The American composer Eric Whitacre explained how this piece came about: "In the winter of 1999 I was contacted by...a lawyer and professional mezzo-soprano living in Austin, Texas. She wanted to commission a choral work from me that would be premiered by the Austin ProChorus...She wanted to commission the piece in memory of her parents, who had died within weeks of each other after more fifty years of marriage; and she wanted me to set her favorite poem [to music]."
Unfortunately, although this poem was to be found all over the Internet, it was not in the public domain, as Whitacre only discovered when the lawyers' letter started coming! After being refused permission to use it, he vowed never
to use it, even after it enters the public domain in 2038.
After that heartbreak and disaster, Whitacre looked around for an alternative piece, and it wasn't second best; he commissioned an entirely new work from Charles Anthony Silvestri, who set new words to the music. The result was "Sleep". It was completed in 2001, and has been performed countless times since, including by Whitacre's Virtual Choir. The finished piece has taken on a deeper and sadder meaning for Silvestri after the death of his wife.
Alexander Baron - London, England