The Need of Comrades (2017)

Countertenor (alt. Tenor), Tenor, Baritone and Piano

Text by Walt Whitman from "Calamus," arranged by Peter Dayton

Total duration ca. 20' 

Single-movement work

Premiered April 2018

in Baltimore, MD by Katie Procell, Hannah Wardell, Evan Gutierrez, and Nathan Cicero

Watch a performance of this work on YouTube

Video performance, February 22, 2020 in Baltimore, MD

James Mitchell Brown, Dreamer (Countertenor)

Peter Dayton, Lover (Tenor)

Ross Tamaccio, Orator (Baritone)

Aaron Thacker, Piano

Purchase this score and parts from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $15.00

Whitman’s poem Calamus is a poignant intersection of the poet’s celebration of human affection (pointedly homoerotic affection) and his political concerns as a American citizen before, during, and after the civil war: the text used to create the libretto of this work is from the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. The imagery of men passionately embracing, kissing, pining for each other is impossible to construe in this day and age as anything other than homosexually inclined. The particular poem used for this work, Calamus, turns the “need of comrades” from a sexual question into a socio-political question. At a time of political instability previously unprecedented in America’s history, Calamus is a cry for unity: the unification of hearts and minds. Since Whitman’s time, in many parts ofthe country, the clock has turned forward on the acceptance of LGBT individuals and non- heteronormative love. However, writing in a time of, yet again, staggering political disunity, as well as a resurgence of conservative ideology, I hope that The Need of Comrades portrays something of the struggle for acceptance that many to most non-heterosexual men experience, their journey, and the vision ofa society founded upon love and affection. The text for this work was woven like a tapestry out of different sections of Calamus with the help and input of Douglas Johnson.