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Written in Pencil in the Sealed Railway-Car (SATB)
Voicing: Mixed Choir
This piece is a choral setting of a poem by Dan Pagis, who spent much of his adolescence in a concentration camp. This poem uses historical and biblical themes to cast light on violence and injustice. The words are simple and few, but they are powerful and rich with multiple meanings.
Presented as if they were scrawled on the wall of a boxcar, the words are a plea by a desperate mother (Eve), who is sealed in a boxcar with her son, Abel. Her other son, Cain (who murders Abel in the biblical story), is missing and she wants to send him a message. Her message is poignantly cut short, which could imply that she was killed before she could finish. Pagis leaves it to us to speculate how the message would have ended. Would Eve condemn her son, or tell him she loves him? Cain would never know, and in that sense, he too is a victim like Eve and Abel.
When I read the poem for the first time, I was deeply touched, and immediately responded with this evocative and moving choral setting. It can be the focal point of a concert on brotherhood, justice, or Holocaust remembrance.