Duration: 15 min.
Naomi Shihab Nye
March 19th, 2016
Good Shepherd Chapel, Seattle, Washington
Dr. Wendy Moy and Dr. Jeremiah Selvey, co-artistic directors
1. I break this toast
2. Some one not there now
Poet Naomi Shihab Nye marks out the physical and emotional effects of terrorism with people— first graders, mothers, friends; with everyday objects— kettles, apples, glasses of water; with locations— Texas, Turkey, Syria. She captures with these everyday words just how alarmingly common, even mundane, news of terrorism has become to us. Her text and my musical setting are understated and all lead toward one word that offers hope in a world so torn apart, “together.”
I came across Nye’s poetry shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and saw the pain, fear, and loss many Americans were feeling was not unique to us. Though it was new to me, tragedies like that were part of the daily lives of millions in the Middle East for generations. The bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon, and the eight year old boy, Martin Richard, killed by the explosions, brought to mind the boy in Nye’s poem. The middle movement of Like a Darling was written in 2013 shortly after the Boston Marathon Bombing. I have friends and colleagues in Boston from my time there in grad school, a couple dear singer-friends were running in the marathon that year, another life-long friend was volunteering in the first aid tent like he does every year. Seeing the events unfold on television brought back the fear and helplessness I felt watching the Twin Towers fall on 9/11. I responded the only way I know how, with music. I returned to Nye’s poem in the fall of 2015 wanting to complete the cycle. I had finished the third poem in early November and was working on setting the first poem when terrorists attacked Beirut and Paris.
I can recall news of terrorism throughout my life: the Middle East, Northern Ireland, Oklahoma City, 9/11— politics, fear, difference all tearing people apart. I’m not sure if this will ever change, but I think Naomi Shihab Nye is onto something when she prompts us to consider just one word— together.