My choice to set Walt Whitman’s poem The Last Invocation was inspired by the text of BWV 95: Christus, der ist mein Leben/Sterben ist mein Gewinn/Dem tu ich mich ergeben/Mit Freud fahr ich dahin (Christ is my life, to die is my reward, to which I surrender myself, I travel with joy from here). Through the text used in this cantata, Bach sets the joy of eternal life in Christ in contrast with the false seductions of this world. As a skeptical agnostic myself, I was curious to flip the script, in a sense. What does it look like when we view the promise of eternal (after)life as the seductive appeal, and view the enjoyment of our brief time on this earth as the most beautiful and true reward? To this end, I selected Whitman’s poem about death - particularly compelled by the final line: Strong is your hold O mortal flesh, Strong is your hold O love. I have dedicated this motet to my dear friend and English scholar Don Bohl, who was instrumental in helping me find and select this text.
© Omar Najmi