Song of Barely Standing

Song of Barely Standing


(Minimum purchase of 20 copies per item required)

Coming Soon

Program note:

Song of Barely StandinSATB Divisig was commissioned by Bob Cooper for his final concert with the Orpheus choir of Toronto. The overarching message of this poem is that music creates community. Having sung under Bob’s direction in the Orpheus Choir for over 7 years, I know firsthand his deep passion for music and the amount of energy that he has dedicated to inspiring and encouraging choral singers, soloists, composers, and young conductors. In writing this piece, I wanted to create a musical expression of thankfulness for his efforts over his amazing career – a joyous celebration of the vast musical community that has been created, sustained, and uplifted by his work.


This song, like the poem, is in three parts tied together by a common theme. The poem uses trees as a metaphor for people and their struggles. In the first section, the trees are stripped bare in winter. The choir has stark extended chords against a pounding rhythmic accompaniment. The choral parts slowly develop and twist away from each other like leaves flying off of trees. In the second section, the piano accompaniment fades away and the choral parts return to bare unison lines before blossoming over the course of the section into rich homophonic choral textures. In the final section of the piece, the piano returns, and a recurring descending musical motive brings to mind a gentle rainfall. The choir is often in duets – sopranos with basses and tenors with altos – showing how our roots and branches are all intertwined.

Text: John Terpstra
Voicing: SATB Divisi + Piano
Composed in 2023

Song of Barely Standing  

As trees in winter,
stripped bare, arms stretched and reaching,
we sway like a silent choir
before a wind that blows and shatters
the last of our shrivelled hopes,
to leave us naked.

The arrow that pierces the bark, the heart,
is tipped with sorrow,
yet feathered with desire.

It becomes a branch,
the limb grafted,

which will bud, and blossom
and bear a tender fruit.

For taste of it,
in mouth’s memory,

these dry and crumbling tongues
chase the song
on winter’s wind.

We stand and sway
between our greatest love
and biggest fears.

We suffer through.

Upright and rooted
to this place,
this very place
on earth.

through soil and rock
with neighbour, stranger, family, friend.

We drink from hidden sources,
draw from depths
we cannot see,

stand in the shower,
the spring shower,
and sing.