Todd's terse adaptation of a paragraph from a Rainer Maria Rilke letter forms the text of his eighth collaboration with composer Jake Runestad, who set it for choir, piano, and strings.
The original 1923 letter to Countess Margo Sizzo-Noris-Cruoy addresses death as "the true Yea-sayer. It stands before eternity and says only: Yes." Rilke continues:
Todd's adaptation takes liberties with the last sentence, and turns it into a prayer of gratitude for our brief time on earth.
As long as we are here, in cousinhood
with flora, fauna, fountain, and fresh air,
let us make a nearer noise, let us
sing to fill this dome, let us
see for all we're given,
let us wonder under the stars,
and thrive, fully alive, to all the heaven
here at home.
"As Long As We Are Here" was commissioned and premiered (online during the pandemic) by The Master Chorale of South Florida, conducted by Jake Runestad.
The full score is available from JR Music here.
Bringing secular ideas to an essentially church-based choral tradition gives me the opportunity to infuse those ideas with just as much solemnity, dignity, and joy as any sacred music. Hearing secular music treated as sacred, even as a child growing up in the Lutheran church, has always given me a certain thrill. I love it when religious people recognize the power of nonreligious expression, and vice versa, because in the end it's all the same: we all grapple with the big questions in our own way, and we're more alike than we think.