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Concert Program


Rosephanye Powell





Adolphus Hailstork

Rich Campbell

Alison Wahl

Eric Whitacre

arr. Heather Sorenson


Then, Here and Now

         I: Healing

         II: Oppression

         III: Dying

When Storms Arise


Sacredness of the Ballot*

This Marriage

Lift Every Voice
and Sing

*World Premiere

Past Performances

Then, Here, and Now, Rosephanye Powell (b. 1962)

Performed by Alison Wahl, Soprano

I: Healing:

"there is a balm in Gilead

to make the wounded whole

There is a balm in Gilead

to heal the troubled soul"

II: Oppression:

"Go down, Moses

Way down, in Egypt's land.

Tell old, Pharoah

To let my people go.

When Israel was in Egypt's land,

Oppressed so hard they could not stand,

God said to Moses,

'Tell Pharoah to let my people go

Yes let my people go.' "

III: Dying:

"I want to die easy

I want to die easy

I want to die easy when I die

Shout salvation as I fly

Tell my mother not to cry

I want to die easy

I want to die easy

I want to die easy when I die

Program notes (from Powell's score):

"Then, Here and Now is a cycle of four art songs based on African American Spirituals. Each song reflects my visceral and emotional reactions to dramatic events which transpired during 2020. As I observed the worldwide responses to the outbreak of Covid-19, the death of George Floyd, and protests around the world, I became benumbed, emotionally exhausted. Tears were my daily companion, expressing what could not be uttered. In time, words came--not my own--the words of the spiritual. Intuitively they came, the way my grandmother sang and hummed them as she struggled to breathe during asthmatic episodes, as a response to the death of a loved one, or just sat, Bible in hand. I hummed, sang, and wept, laden with waves of sorrow, the cycle repeating itself, seemingly without end. The words and melodies of the spiritual gave voice to my sorrow--just as they did for my Grandmother and my ancestors during slavery. Thus, the title, Then, Here and Now, which refers to the spirituals' enduring messages of hope, strength, healing, freedom, and justice."

When Storms Arise from Three Dunbar Hymns, Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941)


"When storms arise
And dark'ning skies
    About me threat'ning lower,
To thee, O Lord, I raise mine eyes,
To thee my tortured spirit flies
    For solace in that hour.

The mighty arm
Will let no harm
    Come near me nor befall me;
Thy voice shall quiet my alarm,
When life's great battle waxeth warm—
    No foeman shall appall me.

Upon thy breast
Secure I rest,
    From sorrow and vexation;
No more by sinful cares oppressed,
But in thy presence ever blest,
    O God of my salvation."

- Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 –1906)


Program Notes: 

Hailstork’s Three Dunbar Hymns set poetic texts of 20th century poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first African American poet to garner national acclaim. Dunbar’s work often addressed the difficulties by members of his race and the efforts of African Americans to achieve equality in America. Hailstork sets Dunbar’s poetry in modified strophes, allowing single voices to puncture the text with a special emphasis on the bass section. His piece is introspective, with rare but effective use of colorful harmony to illicit an emotional response in the listener. The simplicity of the piece supports the necessary message of the narrator of the poem calling for clemency amidst a society which does not support them. 


Border, Rich Campbell


"Border, sanctuary
Border, asylum
Bridges not walls


Border, sanctuary
Border, asylum
Bridges not walls
Cry, cry, crisis
Cry, cry freedom


Mother, father, sister, brother
e pluribus unum

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink
I was a stranger, you invited me in

Indivisible, with Liberty
Indivisible, with Justice
Indivisible, with Liberty
e pluribus unum

We are your poor, we are your tired
We are yearning, we are yearning to be free
Poor, tired, yearning to be free
e pluribus unum

Border, sanctuary
Border, asylum
Children hungry, children thirsty
Mother, father, sister, brother

Border, sanctuary
Border, asylum
Bridges not walls
Border, Cry, cry, crisis,
Cry, cry freedom
Bridges not walls

Program notes: 

A powerful declaration for freedom and equality, Rich Campbell’s “Border” is angular, emotional, and desperate. The text draws from (and paraphrases) several sources: contemporary media, Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus,” the Bible’s Matthew 25:31-40, currency, and others. The changing meters of “Border” fill the work with an up-tempo, rhythmic energy that propels it forward. Campbell’s piece hardly relents, even as the pace slows this work presses forward with a colorful and often modal harmonic language. “Border” is a call for justice, empathy and compassion, a summons to our collective conscience. 

This Marriage, Eric Whitacre (b. 1970)​​

"May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe
how spirit mingles in this marriage."

Program Notes: 

A delicate setting of a timeless love poem by the Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Rumi, this marks the first time that Eric Whitacre has written for four-part a cappella chorus without divisi. Whitacre’s setting is almost reminiscent of 15th century Fauxbourdon, with all voices moving in parallel throughout the work. This sort of harmonic planing creates an atmosphere of focused calm, giving credence to Rumi’s loving text. Whitacre indicates no measure lines in his piece – allowing the choir and director to make their own decisions on the hierarchy of each phrase.

Sacredness of the Ballot, Alison Wahl (b. 1987)


"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.[1]

The unenfranchised women of the United States are as intelligent, law abiding and patriotic as any women in the world[2]

We cannot successfully Evade duty because the Suffering fellow woman is only a woman! The spirit of true philanthropy knows no sex.[3]

It is... our bounded duty to stand forth and declare ourselves...
to teach an ignorant and suspicious world the aims and interests of good aspiring women.

Too long have we been silent under unjust charges

The women of the race take the lead in this movement, but for all this we recognize the necessity of the sympathy of our husbands, brothers and fathers. Our women’s movement is for the good of women and men, for the benefit of all humanity...

we are coming to the front, ...and welcoming any others to join us [in] union and earnestness. ...We are all workers to the same end...[4]

Why do you dare to leave us out? Why? [5]

With no sacredness of the ballot there can be no sacredness of human life itself. For if the strong can take the weak man’s ballot, when it suits his purpose to do so, he will take his life also.[6]"

Text sources:

[1] US Constitution

[2] Resolution by the Rhode Island Union Colored Women’s Clubs, 1916

[3] Mary Ann Shadd, “Break Every Hoke and Let the Oppressed Go Free,” 1858

[4] St. Pierre Ruffin, Josephine. “Address to the First National Conference of Colored Women.” 1895

[5] Zitkala-Sa to Montezuma, CMP. Boston, Massachusetts, May 2, 1901

[6] Ida B. Wells, “How Enfranchisement Stops Lynching” 1910

Program notes:

Wahl’s intense, 5-minute part song is an exploration in the voices of the oppressed – it unabashedly cries out in anger and frustration. The text is drawn from the US constitution, the resolution by the Rhode Island Union Colored Women’s Club of 1916, Mary Ann Shadd’s “Break Every Hoke and Let the Oppressed Go Free of 1858, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin’s “Address to the First National Conference of Colored Women of 1895, Zitkala-Sa to Montezuma, CMP of Boston, Massachusetts 1901 and Ida B. Well’s, “How Enfranchisement Stops Lynching” from 1910. Wahl’s composition is linear, terrifyingly dissonant, and unrelenting in its depicting of these texts. There are moments where the choir is called to scream “why do you dare to leave us out”, evoking the anguish of a roiling crowd of protestors, or as the angered voices of those who have been left behind due to racist and patriarchal legislative practices. Her constant tempo and metrical shifts depict the altering perspectives of her centonate text, acting like a multi-point narrative. From the composer herself:

“The struggle for universal suffrage has been ongoing in this nation since its founding. The women who have fought for, and continue to strive for, the enfranchisement of women comprise one section of the prism of Americans who have been systematically dismissed and excluded. Before American women had rights to exist and interact in public and economic spheres, generations of women in other cultures enjoyed equality under the law. The American establishment’s exclusion and disenfranchisement of people based on any part of their identity continues to affect many people including women, members of the LGBTQA community, and people of color. The women whose words I have set to music in this piece had a clear and unwavering goal of universal suffrage and total enfranchisement for all Americans. Their aim remains ours today.”

Lift Every Voice and Sing, J. Rosamund Johnson arr. Heather Sorenson​​

"Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Program Notes:


"Lift Every Voice and Sing" with lyrics by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) and originally set to music by his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954) is written from the context of African Americans in the late 19th century. The work is a prayer of thanksgiving as well as a prayer for faithfulness and freedom, with imagery that evokes the biblical Exodus from slavery to the freedom of the "promised land." In 1919, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dubbed "Lift Every Voice and Sing" the "Negro national anthem", for its power in voicing a cry for liberation and affirmation for African American people. James Weldon Johnson would be appointed to serve as the NAACP's first executive secretary the following year. It has similarly been referred to as "the Black national anthem". 

Heather Sorenson’s arrangement was created alongside Atlanta Reverend Dr. James Ward, with a new second verse lifting the quest for diversity and equality. Their arrangement is powerful and reverent, with a supportive gospel piano accompaniment. The piece continuously drives forward with an optimism and collective strength, highlighting the cooperation of black and white composers working together to honor the message of social justice. 

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