Samuel Barber’s “Let Down the Bars, O Death”: Conspirare

It was during the summer of 1936 that Samuel Barber composed the String Quartet that would give rise to the iconic Adagio for StringsDuring the same summer, Barber created an a cappella choral setting of Emily Dickinson’s 1891 poem, Let Down the Bars, O Death. It unfolds as a somber, homophonic chorale. As with the Adagio, it reaches upwards in search of a searing climax. When the poem’s first line returns, the hushed opening phrase is transformed into a declamatory statement. The final moments slip away, peacefully.

This 2011 recording features the Austin, Texas-based choral ensemble, Conspirare, conducted by Craig Hella Johnson:

Let down the Bars, Oh Death —
The tired Flocks come in
Whose bleating ceases to repeat
Whose wandering is done —

Thine is the stillest night
Thine the securest Fold
Too near Thou art for seeking Thee
Too tender, to be told.

– Emily Dickinson 


  • Barber: Let down the bars, O death, Op. 8, No. 2, Conspirare

Featured Image: a photograph of Emily Dickinson

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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