Music for Jill

If your hand came

Music: Sheena Phillips. Words: Norman MacCaig
performance time approx 2m 15s
Range S: d'♭ – d''♭ / A: b♭ – b'♭ / T: a♭ – f / B: A♭ – d'♭
Price code: C
Complexity: **

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Jill Sumner (1941–2001) was founder and director, with her husband David, of the tiny Swallow Theatre in Dumfries & Galloway. Sheena Phillips met them both through performing there with Rudsambee Company of Singers and, when she heard that Jill was dying of cancer, offered to write a piece in her memory. Jill herself selected this poem and the Music for Jill was performed at her memorial service. It's a quiet and homophonic setting of MacCaig's words, giving gentle reassurance that remembering someone who has died need not be a fearful experience but can bring both gaiety and peace.


If your hand came, dead in the dead of night,
And touched my forehead, waking me to see
You standing dead there in the dead of night,
I who fear ghosts would have no fear at all.
I'd greet you with the tenderest hello
And you would smile, though sad. And then you'd go.

There would be nothing deathly in your death
For your love always was the laughing sort
That quickened life and would not die with death.
And when you'd gone, I would not want to weep --
That loving gaiety would still be there
Filling with its own peace the quickened air.

Norman MacCaig
(original title: If)
‘If’ from The Poems of Norman MacCaig by Norman MacCaig is reproduced by permission of Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd (
If you wish to include the words in a concert programme, please use the above acknowledgement.

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