Miles and Miles


for choir & Nordic fiddle (2016)





3 min.


for choir and nordic fiddle

Program Notes

I began writing Miles and Miles almost exactly 10 years ago for the VocalEssence Welcome Christmas competition. My wife and I had just traveled from Texas to Minnesota for me to start a new job at St. Olaf College. I was literally in the middle of composing when I got the phone call from my wife that she was going into labor with our first child. I missed my first day of class to see my son born. Needless to say, I missed the deadline for submission, and never got back to this little carol.

Ten years later I was going through my old files and stumbled on this little half-finished piece. I was struck that it is of course the Christmas story told from the point of view of a young couple about to have their first baby. Miles and miles to go indeed. In the final perfect coincidence, I got the call that I had won the Welcome Christmas competition on my son’s 10th birthday.

The dead of winter on the road
Miles and miles from home
The desert dust stings my eyes
Miles and miles to go
Miles and miles and miles and miles
Miles before I sleep
Miles and miles and miles and miles
On this Christmas eve

Now nine long months have come and gone
Miles and miles from home
Can’t wait to see my first born son
Miles and miles to go

My baby will be born tonight
Miles and miles from home
Who will give me shelter here?
Miles and miles to go

We have to flee to save our child
Miles and miles from home
God only knows when we’ll return
Miles and miles to go

Still they cry in Bethlehem
Miles and miles from home
Mothers comfort little ones
Miles and miles to go

Justin Merritt Music

Composer Justin Merritt was the youngest-ever winner of the ASCAP Foundation Rudolph Nissim Award. He is also the winner of a host of other awards including the McKnight Fellowship, the Copland Award, and the Polyphonos Prize. His music has been played by the Minnesota Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and on A Prairie Home Companion.

His evening length cantata, The Path, was premiered at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in April 2018. The work is a setting of a collection of Buddhist Pali scriptures translated by the composer and set for multiple choirs, soloists, and large orchestra.

He received his Bachelors from Trinity University and his Masters and Doctorate from Indiana University. He studied composition with Samuel Adler, Sven-David Sandstrom, Claude Baker, Timothy Kramer, Don Freund, and electronic and computer music with Jeffrey Hass. He is currently Professor and Chair of Music at St. Olaf College. He resides in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Faye and their children Cullen Fang Ouxiang and Molly Fang Qinghe.

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