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Master Singers of Worcester

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Protest, Affirmation, Hope

 

Biographies

TEXTS, TRANSLATIONS, & THOUGHTS

PROTEST

Noun – “A statement of action expressing disapproval or objection.”  

Maybe the most fundamental element of our society is the ability for anyone to stand up and simply say, “I object.”  One could argue that it was a founding principle during the years leading up to the American Revolution, and was a deciding factor in many of the great leaps forward in our society.  And what we object to defines our character as much as what we cling to.  

AFFIRMATION

Noun – “The assertion that something exists, or is true.”

It’s an easy thing to affirm.  Day will follow night, Spring will follow Winter.  Easy.  But affirm another person:  a family member, a friend, a stranger.  Assert that they exist and that they are true.  Life-changing.  Try it, and you will see another person blossom before your eyes.

HOPE

Noun – “Belief that something good may happen.”

If I could, I would change that definition slightly.  Hope is the belief that we can make good things happen.  As Langston Hughes wrote, “Help me!  All you who are dreamers too.  Help me make our world anew.  I reach out my hand to you.”  And that’s what we are doing this evening – reaching out our hands to you.  Thank you for joining us this evening.  May our words and music make a difference, and may we all make good things happen.

notes by Edward Tyler, Artistic Director

Hope
Poem by Emily Dickenson (1830-1886)
Music by Debra Scroggins

“Hope” is the thing with feathers,
that perches in the soul,
and sings a tune without the words,
and never stops at all!

And sweetest in the gale is heard,
and sore must be the storm
that could abash the little bird
that kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
and on the strangest sea,
yet never in Extremity
it asked a crumb of me.

Until All of Us Are Free
Words by Emma Lazarus
Music by Mark Burrows

Author Emma Lazarus is most well known for “The New Colossus,” which is carved into the base of the Statue of Liberty.

“Until all of us are free, we are none of us free.”

Seven Last Words of the Unarmed – Movement 3: Amadou Diallo
Joel Thompson

In February 1999, 23-year old student Amadou Diallo was shot and killed by four plainclothes officers of the NYPD.

“Mom, I’m going to college.”

What Happens When a Woman Takes Power
Alexandra Olsavsky of Artemisia

What happens when a woman takes power?
What happens when she won’t back down?
What happens when a woman takes power?
What happens when she wears the crown?
 
What happens when she rules her own body?
What happens when she sets the beat?
What happens she she bows to nobody?
What happens when she stands on her own two feet?
 
Woah, we rise above.
Woah, we lead with love.
Woah, we have won.
We are one.
We’ve just begun.
 
When the 21st Century is past, it is quite possible that “Considering Matthew Shepard” by Craig Hella Johnson will be considered a seminal work from this century.  The work tells the story of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man whose murder in 1998 was felt worldwide.  In it, we hear the words of Matthew & his parents, protestors at his funeral, and poetry from the perspective of the fence upon which Matthew was tied and left for dead.  It is a challenging work, presented in several different musical styles, asking hard questions about the nature of hate and loss.  Ultimately though, it brings us back to a vision of hope, as Craig Hella Johnson says, “a huge tent where we all are welcomed.”
 
Stray Birds/We Are All Sons

Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson

Stray birds of summer
come to my window to sing and fly away;
and yellow leaves of autumn
which have no songs
flutter and fall there with a sigh.
Once we dreamt that we were strangers.
We wake up to find
that we were dear to each other.

We are all sons of fathers and mothers,
we are all sons.
We are all rivers, the roar of waters;
we are all sons.
Sometimes no home for us here on the Earth;
no place to lay our heads.

If you could know for one moment
how it is to live in our bodies within the world,
if you could know…
you ask too much of us;
you ask too little.

Fire of the Ancient Heart
Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson

What have you done?
Hark, thy brother’s blood
cries to me from the ground.

Called by this candle, Led to the flame,
Called to remember; Enter the flame

All our flames now swaying and free,
all our hearts now moving as one,
every living spirit turned toward peace,
all our tender hopes awake

Called by this candle, Led to the flame,
Called to remember, Enter the flame

Fire! (Howl)
Fire! (Broken)
Fire! (Burst)
Fire! (Rage)
Fire! (Swell)
Fire! (Shatter)
Fire! (Wail)
Fire!

We all betray the ancient heart!
Ev’ry one of us, all of us!
His heart, my heart, your heart, one heart!
In each moment the fire rages,
it will burn away a hundred veils.
Burning, Breaking, Grasping, Raging!

How do we keep these flames in our hands?
How do we guard these fears in our hearts?
How long to hold these griefs in our songs?
Remembering anger, weave it with hope;
Remembering exile, braid it with praise
Longing past horror longing past dread,
Dreaming of healing past all our pain

Fire, living in me! Fire, purify!
Fire, now hold me! Fire, seize my heart!

Enter the flame! Shatter my heart!
Called to enter, burn a hundred veils!

Called by this flame, fire of my heart,
Break down all walls! Open all doors! Only this Love!

Eyes of flesh, eyes of fire,
Lumina (light), open us all!

In each moment the fire rages,
it will burn away a hundred veils.

Piano Sonata 1.X. 1905, 1st m. – “Foreboding”
Music by Leos Janácek

Janácek’s Piano Sonata 1.X. 1905 was written primarily as a protest to the events in Brno, a town in Moravia.  The protests were over the establishment of a second Czech university, which the German-governed town council opposed.  The demonstrations, in which Janácek participated,  became increasingly violent, ending in the stabbing death of a young Czech man.

It is interesting to note that the original manuscript of this work no longer exists.  Janácek burned the third movement, and threw the remaining music into the Vltava River.  Fortunately, a copy remained in the hands of Ludmila Tucková, the pianist who gave the work its premiere.

To Sit and Dream
Words from “To You” by Langston Hughes
Music by Rosephanye Powell

To sit and dream, to sit and read,
To sit and learn about the world.
Outside our world of here and now, 
Outside our world, our problem world.
To dream of vast horizons of the soul,
of dreams made whole!
Unfettered, free.  Help me!
All you who are dreamers, too,
Help me make our world anew.
I reach out my hand to you.

Al Shlosha D’varim
Traditional Hebrew text
Music by Allan E. Naplan

Al shlosha d’varim haolam kayam,
Al haemet v’al hadin v’al hashalom

Translation:
The world is sustained by three things:
by truth, by justice, and by peace.

Tuba
Traditional Xitsonga (bantu) text
Arranged by Michael Barrett (b. 1983)

Ahe Tuba, emurini Tuba, ama hele Tuba.

Translation:
Look at the dove on that tree!

Across the Vast Eternal Sky
Lyrics by Charles A. Silvestri
Music by Ola Gjielo

Sunlight shines on my face;
This is my grace, to be
Restored, born again, in flame!

When I was young I flew in the velvet night;
Shining by day, a firebird bathed in light!
Grey now my feathers,
which once were red and gold;
My destiny to soar up to the sunlight!

Sunlight shines on my face;
This is my grace, to be
Restored, born again, in flame!

Do not despair that I am gone away;
I will appear again when the sunset paints
Flames across the vast, eternal sky.