Rachel and Her Children – Small Hands Relinquish All —2002

The Bucks County Choral Society commissioned Rachel and Her Children – Small Hands Relinquish All for their 20th Anniversary Season. Thomas Lloyd conducted the premiere, which was released on Albany Records. The work features texts by Edna St. Vincent Millay and David Rosenberg.

Program Notes

Inspired by the relationship of sacred and secular texts in The Wishing Tree, the libretto combines the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay with David Rosenberg’s poetic transformation of verses from the book of Jeremiah, and the Psalms. Rachel’s lament for her children, found in the account of the slaughter of the innocents in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew, here provides the anchor for reflection on mortality and renewal, hope and fear from the contrasting perspectives of adults and children.


I. Prelude (the Ardent Eye, the Listening Ear)

children’s choir

II. Listen, a Voice Sobbing in Ramah

mezzo soprano, chorus

III. Small Hands, Relinquish All


IV. As Sharp as in My Childhood

mezzo soprano

V. Time, that Renews the Tissues of This Frame


VI. Why, O God, Do You Stand So Far Off?

children’s choir

VII. Your Voice Will Cease its Weeping

mezzo soprano, children’s choir, chorus


… the richness of Maggio’s talent is evident in Rachel…the marvelous vocal counterpoint of the fifth movement, which inspired the singers to another level, had the compositional fantasy heard in Maggio’s best works, such as Le Travail.

David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 3, 2003

I’ll take Robert Maggio’s tasteful choral music over William McClelland’s (reviewed last issue) any day. Again, it’s in the American choral music tradition of Randall Thomson and Daniel Pinkham—a national blend of neoclassical and neoromantic strains. Maggio is quite the craftsman, with the traditional elements of this style: contrapuntal imitation, homophonic quartal harmonies, and tonal chords in weird combinations all contribute to a smooth, luxurious, sometimes mysterious, flow. Rachel and her Children, a mini-oratorio accompanied by a small wind ensemble, sets seven poems by mid-century writer Edna St. Vincent Millay with an amalgam of musical styles woven together in an engaging unself-conscious way. Die-hard new music enthusiasts will find Maggio’s music too conservative; recommended to choral music collectors only.

American Record Guide, August 1, 2004