strain a great musician weaves,
Cannot attain in rhythmic harmony
To music in his soul. May it not be
Celestial lyres send hints to him? He grieves
That half the sweetness of the song, he leaves
Unheard in the transition. Thus do we
Yearn to translate the wondrous majesty
Of some rare mood, when the rapt soul receives
A vision exquisite. Yet who can match
The sunset’s iridescent hues? Who sing
The skylark’s ecstasy so seraph-fine?
We struggle vainly, still we fain would catch
Such rifts amid life’s shadows, for they bring
Glimpses ineffable of things divine.

Life! Ay, what is it? E’en a moment spun
  From cycles of eternity. And yet,
  What wrestling ’mid the fever and the fret
Of tangled purposes and hopes undone!
What affluence of love! What vict’ries won
  In agonies of silence, ere trust met
  A manifold fulfillment, and the wet,
Beseeching eyes saw splendors past the sun!
What struggle in the web of circumstance,
  And yearning in the wingèd music! All,
      One restless strife from fetters to be free;
Till, gathered to eternity’s expanse,
  Is that brief moment at the Father’s call.
     Life! Ay, at best, ’tis but a mystery!

-- Henrietta Cordelia Ray (1849-1916)

Aspiration is in the public domain (1910)
Limitations was published in Ray's book, "Poems"
  (The Grafton Press, 1910).
Life is in the public domain (1893)

Performance Materials:

Performance Materials Will Be Available Soon:



10th Anniversary Concert: In Mulieribus and Friends (Premiere)
Tuesday Rupp returns! Join our grand anniversary celebration with founders Anna Song and Tuesday Rupp and the women of IM. The program will include an exciting mix of old and new, with world premieres by John Vergin, Andrea Reinkemeyer and Robert Lockwood commissioned to mark this special occasion, as well as works by Hildegard, Perotin, Kay Rhie, Ivan Moody, and Steve Reich.

Friday, May 5, 2017 - 8:00 p.m.
St. Mary's Cathedral
1716 NW Davis
Portland, Oregon


Sunday, May 7, 2017 - 8:00 pm
Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater
218 W 12th Street
Vancouver, Washington
(Purchase tickets)
News and Features:

'Cycles of Eternity': In Mulieribus spins out a winner
Portland vocal ensemble's new recording features music by contemporary choral composers
May 27, 2019 // Oregon ArtsWatch
by Bruce Browne

"Tracks three, four and five are a triptych of compositions, Cycles of Eternity, by Andrea Reinkemeyer, from which the CD takes its title. Reinkemeyer is a native Oregonian and currently Assistant Professor of Music at Linfield College. All three set the words of African-American poet Henrietta Cordelia Ray (1849-1916).

“Aspiration,” the first in the cycle, arises from the depths of the low altos, moving to a countrapuntal passage (hooray! Something other than static “soundscape” in a new choral composition); and moves through three tempo changes in the first 11 bars. This is a tonal language, but sometimes of dubious tonal centers, at other times with much ambiguity, so that when we hear a true triadic few bars, towards the end of the movement, it’s a nice surprise.

Commissioned by In Mulieribus, the third of the triptych, “Life,” features soprano Arwen Myers in a dramatic and colorful solo — at first robust, then lyrical and compelling— sung over the other women of the chorus holding long pedal tones that the composer has specified to be sung “like a droned string instrument, emphasizing the overtone.” One peccadillo: to my ear, this performance does not quite honor the composer’s direction to change tempo suddenly three times in six bars, by 22 metronomic points at each turn (about 20 percent faster at each new tempo).

This rising Oregon composer embraces 21st century techniques, very freely and yet with specificity of musical direction, using words such as “stretch” and “freely.” Some of that freedom comes from the use of such techniques as sprechstimme (spoken singing) unvoiced singing (without pitch), and unsynchronized chanted text."