for mixed SATB choir

Written: 2010
Duration: 5'
Instrumentation: mixed SATB choir (a cappella with divisis, SSAATTBB)
Commissioned by the Chamber Choir of EuropeNicol Matt, director
World PremiereChamber Choir of EuropeNicol Matt, director, July 28, 2011, The European Festival of Church Music, Schwäbisch Gemünd, Germany.
Publisher: Bill Holab Music

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The text and initial melody for Life is But a Dream is derived from the English nursery rhyme Row, Row, Row Your Boat, a popular round sung by children all over the world. While working on this piece, I discovered that there quite a few variations—most of them humorous—as well as versions in various languages.

In Life is But a Dream, I use the English text in its entirety and also words and phrases from the German, French, Latin and Italian versions. Throughout the piece I superimpose different words and phrases, creating a kind of flowing, quilt-like dreamscape.

Press Quotes

[Life is But a Dream] is Paterson’s take on, or taking off from, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” It is clever and delightful.
— The New Criterion
The two works [A Dream Within A Dream, Life is But a Dream] by the important living American composer Robert Paterson left an especially deep impression, with dynamically, thoroughly worked out clusters and rhythmically sophisticated, interwoven patterns. The audience responded to the performances in the crowded Franciscan church with long, sustained applause and standing ovations.
— Review of World Premiere in Gmünder Tagespost, Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, Saturday, July 30, 2011
Paterson was personally present at the concert and received a lot of applause. [A Dream Within A Dream, Life is But a Dream] made use of homogenous phrases, but also clusters and dissonance which never hurt... his work contained a great variety of parts and voicing, in some case extended with soloists.
— Review of World Premiere in Rems Zeitung, Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, Saturday, July 30, 2011