What a morning! There’s little to compare to the contained energy of eighty young musicians fearlessly singing with their whole hearts, which we experienced at the MN AllState Festival last month. It was thrilling to have that energy in the service of a piece that I wrote for them; thrilling and humbling. My deepest thanks to MMEA-MN, ACDA, and conductor Dr. Jo Ann Miller for the opportunity.
Being a choral singer in high school taught me about the power of collective experience and effort in a way that nothing had before. I wanted to write a piece for these singers that applied that energy to the challenges of day-to-day life in the wider world.
Wendell Berry’s brief poem reads like a psalm of praise, depicting the whole of creation (“Light, leaf, foot, hand, and wing”) raising its collective voice in song. In contrast, the first line evokes a sense of surrounding threat, against which the singers gather for mutual support and protection. It is too easy to a list the fears that currently burden our days; I wanted this piece to acknowledge those fears while celebrating the impulse that brings us together to combat them.
Composer J. David Moore
Many of my choral pieces use Southern folk elements, and the flavor of Appalachian fiddle music is strong in this one. It begins with the call of a single encouraging voice, around which other voices begin to gather. As the fully assembled company reaches its emotive peak at the end of the text (“And all the earth shall sing”) there’s nothing left to do but dispense with language altogether and sing a barn-burning dance tune on vocables. The piece ends with a return to the opening call, sung by the full choir, re-affirming that we are all “members one of another.”
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Settings of Wendell Berry:
Remembering That It Happened Once
When I Rise Up
Pieces inspired by American folk styles:
How Can I Keep From Singing?
Pieces of community and conviction: