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Choral ~ General ~ A Cappella



“Death, Be Not Proud”

(An original setting of the John Donne poem)



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SCORING:  SATB a cappella (frequent divisi)

DURATION:  ca. 4:15   —   DIFFICULTY:  3/5   —   PAGES IN PDF SCORE:  15

DEDICATION:  Dedicated to my father, Richard Bloesch

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This is not a dark and somber setting of the John Donne poem. Instead, I wanted to compose a piece that reflects the poet's faith and serenity as he ponders his death.

The piece is predominantly calm throughout, with two exceptions: The beginning of the third verse (“Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men”) is surprisingly dramatic within its context, and the ending phrase (“Death, thou shalt die!”) is victorious and affirming.

Death, Be Not Proud

Words by John Donne, ca. 1610

Complete text:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.
For, those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death.  Nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure.  Then from thee, much more must flow.
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke.  Why swell'st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more.  Death, thou shalt die!

Comments from members of The First Readings Project choir, who premiered this piece:

♦  “Such a pleasure to sing your choral piece, 'Death Be Not Proud.' Great job setting this text!”

♦  “Beautiful, dramatic for the voices, fun to sing, effective!”

♦  “Cool colors, nice textures, and a fantastic marrying of the text and music. Thanks for a satisfying piece!”

♦  “So singable! Wonderful lines, shades, and shapes.”

♦  “I loved singing this — great vocal lines, really good text setting.”

Watch video below!