The Shadow of Sirius

Concerto for flute with winds and percussion
Commissioned by a consortium of American wind bands led by Michael Haithcock and the University of Michigan Symphony Band
Dedicated to Amy Porter

Full Score available HERE

Piano reduction now available HERE!


Program Note

I have always found comfort in poetry. While in school, I was the guy with a collection of Bukowski under one arm and a collection of Yeats under the other. I have always enjoyed the rhythm of other people’s thoughts and feelings.

In the winter of 2009, my wife and I experienced a heartbreak that left me unsure of how to even breathe, let alone grieve.

On March 1st, 2009, I found a copy of W.S. Merwin’s, The Shadow of Sirius, and I began to feel myself heal. I have almost no idea what most of this poetry means. But I know that it fills me with a profound sadness that is, at the same time, brimming with hope.

I recently heard Mr. Merwin discussing the origin of the title of his collection. He related that scientists have discovered that the star known as Sirius is actually a star system. What looks to our eye like a single object is actually many. Merwin found himself wondering what is on the other side of Sirus, lying in its shadow.

A friend once said to me, “many concerti explore a virtuosity of technique but not many explore a virtuosity of expression.” It was with that thought in mind that I began work on my, The Shadow of Sirius, for solo flute and wind orchestra.

Each movement offers my reflection on a single Merwin poem from the collection. Although the work is played without pause, the soloist plays unaccompanied solos to separates the individual movements.

A consortium of American wind ensembles led by Michael Haithcock and the University of Michigan commissioned The Shadow of Sirius. The work is dedicated to the fantastic Amy Porter.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the Copper Canyon Press, which has granted permission to reprint W.S. Merwin’s poetry. All poems Copyright 2008 by W.S. Merwin. More information about this poetry can be found at

from The Shadow of Sirius by W. S. Merwin

courtesy of The Copper Canyon Press

Movement 1: The Nomad Flute

You that sang to me once sing to me now
let me hear your long lifted note
survive with me
the star is fading
I can think farther than that but I forget
do you hear me

do you still hear me
does your air
remember you
o breath of morning
night song morning song
I have with me
all that I do not know
I have lost none of it

but I know better now
than to ask you
where you learned that music
where any of it came from
once there were lions in China

I will listen until the flute stops
and the light is old again

Movement 2: Eye of Shadow

Sentry of the other side
it may have watched the beginning
without being noticed in all
that blossoming radiance
the beggar in dark rags
down on the threshold
a shadow waiting

in its own fair time
all in its rags it rises
revealing its prime claim
upon the latter day
that fades around it
while the sky is turning
with the whole prophecy

o lengthening dark vision
reaching across the faces
across colors and mountains
and all that is known
herald without a sound
leave-taking without a word
guide beyond time and knowledge
o patience
beyond patience

I touch the day
I taste the light
I remember

Mov. 3: Into the Clouds

What do you have with you
now my small traveler
suddenly on the way
and all at once so far

on legs that never were
up to the life that you
led them and breathing with
the shortness breath comes to

my endless company
when you could stay close to me
until the day was done

o closest to my breath
if you are able to
please wait a while longer
on that side of the cloud