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Generations (2023)

for solo soprano, organ | 00:11:00

by Melissa Dunphy | text by Jacqueline Goldfinger

Commissioned by the American Guild of Organists for the 2024 National Convention.

A song cycle for soprano and organ.

Composer's Notes

I think of Generations tracing a message of hope across time. It opens with "The Morning Song," the most uncomplicated in the cycle, which depicts the optimistic potential of a new birth; the harmonies capture nostalgia and early morning sunlight. In contrast, the second song, "The Darkest Hour," portrays our anguish at present tribulations and our yearning for a brighter future, culminating in the repeated line "Let us be a light in the darkness of our day." The final song in the set, "The Great Work," begins with the lyrics “Hope braided in sacred hours.” I used a lot of counterpoint here to create that braiding effect, and to signal the call to action: preparing us to pass on our work to the next future generations.

I. The Morning Song
By Jacqueline Goldfinger

On their first day of days, the newborn at mother’s breast listens close. Father whispers: “You shall love Adonai with all your heart and soul and might; in teaching and in binding, in lying down and in rising up, in Jerusalem’s perpetual light.” Wails from tender lips curl through time to worlds both vanished and to come. Today she is the summoner. Receiver of wisdom. Measure of their hearts. Tomorrow, gone, a weaver of eternities.

II. The Darkest Hour
By Jacqueline Goldfinger

Today is always the darkest hour. In it we behold: the fearful watchman, the crack of the whip, the covenant dusty and delayed. Yet even in bleakest night, the nightingale sings, carrying the dreams of Moses and Aaron, Huerta and King. We yearn with hands, we yearn with mouths, we yearn with marches and songs of praise. God of our Forefathers, pardon our iniquity. God of our Foremothers, marry love to strength, patience to resolve, hope to action. Let us be a light in the darkness of our day.

III. The Great Work
By Jacqueline Goldfinger

Hope braided in sacred hours, children dream our bygone dreams. Their shield and sword our words and deeds. The Great Work must be done. We sing a song of hope. Sing to the sky, to the union of stars. There is joy in them, even as they burn away. The Great Work must be done. My actions are my life, my love, my witness; the sentence I write of our story. L’dor v’dor, generation to generation. The Great Work will be done.

Artwork by Cate Marcelli.


  • 30 Jun, 2024: Rachel Policar, soprano, David Higgs, organ at Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco, CA