Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Skies Are Weeping - The November 1, 2005 London Performance

After cancellations in Anchorage, New York City and Toronto of planned 2004 productions of my cantata, The Skies Are Weeping, dedicated to the memory of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, the work was premiered in London on November 1, 2005. The producers were British peace activists. The production and performance could not have been possible without the incredibly persevering dedication of the then-President of the London chapter of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Deborah Fink, who also sang the soprano solo part.

Here is the entire London performance, with the texts to each of the movements. I am posting the entire performance on the web for the first time, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Rachel Corrie's death. The recording is not very good. We hadn't raised enough money for the union representing the chorus to allow a professional recording, so I put a small recording under my feet. I sat in the front row, beneath the chorus. Next to me was Jocelyn Hurndall, Tom Hurndall's mother. We held hands through much of the performance.

Click on the title of the movements to be brought to the music files, which you may download for free:

1. Choral Prelude: Psalm 137 (King James Version)
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion."

How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, "Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof."

O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

2. Dance for Tom Hurndall - no text

3. Aria-Lament: Rachel
(For Rachel Corrie)

with the name Rachel,
she would be matriarch of the people,
those suffering a fearful life of drought,
loss of home and land,
history of ancestors
buried in heaps of disrespected earth,
she had no choice
but to follow her heart,
faith must have filled her soul,
that she could hold a child's tears
in the cup of her hand,
that her small body
would take the form of her spirit,
large enough to protect those
she felt connected to,
she risked her last breath
against the hardness of steel,
her arms
became wings of resolve,
she was the laughter of wind,
offering joy to those in lament,
this is my song to you young sister,
you have touched this world
with your strong voice
crying for justice.
Phil Goldvarg 3/18/03

4. Song: God the Synecdoche in His Holy Land i.m. Rachel Corrie
Around you the father gods war. This
Father. That father. The other father.

What more dangerous place could
A woman stand, upright, than on that sand, as if
She were still antiphon to that voice, the other
Mind of that power. The very idea!

Crush her back in to her mother!
Crush her. Crush her. Consensus. War.
Linda McCarriston

5. Recitative: I had no mercy for anybody

I would erase anyone with the D-9, and I have demolished plenty. I wanted to destroy everything. I begged the officers, over the radio, to let me knock it all down; from top to bottom. To level everything. When I was told to bring down a house, I took the opportunity to bring down some more houses. For three days, I just destroyed and destroyed. The whole area. I wanted to get to the other houses. To get as many as possible. I didn't see, with my own eyes, people dying under the blade of the D-9. But if there were any, I wouldn't care at all. If you knocked down a house, you buried 40 or 50 people. If I am sorry for anything, it is for not tearing the whole camp down. I had lots of satisfaction in Jenin, lots of satisfaction. No one expressed any reservations against doing it. Who would dare speak? If anyone would as much as open his mouth, I would have buried him under the D-9". from: - edited by Philip Munger

6. Song: The skies are weeping

The birds have flown away
With rain-sodden flowers in hand
I wait for you, Rachel…

The rain drops trickle
Washing the scent off the mourning tulips
Pounding the healing earth
The howling winds and trembling blades of grass
Calling for you, Rachel…

Dust dancing around my knees
Walling me in, and my grief
From the weeping heavens faintly at first
I hear you, Rachel…

You give strength to my tears
And resolve to my limbs
As I stand up with my broken tulips
The skies are clearing
The earth is sprouting fresh blades of grass
That whisper your name, Rachel…

The winds are gentle
Reassuring in their calmness
Heaven and earth rejoice today
As you’re with me again, Rachel…
Thushara Wijeratna

7. Chorale with soprano solo:
Rachel’s Words (edited by Philip Munger)

Feel sick to my stomach a lot
from being doted on all the time,
very sweetly,
by people who are facing doom.

You can always hear the tanks and bulldozers
passing by.
I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers
outside our house
and you and me inside.
Tanks and bulldozers destroyed 25 greenhouses
the livelihoods for 300 people.
Then the bulldozers come and take out
people’s vegetable farms and gardens.

This happens every day.

I think that I should at least mention that
I am also discovering a degree of strength
and of basic ability for humans to remain human
in the direst of circumstances.

I think the word is dignity.

I wish you could meet these people.

Maybe, hopefully, someday
you will.