Uncertain journeys : for unaccompanied choir, SATB
by Tom Henry (2017)
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Performance by Australian Chamber Choir from the CD Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 103.
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When I was initially commissioned to write a work to be performed by the Australian Chamber Choir in 2017, one suggested text was Psalm 137, and the theme the 'Babylonian Captivity' of the ancient Jewish people. After reflecting on those words for some time, the atmosphere so full of yearning for homeland, and a righteous, seething indignation, I did not feel entirely at home setting the Psalm. Christian composers of the Renaissance or Reformation may have felt sufficient kinship with the idea of a persecuted faith, whether Protestant or Catholic, but as a modern agnostic I did not feel I could rightfully own the words.
So I began the time-consuming search for a text of my own, one that would hopefully cover similar ground as the 'captivity'. The text I finally assembled places at the foreground contemporary accounts of displacement and separation (from homeland, culture and family), so common to the refugee experience, the fear and desperation involved in crossing the oceans to find a new land, the deeply painful waiting and uncertainty in a foreign country (sometimes for years at a time), a growing yearning for a new homeland, and finally (hopefully), the joy of reuniting with family and finding freedom. I owe a deep gratitude to those individuals (listed below) whose stories I have borrowed from, all too briefly, in order to share their stories in a universal way in musical form.
Finally, at the background, as a kind of meta-philosophical-counterpoint, and in an attempt to show the universality of these human needs (for family, for homeland, for acceptance, for identity), I have assembled parallel texts from the Christian Bible and from the 'Ghazals' (a form akin to Sonnets in English) of the 14th century Persian poet, 'Hafiz of Shiraz' (1315-1390). His works are regarded as a pinnacle of Persian literature and are beloved of many people in the Persian speaking world, in particular Iran and Afghanistan.
Instrumentation: SATB choir.
Duration: 18 min.
Contents note: 1. My story...our story... -- 2. The waters are come into my soul... -- 3. Waiting for life to arrive -- 4. Feeling freedom.
Commission note: Commissioned by Australian Chamber Choir.
First performance: by Australian Chamber Choir — 18 Jun 17. Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Middle Park, Melbourne VIC
Performances of this work
18 Jun 17: Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Middle Park, Melbourne VIC. Featuring Australian Chamber Choir.
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