KMEA 2008 - Tu Qui Consortem

 

On Friday, February 29 the University of Kansas Men’s Glee Club will perform on the evening concert at KMEA in Wichita, KS (8:45 PM).

Directed by my friend and colleague Tod Fish, the group will perform a variety of works, including an arrangement of Enosh by fellow KU-composer Doug Helvering, and a new choral work by yours truly.

I also happen to be singing tenor with the group. :-)

The piece of mine that we are performing is titled Tu Qui Consortem. The text (for which I hope I do justice) is a “war” poem composed by the ancient Latin poet Sextus Propertius. Both the text and my translation are below.

Original

Tu, qui consortem properas evadere casum,
miles ab Etruscis saucius aggeribus,
quid nostro gemitu turgentia lumina torques?
pars ego sum vestrae proxima militiae.
sic te servato ut possint gaudere parentes,
haec soror acta tuis sentiat e lacrimis:
Gallum per medios ereptum Caesaris enses
effugere ignotas non potuisse manus;
et quaecumque super dispersa invenerit ossa
montibus Etruscis, haec sciat esse mea.

Translation

You, who hurries to avoid our common fate,
wounded soldier from the Etruscan ramparts,
what makes you turn your wide eyes toward my moaning?
I am one of your closest armed comrades.
Thus, save yourself, so that your parents may rejoice,
but let my sister know of my fate through your tears:
that Gallus stole away through the midst of Caesar’s swords
but was unable to escape an unknown hand;
and whoever will come upon these scattered bones
on the Etruscan hillside, let him know that these bones are mine.

The story is told from the point of view of a mortally-wounded soldier (Gallus) addressing a fellow wounded (though not mortally) soldier who is recoiling in horror at seeing the severity of his comrade’s wounds.

“Get out of here! Save yourself!” he urges, and we have a vision of the soldier returning home safely to his family. The scene now takes an abrupt shift, and we can picture Gallus’ sister weeping as she hears how he almost broke free from enemy lines, but was slain by an unknown hand.

Finally, there is another shift to a later scene in which one comes upon some scattered bones on a hillside. “… Know that these bones are… MINE.”

I find the poem incredibly moving, and when I first read and translated it, I thought “this would make for a great Men’s Chorus work!” As far as I know, I’m the only person who has ever set it to music. If I am wrong, someone please correct me. :-)

No, it isn’t exactly typical “Glee Club”material, but it certainly provides variety on the program. I’m looking forward to the KMEA performance, and hope it will be performed many more times to come.

Originally posted on 28 February 2008