The composer writes: Ashes of Soldiers (2010-2012) began its life as a chamber work for soprano, clarinet and piano. I subsequently orchestrated the piece, replacing the piano with strings and harp.

The piece is in two sections: the first is for clarinet, harp and strings; in the second, a soprano is added to the ensemble. Thematically, the two sections – which are performed without pause – are closely related. Rather than composing two contrasting, discrete pieces, my intention was to make the second section a continuation and development of the musical ideas introduced in the first.

The text is based on a poem by Walt Whitman, from his Leaves of Grass. Despite the poem’s specific setting in Civil War-era USA, its theme is universal: the mourning of all soldiers who have died in battle, regardless of their allegiances.

Ashes of Soldiers is dedicated to my father, Alan James Eatock, who was a soldier at one point in his life, and who passed away in 2010.

(Based on a poem by Walt Whitman)

Noiseless as mists and vapors,
From their graves in the trenches ascending,
From the cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee,
From every point of the compass,
Out of the countless unnamed graves,
In wafted clouds, in myriads large,
Or squads of twos and threes,
Or single ones they come,
And silently gather round me.

Phantoms of countless lost!
Invisible to the rest,
Henceforth become my companions!
Follow me ever!
Desert me not while I live.

Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living!
Sweet are the musical voices sounding!
But sweet, ah sweet are the dead,
With their silent eyes.

Dearest comrades!
All is over and long gone;
But love is not over, and what love O comrades!

Perfume from battlefields,
Rising up, from foetor arising,
Perfume all!
Make all wholesome!
Make these ashes to nourish and blossom,
O love!

Give me exhaustless,
Make me a fountain,
That I exhale love from me,
Wherever I go,
Like a moist perennial dew,
For the ashes of all dead soldiers.