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Sunday Quarantine Deep-dive, June 7, 2020

June 7, 2020

This Sunday, the “moon” music we are celebrating is that composed by talented student winners of Harmonium’s 22nd annual High School Student Composition contest. Please visit Harmonium’s contest page and read all about them, and LIKE all over them on our social media! I am so happy that we can still recognize and celebrate them on this, the weekend we would have given our concert. We will perform the winner at some point in the future.

But the world this week is such that I could not get my heart around “Moon” music, but would rather rehearse “Where there is Light in the Soul” by Elizabeth Alexander. We have done a lot of Elizabeth’s works—most recently Pages from Kindling. Elizabeth has lots to say about music and social justice.

Elizabeth Alexander — SOURCE SONG FESTIVAL

I first met Elizabeth at an Eastern ACDA convention years ago, when she was still in Ithaca. In the early years of the composition contest, she was a judge, and provided a list of tips for young composers. The one that sticks with me is to “live with” and love the texts. Get inside them, roll them around on your tongue. Here is the text of “Where there is Light”:

Chinese proverb

Where there is light in the soul there will be beauty in the person.
Where there is beauty in the person there will be harmony in the home.
Where there is harmony in the home there will be honor in the nation.
Where there is honor in the nation there will be peace in the world.

I keep on singing this for peace and understanding, and I keep needing to keep on singing it more all the time. Sometimes I feel powerless, but this text speaks to me because steps 1 & 2 are something you have some power over, feed your souls (and those of your families) light, and make harmony in your homes.

We performed several of her works over the years, “Where there is Light in the Soul” remaining in the repertoire longer than almost anything, and often going on tour, and into outreach shows. Here we are singing it in a beautiful resonant church of San Gines, Madrid. (scroll to the bottom of this page)

Elizabeth grew up in the Carolinas and Appalachian Ohio, the daughter of a piano teacher and a minister/prison warden. Her love of words nearly eclipses her love of music – a passion reflected in her more than 100 songs and choral works, which have received thousands of performances worldwide. A recent McKnight Composition Fellow, she has also received awards and fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, New Music USA, Minnesota State Arts Board, New York Council on the Arts, Wisconsin Arts Board, National Orchestral Association, International League of Women Composers, and American Composers Forum. She studied composition with Steven Stucky, Jack Gallagher, Yehudi Wyner and Karel Husa, receiving her doctorate in music composition from Cornell University. Her publishing company is Seafarer Press.

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