“Music can change the world because it can change people” – Bono
Music is powerful. Music connects us - singers, audience, community. Music can express joy and it can be comforting in sorrow. Music can be a light in the darkness.
This program begins with a statement of hope. Ad Astra shares the message, in both Latin and English, “to the stars through difficulties, move forward, look upward, leave all cares behind.” The next piece asks the critical question, Can We Sing the Darkness to Light? This song asks the audience to imagine a world that is built on mercy and compassion rather than on greed and war. It could be beautiful.
The next several songs explore themes of darkness and sorrow, beginning with a chilling Canadian Folk song telling the story of a whaling boat frozen in Frobisher Bay. As the ship’s captain holds on for one more whale, the crew miss the opportunity to leave before a storm hits and the ship is stranded in the ice for a long, devastating, potentially fatal winter. Weep, O Mine Eyes is an English madrigal first published in 1599. The poetry, though likely meant to be slightly over-dramatic, declares the wish to literally drown in tears of sorrow. We continue with another song of love and longing, Umru Mayne sets a Yiddish poem in an early Romantic era musical style. The title translates to ‘My Unrest.’ These words repeat several times throughout the song and seem to be referring to the haunting of a love that continues to overwhelm the poet’s every thought and action.
Superstition is a classic Stevie Wonder funk song from 1972 in which he warns about the ‘dangers of believing too much in superstitions.’ This arrangement is set for a cappella choir and requires many of the singers to create instrumental lines by singing scat-syllables and additional harmonies. The next song explores the possibility of what life might be like withoutaccessible water. What happens if (when?) the water fountain runs dry? Though many of the lyrics are nonsensical in a childish sing-song style, Water Fountain is a commentary on drought and life. It begins with a simple melodic line and ends in many parts, multiple keys, and an array of chaotic sounds to help the listener feel increased discomfort and anxiety. The set closes with a tenor/bass feature of a song made popular from the movie O Brother Where Art Thou. I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow was originally written around 1913, recorded in the late 1920s, and revived in the 2000s with the release of the movie.
From the darkness comes the light. Waniska, Wake Up, is a song about waking up to a beautiful morning and wanting to share it with someone you love. It is written by Sherryl Sewepagaham, a Cree-Dene artist from Little Red River Cree Nation in Northern Alberta. She uses a blend of Indigenous musical elements and Cree text blended with Gershwin inspired harmonies and a classical cello. Next, we explore the hope that can be found through faith with a Schubert setting of the Credo. We will only be performing the first segment of the Credo from Schubert’s Mass in G, however it will be sung three times through. The first time will be fairly true to the original setting, the second more drawn out and contemplative, and finally it will be performed with each singer moving at their own time. This aleatoric setting represents faith as a mystery, unique to each person, and the multitude of beliefs around the world, or simply the independence of each individual.
Malakatumba was inspired by a singing game and includes imitating voices and nonsense syllables. The sounds are simplyfun to sing with no translation or literal meaning. The vocal lines are playfully combined with body percussion to create the energetic game-like vibe. The soprano/alto feature is a song written by Winnipeg artist Joey Landreth and arranged by Winnipeg conductor Scott Reimer. Better Together is a song about being there for your friends, overcoming the tough times, and surviving with the support of one another.
Pentatonix made a cappella singing mainstream after their debut in 2011. Take Me Home is about appreciating the little things, remembering that “our heartbeats going strong” is the most important thing, and about finding comfort in home whether that is a place or a person. As the program builds to a conclusion, we focus on a message of supporting each other and building a community. Built with two musical theatre hits, Found/Tonightweaves together the song You Will Be Found from Dear Evan Hansen along with The Story of Tonight from Hamilton.
We finish with two contrasting, heartfelt, and emotional pieces. A Sesotho song from South Africa, Hlonolofatsa, is a song of blessing and celebration. This represents the absolute joy of making music together. Our final farewell, Good Night Dear Heart, is a stunning setting of a Mark Twain poem as seen on the grave of his daughter who died and left him broken-hearted. Though the piece is full of sadness, the text has elements of hope and the recognition that you only grieve because you have loved something so much.
Music is powerful. Music can be the light in the darkness.
Thank you CMYC singers for taking this journey with me, it has been an absolute honour - Kendra