Commissioned by Schola Cantorum on Hudson. Dr. Deborah King, conductor.
World premiere May 21, 2016 in New York, NY.
Opening with an explosion of birds and closing with the choir’s exit into the wider diasporic “flock of humanity,” this dramatic cantata tells the story of a town beseiged by a wildfire, and uses the performance space as a stage through which the choir enacts the community’s displacement. Now chaotic, now tender, imbued with loss and longing, this 11-minute work inspires audiences with its expansive sonic and emotional landscape.
Look, overhead! A thousand starlings! A murmuration!
One flock, wing to wing, they twist and sing and pitch and roll.
A living smoke, pulsing dark across the sun—
grounding us in our earthly home.
Home is where the voices of the world become one.
—Whose nest is best, lover?
—Whose breast restores you, lover?
—Your breast, lover.
Everything we own is earned.
Everything we own was ours to be won.
Everything under the sun
belongs to us.
That’s where he proposed to me, under that tree, sweet memory—
This is where your mother is buried, all she carried lifted free—
Here, at this bend in the river, here is where I’ll build our next house.
There on the corner, in the lamplight, that’s where I first saw her—
The trees, the water, the sky is on fire!
Flames! Cinder! A roar of thunder,
the terror draws nearer…a furor of fire!
Our nest, lover! No … !
Where are you going? Wait! Wait!
Everything we own is burned … !
Our tree is crowned in flame … !
The churchyard an inferno … !
To the river! Hurry!
My corner of paradise! Gone …
Everything we own is burned.
The home we loved is in ruins, ashes.
Our nest. Our rest. Our comfort. Gone.
We must fly, we must fly away—
Lift our weary wings and go.
Maybe we are like the birds
all over the war-torn world,
one flock of humanity,