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Far Past War (2020)

For SATB chorus and orchestra
Texts: Cammy Thomas

About bringing peace through nature, both to the self and to the world.

21CA21 (optional dbl. Cbsn) /4220/2 or 3 perc. (very few percussion instruments) strings

Premiered by the chorus and orchestra of the Cathedral Choral Society of Washington, D.C.
Steven Fox, conducting, 22 March 2020 in the Washington National Cathedral.
Duration: 11 minutes

Second performance by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Orchestra and Concert Choir, Robert Whalen, conducting at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Concert Hall. (EMPAC)

To be performed with dancers when feasible.

Dedicated with admiration and gratitude to the Cathedral Choral Society, and to our grandmother, Dorothy Quincy Read Thomas, who marched for women’s suffrage.

Live concert VIDEO and audio recording from World Premiere is available for archival purposes only and for private listening. If you would like to review the recording please contact Augusta.


The Washington National Cathedral is one of the most famous, elegant Cathedrals in both the United States and worldwide. The enormously resonant acoustic (5 to 6 second of reverberation time) affords composers unique opportunities. Thomas wrote a composition that articulates and echoes perfectly in the space. Her harmonic and coloristic palette rings in the back of the room as her new notes and layers are added. Harmonies, texts, rhythms, colors, and counterpoints change gracefully like an alluring, winding kaleidoscope.

Program Note

Composing for voice is a passion for me, and as a result the largest part of my catalogue is music for voice. The human voice — possibly the most subtle, complex, and fragile yet forceful carrier of musical ideas and meanings — has always been an inspiration for my musical thinking. I strive for craft, clarity, and passion. The carefully sculpted music and poems of Far Past War develop a labyrinth of musical interrelationships and connections that showcase the choir and musicians in a virtuosic display of their emotional palette, strength, clarity, and majesty. The opportunity to collaborate with my sister, Cammy Thomas, has been a highlight of my life. Music’s eternal quality is its capacity for transformation and renewal. Together, we have created a work that celebrates the unsurpassed power of nature, and its potential to move us toward peace.

No one composer, musical style, or school of thought can claim a monopoly on music’s truths. Commissioning new art is a leap of faith! The commissioner does not know what they will receive. We feel profoundly grateful for the investments made by The Cathedral Choral Society and by all the musicians.

This piece is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to the Cathedral Choral Society, and to our grandmother, Dorothy Quincy Read Thomas, who marched for women's suffrage.

POEMS BY cammy Thomas

Far Past War

1. In Love with the Sun

I’m in love with the sun
ave ave
early and late
I fly at the sky
the sun’s rays
in my eye
ave ave
I can’t stare
straight at my desire
only sideways
I go round and round
the source of all
the brightest way
ave ave


2. Far Past War

ah sun
oh moon
we crave peace
heron standing in the lake
say to the moon
no more war
no war
we crave
great blue heron
wide her veil of wings
glide down night
sail over sun
drop far
past war
take us
take us too



Cammy Thomas
About Cammy Thomas

Cammy Thomas has published two collections of poems with Four Way Books: Inscriptions (2014), and Cathedral of Wish, which received the 2006 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her poems have recently appeared in Salamander, Gravel, Image, Ibbetson Street Review, Nixes Mate, and elsewhere. A fellowship from the Ragdale Foundation helped her complete Inscriptions. She lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.


Steven Fox

Washington National Cathedral

Cathedral Choral Society of Washington, D.C.

Commissioned by the Cathedral Choral Society. Made possible by the William Remsen Strickland Endowment Fund “to remember the concerts of the Cathedral Choral Society during World War II.”
Far Past War is a plea for peace. The work is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to the Cathedral Choral Society, and to our grandmother, Dorothy Quincy Read Thomas, who marched for women’s suffrage.

— Augusta Read Thomas

Selected Reviews

Charles T. Downey, Washington Classical Review, 14 March 2022 “The most successful world premiere on the program was Augusta Read Thomas’s Far Past War, set to a two-part poem by Cammy Thomas, the composer’s sister. Read Thomas used the forces on hand, a large orchestra and chorus, more effectively, opening with a heraldic fanfare in the brass. The chorus built up vast, yearning clusters of sound, shadowed by the strings and interwoven with brass and bells. Surprising harmonic shifts, often begun by destabilizing notes in the low brass, added an aura of mystery.

Fox conducted…with admirable care, marshaling his ensemble in the Thomas work to a triumphant climax on the words “drop far past war.” Soft echos on the words “take us take us too,” answered by a dulcet violin solo, offered a prayer on behalf of all people.”

To obtain examination or performance material for this
Augusta Read Thomas work, please contact Nimbus Music Publishing.