If There Were Water


The Crossing

Donald Nally, conductor


Crossings Cycle           Stratis Minakakis

un/bodying/s              Gregory W. Brown

Crossings Cycle (2015/2017)

Stratis Minakakis



Crossings’ Epigrams

         Epigram 1  2:31

         Epigram 2  4:16


         …if there were water…  6:05

         …who is the third…  3:49

Crossings’ Epigrams

         Epigram 3  4:02



un/bodying/s (2017)                                                

Gregory W. Brown


1. The Meeting of the Waters  8:03

2. The Valley of Lost Names  5:56

3. Questions for a Disincorporation/Atlantis  9:59

4. Poem with Any End  8:24





Crossings Cycle

Stratis Minakakis (b. 1979)



July 2015, Island of Lesvos, Greece. We arrive at the island of Lesvos at the same time as a massive influx of refugees from Syria lands on the Greek shores. Lesvos is the primary destination for the hordes of flimsy inflatable boats, the transportation means of choice of the Turkish smugglers. The number of families with pregnant women or small children that arrive is astonishing. Toddlers younger than my then three-year-old daughter, newborns, and their exhausted parents, brave the unforgiving heat without food or water as they walk the 60 kilometers of mountainous terrain that separate our resort town of Mithymna from the port of Mytilene. There, they will endure unspeakable hardships for days until a boat chartered by the Greek government, itself collapsing under the uncontrollable financial crisis, transfers them to the port of Piraeus. From there, most will walk for three weeks to reach someplace in Europe, hopefully Germany or Sweden. As I am thinking about this piece, my wife suggests rereading the The Waste Land. The verses “if there were water and no rock” and “who is the third who walks always beside you” seem painfully relevant.


Crossings’ Epigrams

Crossings’ Epigrams is an elegy on things irretrievably lost. Once again, I turned to Ancient Greek literature because it expresses something about the human condition that resonates deeply within me. Three text fragments are interwoven throughout the three short movements that comprise Crossings’ Epigrams: the moment where Odysseus tries to grasp the fleeting vision of his mother, which escapes like a ‘shadow’, or a ‘dream’ (Homer, Odyssey, Book 11); the lines uttered to Antigone by the exhausted old Oedipus as they arrive in Athens, where they plan to seek refuge (Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus); Hecuba's lament over the fall of Troy and collapse of the House of Priam (Euripides, The Trojan Women). Epigram I is a fantasy on the words ‘shadow’ and ‘dream’ of the Homeric text. Epigram II interlaces Odysseus’ agonizing description with Oedipus’ painful realization regarding his current state. Epigram III presents Hecuba’s lament, echoed in distortion by the sea waves, transforming to a chaotic primordial cry. Shadows of the Homeric text trace an invisible but omnipresent line that connects the three Epigrams.


Crossings’ Epigrams can be performed autonomously, or in conjunction with Crossings. In the second case, as heard here, Epigrams I and II are performed as a unit before Crossings; Epigram III is performed immediately after the conclusion of Crossings.

            Stratis Minakakis



Crossings Cycle


            Crossings’ Epigrams (set in the original Greek)


…Three times I sprang

Toward her, and my will said, ‘Clasp her’, and three times

She flitted from my arms like a shadow or a dream…

            Homer, Odyssey, Book 11, 206-208 (trans. A. T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock)


…Little do I crave, and obtain

Still less than that little, and with that I am content...

            Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 5-6 (trans. Sir Richard C. Jebb)


…Lift your head, unhappy one, from the ground; raise up your neck;

This is Troy no more…

            Euripides, The Trojan Women, 98-99 (trans. E. P. Coleridge)




…if there were water…

If there were water

And no rock

If there were rock

And also water.

            T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, V. What the Thunder Said, 246-250

…who is the third…

Who is the third who walks always beside you?

            – T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, V. “What the Thunder Said,” 360




See PDF for specific text formatting









Gregory W. Brown (b. 1974)

text by Todd Hearon (b. 1968)


The Quabbin Reservoir is located in the former Swift River Valley of western Massachusetts. Engineers had been considering the Swift River Valley for a reservoir to ease the growing demands for fresh water in Boston since about 1895. In 1938 the towns of Dana, Prescott, Enfield, and Greenwich were legally disincorporated and the valley, now cleared of all things human, was flooded until it reached its 400 billion gallon capacity in 1946.


In the first part of un/bodying/s I took Todd’s language as a cue to represent an avalanche of culture enveloping a landscape. The music is dizzying at times, and references a variety of styles and textures. It is a jumble of rock tumbling down the hillside — a river cascading to the sea. Water symbolizes various things in various cultures: a bridge to the underworld, dream-space, the subconscious, flow and vitality (here dammed and controlled). Water has its own story here — its own migration through our environment.


Any story of diaspora is also a human story, and the second part of un/bodying/s settles into a calm and reflective pool. The music is relatively stable in harmony and style. We see individuals going about their daily work. We see human detail and intimacy. 


Part 3 is all about place and time. Displacement can be a result of movement in space, in time, or both. The music goes into a deep nostalgic past, perhaps to the 1938 Enfield Farewell Ball itself, here inhabited by trees and birds made human in the mind’s eye. The record skips – itself a displacement of phonograph needle both in space (to another groove) and time (to repeat the immediate past). The 7,000+ graves are carefully removed and reinterred in a new cemetery. The fields, now covered in ice, are locked in summer. The birds return, and it is suddenly simultaneously winter, spring, and summer. 


Humans collectively form a diaspora from the past, pushed out of the present into the foreign future. The islands, still referred to by their mountain names, poke through the surface of Quabbin and intrude into the present as a sort of geographic palimpsest. In a similar way, Atlantis intrudes into the reverie of Part 3. Utopic Atlantis has haunted Western culture for millennia: The notion that we were perfect… before it all fell apart… before the flood. The speaker looks up through the water at the sun, now turned blue and distant. Culture is rendered undecipherable and forgotten; the speaker longs to be moving.


Part 4 brings us to Boston, John Winthrop’s City Upon a Hill. The music is staid and implacable and references Renaissance techniques and textures, placing it firmly in the erudite and urbane city. We quickly detour into the madness that are the streets of present-day Boston and into an uncertain future, haunted by sea-level rise. Out of Boston we confront the question that is the heart of Quabbin, and of all civilization: How do cities meet the demand for water? At what cost? Rome had its methods, and their architecture remains and reminds us of the importance of water to all peoples at all times. We watch the water flow back downhill to Boston as it makes its cycle. That deep human longing to see our home through “unbeclouded eyes” is fleeting and ultimately we are reminded that all cultures pass.

            – Gregory W. Brown


Todd Hearon


“I have made

an elegy for myself it 

is true”

—Geoffrey Hill, i.m., 1932–2016

1. The Meeting of the Waters

Sempiternal waters, sing-

ly sing, gush glottal-less & all

onomatopoetical your

triphthong’s liquid pluraling

through rock & ruck & rill

purl, pounce, pronounce & preen the sourceless

flourish of your sundry selves, unseamed

anima, antiphonal


                     ensembling in simul-

taneous tumult the babbling

Earth’s eternal tongues;

                                              O airy

Yggdrasil, within whose watery limbs

climbs the burgeoning current

of birdsong indistinguishable—

wren-trickle, thrush’s trill,

aria of orioles

dissolved in the dawn chorus

but intimated tributaries


         voicings of a universal

dialect, a will

gone malleable & migratory

raptured in translation, diaspora

becoming at a stroke

diapason; O

Ouroboros, origin-&-end,

in Bacchic spring come thundering

down the escarpment’s scree & skim

littering the valley

with erratics, scattered limbs

of a glacial language éxtant only in

lacunae, contour,

kettle, esker drift,

congregated relics

where a village went; what crook

denotes you truly, what

wandering wand divines

your secular in-saecula-

saeculorum sign: 

your mouth’s green myth

pressed to the ocean’s ear,

your mountain tale in touch

with some ridiculous sublime

that slips like the gopher soul into its hole

surfacing into the world of time:


The score includes the following additions:

chipmunk, Massachusett, moose, Nichewaug, Nenameseck, racoon, skunk, woodchuck

1      There is a land of pure delight,

where saints immortal reign; infinite day excludes the night, and pleasures banish pain.


        — music by Jeremiah Ingalls

text by Isaac Watts



2. The Valley of Lost Names

Think of a time our own names conjure

nothing but a body of unbroken water

(Moon over Quabbin.  Body of bottled light

poured across the body of the water,

something far, at the surface—finned or feathered?

rolling in distress—)

at dawn the sudden, trumpeting eagle


The drowned towns, four-square, hymned in stave & stanza,

swallowed walls on walls of song, each stone a tongue

where the salmon canter over the meadow baffle dam

& small-mouthed bass hosanna…

Too deeply now for any to remember

so why does it seem important to remember

when we will ourselves, these fluent selves, like water

subsumed in greater water be impossible to remember

to distinguish the veins in the hand that worked the lathe

wove the straw, rippled at morning into a gesture of love or praise

or clipped the dewy lilac from its stem

or turned the fieldstone into the sunken wall


of a cellar hole, the jam jars lined within

the vagrant bittersweet unwinds among


when the shore recedes (in the twinkling of an eye)

the tombs stick out like knees.

Deep in a time that is no longer time

but the greater dissolutions of the water


within whose workings ever unspool our names

as it were (as it will be) upon a ghostly bobbin . . .


3. Questions for a Disincorporation


“to undo, separate or dissolve from a body”

Dana, MA; Prescott, MA; Greenwich, MA; Enfield, MA:  April 28, 1938


A solitary grebe

filling itself, in reflection,

into a globe—


Where does the body go? 

                              Is it the same


as the wind in the trees

                   the wind in the highest limbs


that sweeps them uniformly like the necks of swans

swimming in consort

                                                    so they seem in time

with a music it is impossible to hear

from this distance

                                                             (we are very far)

—as in a silent film, the couples dancing,

the sweeping of light & limbs across the floor

as across the water’s surface, in reflection,

when the wind lifts

& the glacier of a cloud pulls over

& the mares’ tails fly

like tribes, nomadic tongues, erratic stars?




the bodies of lost deer

lie littering the ice.

The human graves, carved up & carted

to the minted cemetery on the hill.

The summer fields, under the frozen surface . . .

(Something of us remains  Something of us shall not suffer

to be changed)

In spring, when the small birds come

back to the north meadow & the eagle-fretted bones

rise from the ice


                                                           across the breaking floes


as it were upon another shore


where does the body, through the fields of other bodies,






About that country there’s not much left to say. Blue sun, far off, a watery vein

in the cloud belt.  The solid earth itself

unremarkable:  familiar ruins

littered with standing stones our people

had lost the ability to decipher.

How deeply had we slept?  Beneath the jellyfish umbels of evergreens, each one a dream,

and the effervescent stars, cold currents

tugged at our thoughts like tapestries unraveling into war.  All spring

the nightingale perched on the green volcano’s lip.

The rats had abandoned the temples.

My mind was a voyage hungering to happen.




4. Poem with Any End

When all this All doth pass from age to age—

this City on a Hill, its golden dome

and cupolas a quiet sea floor,

the crabbed, neurotic streets still disentangling

obsessive thirst, obsessive westwardness

what is a city without


Rome, its spidered aqueducts

bearing the bounty of barbaric springs

down mountaining arches, a song in the valley



                                                           sempiternal waters



over the sunken ponds & soapstone quarry,

the Dipper rising with inscrutable stars

over the village where they made the bobbins

to slip down dark, infernal aqueducts

(like shades to slake the high, titanic thirst

of Boston)

                                                             to Boston.



5  O could we make our doubts remove,

those gloomy doubts that rise, and see the Canaan that we love with unbeclouded eyes;

— Ingalls / Watts





The poems of "un/bodying/s” are printed with kind permission of Todd Hearon. © 2016 All rights reserved.   “Atlantis” first appeared in Strange Land (Southern Illinois University Press, 2010) and is reprinted with permission of the author.



The Crossing

Katy Avery

Jessica Beebe

Julie Bishop

Elijah Blaisdell

Karen Blanchard 6

Steven Bradshaw 1

Colin Dill

Micah Dingler

Robert Eisentrout 4

Ryan Fleming

Joanna Gates

Steven Hyder

Michael Jones

Heather Kayan

Heidi Kurtz

Chelsea Lyons

Maren Montalbano 2

Rebecca Myers

Daniel O’Dea

James Reese 1, 4, 5

Daniel Schwartz

Rebecca Siler 3

Daniel Spratlan

Elisa Sutherland 2, 5


Donald Nally, conductor

John Grecia, accompanist


1 lead voices in Crossings Cycle

2 solos in The Meeting of the Waters

3 soprano in The Valley of Lost Names

4 duet in The Valley of Lost Names

5 duet in Poem with Any End

6 Karen Blanchard's performance is made possible through a generous gift from Beth Van de Water in memory of Hank Van de Water.


The Board of Directors of The Crossing

Steven Bradshaw

Micah Dingler

Tuomi Forrest

Mary D. Hangley

Cynthia A. Jarvis

Mary Kinder Loiselle

Michael M. Meloy

Donald Nally, Conductor

Becky Oehlers

Eric Owens

Pam Prior, Treasurer

Kim Shiley, Vice President

Carol Shloss, Secretary

John Slattery

M. Kathryn Taylor, President

Elizabeth Van de Water


The Staff of The Crossing

Maren Montalbano, Interim General Manager

Mitchell Bloom, Grant Manager

Lauren Kelly, Production Manager

Kevin Vondrak, Artistic & Communications Coordinator

Elizabeth Dugan, Bookkeeper

Ari Wyner and Laura Roth, interns

Recorded by Paul Vazquez and Dante Portella

Audio Post Production by Paul Vazquez


If There Were Water was recorded June 20 and 23, 2017 at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne, Pennsylvania. 



The Crossing is a professional chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music. It is committed to working with creative teams to make and record new, substantial works for choir, most often addressing social issues.


Highly sought-after for collaborative projects, The Crossing’s first collaboration was as the resident choir of the Spoleto Festival, Italy, in 2007. The Crossing has appeared at Miller Theatre of Columbia University with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE); the Mostly Mozart Festival and Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival; joined Bang on a Can’s first Philadelphia Marathon; and has sung with the American Composers Orchestra, Network for New Music, the LA Philharmonic, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Beth Morrison Projects, Allora & Calzadilla, and The Rolling Stones. The ensemble has performed at Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Cleveland Art Museum, National Sawdust, The Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston, The Barnes Foundation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville.


With a commitment to recording their commissions, The Crossing has thirteen recordings on a variety of labels. Their collaboration with PRISM, Gavin Bryars’ The Fifth Century (2016), was named one of The Chicago Tribune’s Top 10 Classical CDs of 2016 and their recording of Thomas Lloyd’s Bonhoeffer (2016) was nominated for the 2017 GRAMMY as Best Choral Performance. In 2017, they released Clay Jug: music of Edie Hill, Ted Hearne’s Sound from the Bench, John Luther Adams’ Canticles of the Holy Wind and Seven Responses, the culmination of a collaboration with the International Contemporary Ensemble featuring new works of David T. Little, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Santa Ratniece, Lewis Spratlan, Hans Thomalla, Caroline Shaw, and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. Previous recordings include Lewis Spratlan’s Vespers Cantata: Hesperus is Phosphorus (2015, with Network for New Music); Moonstrung Air (choral music of Gregory Brown, 2015); Christmas Daybreak (2011, with world premiere recordings of James MacMillan and Gabriel Jackson); I want to live (2011, with the complete to-date choral works for women by David Lang); and It is Time (2008, featuring music commissioned for our first Month of Moderns). 



The Crossing is represented by Alliance Artist Management.



Donald Nally is artistic director at The Crossing and director of choral organizations at Northwestern University where he holds the John W. Beattie Chair of Music. Donald has served as chorus master at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Welsh National Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and for many seasons at the Spoleto Festival in Italy. He has also served as music director of Cincinnati's Vocal Arts Ensemble, chorus master at The Chicago Bach Project, and guest conductor throughout Europe and the United States, most notably with the Grant Park Symphony Chorus, the Philharmonia Chorus (London), the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and the Latvian State Choir (Riga).

Donald, with The Crossing, was named the American Composers Forum 2017 Champion of New Music; he received the 2017 Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art from Chorus America.  He is the only conductor to have two ensembles receive the Margaret Hillis Award for Excellence in Choral Music: in 2002 with the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia and in 2015 with The Crossing. Collaborations have included the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center, Mostly Mozart, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, National Sawdust, the Barnes Foundation, Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the American Composers Orchestra, and The Big Sky Conservatory in Montana where The Crossing holds an annual residency.


Stratis Minakakis is a Greek composer and conductor. His creative work engages issues of memory, cultural identity, and art as a social testimony; it also explores the rich possibilities engendered by the interaction between arts and sciences.

As a composer, he has collaborated with leading performers and ensembles across Europe, North America, and Japan, such as The Crossing choir, the PRISM and Stockholm saxophone quartets, the Harry Partch Ensemble, the Arditti String Quartet, Ensemble counter) induction, Noh actress Ryoko Aoki, recorder virtuoso Tosiya Suzuki, flutist Orlando Cela, pianist Pavlos Antoniadis, and conductors Donald Nally and Rüdiger Bohn.


As a conductor, Stratis has directed and coached numerous chamber music and orchestral ensembles in contemporary repertory. Also active in the field of music theory, his recent work focuses on interpretive analysis of the late string quartet manuscripts by Beethoven.  He is the recipient of numerous artistic prizes, grants, and academic awards from institutions such as the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, the New England Conservatory, the Takefu International Festival in Japan, the Fondation Royaumont in France, the Center for Mediterranean Music in Greece, the Greek Composers Union, and the International Society for Contemporary Music. Deeply committed to music pedagogy, he was awarded the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania and the prestigious Louis Krasner Award at the New England Conservatory.

He currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and teaches Music Theory and Composition at the New England Conservatory.



Gregory W. Brown

Gregory W. Brown’s works have been performed across the United States and Europe — most notably in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City, Cadogan Hall in London, and the Kleine Zaal of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. His commissions for vocal ensemble New York Polyphony have been heard on American Public Media’s Performance Today, BBC Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, Kansas Public Radio, and Danish National Radio; his Missa Charles Darwin (2011) received its European debut in March 2013 at the Dinosaur Hall of Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde. In 2017 Missa Charles Darwin was released in a remastered special-edition to coincide with Dan Brown’s novel Origin, in which it appears.


Gregory’s 2015 CD of original choral and vocal works — Moonstrung Air — features The Crossing and was Q2’s Album of the Week in February 2016: “[Brown’s] command of transcendent sound is constant” and Gapplegate Classical-Modern Review remarked: “The performances are exemplary, the sound excellent and the compositions show us that Gregory W. Brown takes to vocal writing as a natural. The music has eloquence, verve and old-in-new panache.”



Todd Hearon is the author of two books of poems Strange Land (Southern Illinois University Press, 2010) and No Other Gods (Salmon Poetry, 2015). Work from his most recent manuscript, Crows in Eden, has appeared in The Kenyon Review and The Common. He has received a PEN/New England “Discovery” Award, the “Friends of Literature” Prize from Poetry magazine and the Poetry Foundation, The Rumi Prize in Poetry (Arts & Letters), and the Campbell Corner Poetry Prize (Sarah Lawrence College). Most recently, he served as Poet-in-Residence at Dartmouth College and The Frost Place. He lives and teaches in Exeter, New Hampshire.




Our artists, for giving so much of themselves to each project, and the staff and board that support the creation and recording of new music.


The staff and congregation at our home, The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill; Rev. Cindy Jarvis, Minister; Daniel Spratlan, Director of Music; Jo Ann West and Esther Cole, Church Administrators; Ken Lovett, Associate Director of Music.


For housing our artists, Rev. Cindy Jarvis, Viorel and Miki Farcas, David and Rebecca Thornburgh, Jeff and Liz Podraza, Beth Vaccaro and Landon Jones, Linda Lipscomb, Colin Dill, Rebecca Siler, Corbin Abernathy and Andrew Beck, David Newmann and Laura Ward, Jonathan Blumenfeld.


This recording is made possible through the generosity of the composers, the Board of Trustees of The Crossing, and a New England Conservatory Faculty Development Grant.


All photos are of the Quabbin Reservoir, shot by Gregory W. Brown on a vintage Argoflex 75 camera.


Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Philip Blackburn, director, design

Chris Campbell, operations director

Tim Igel, publicist