Creative Programming: For Social Justice

recommended by Jen Sper and Alissa Ruth, School Choral Music Specialists

“Art is an effort to create, beside the real world, a more humane world.” –Andre Maurois

As a result of today’s politically charged and divided climate, we have gotten a number of phone calls and emails asking about pieces composed on the idea of “social justice” in some form, and we’ve seen composers writing to this theme more frequently in recent months (as artists do in times of turmoil). Below, we’ve compiled some of these pieces that could provide another impactful selection to your concert repertoire.

But a Flint Holds FireBut a Flint Holds Fire by Andrea Ramsey
Jointly commissioned by a consortium of choruses to benefit the programs and services of Chorus America, this “socially conscious” work merges a Christina Rossetti text with words from choir students in Flint, Michigan. This was the personal revelation for the composer that there was something she could do to affect in a positive way the tragedy of the Flint Water Crisis. This is also a vehicle for you and your students to positively affect this tragedy as half of the profits from the sale will go directly to Flint Rising, a coalition of community organizations and allies. There is a QR code in the music for the audience to make a donation and the web site is also included.

From Andrea Ramsey’s Facebook page April 13, 2017
In September of 2016, I finished a treble choral work about the Flint Water Crisis. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Karen Salvador at UM-Flint invited me to do a residency in Flint in October of 2017 as part of a choral festival on their campus. At the time, I thought naively that Flint couldn’t possibly go another full year without the drinking water situation being fixed. Yet, there was no hesitation in Dr. Salvador’s voice when she told me things would still be the same in one year’s time. In disbelief, I told her if that proved to be the case, I would create a mixed chorus revoicing of the work for free.
Today, I just put the final touches on the mixed chorus revoicing of “But a Flint Holds Fire” that I hoped would be irrelevant in a year’s time. However, it is as relevant as ever, and the event is moving forward in October. Hard to believe nothing has changed.

Keep in mind that the 100,000 plus residents of Flint have not had clean water since APRIL, 2014.

A friend sent this paradigm- shifting quote to me today: “Today I am grateful that Russia and Syria did not bomb us for poisoning the children of Flint, Michigan…” – Matthew Parsons

Unabashed food for thought. There is no cure for lead poisoning, and no plan to help them.

Consider this excerpt penned by a choir student in Flint for the project: “My siblings and I were all tested for lead poisoning. A week passes and my mom finds out that all four of her kids have lead poisoning, including the baby. My mom and dad were angry. I didn’t want to believe it was true.”

Song for SarajevoSong for Sarajevo by Judy Collins, arr. Audrey Snyder
This song by Judy Collins from 1994 was written for the children of the Bosnian War of the 1990s, but has continuing meaning for today’s children of conflict. “I dream of Peace, I dream of flowers on the hill, I dream I see my mother smiling, When I close my eyes I dream of Peace.”

LullabyLullaby by Shawn Crouch
Poet and Iraqi war veteran Brian Turner writes moving accounts of the war that are vivid and powerful. Composer Shawn Crouch uses Turner’s visceral images of the war but emphasizes the lyrical qualities and changing colors of the poem to create long musical lines. Here, in Lullaby, a father seeks ways to comfort his child and himself as the sounds of war ring out all around them.

Hymn to FreedomHymn to Freedom by Oscar Peterson, arr. Paul Read
One of Oscar Peterson’s most heartfelt compositions and now once again available in the classic arrangements by Paul Read (SATB) and Seppo Hovi (SSA), this song has been embraced by choirs throughout the world. Now available with concert band and strings accompaniment arranged by Robert Buckley

Safe With MeSafe with Me by Bryan Sharpe
“Though the sky is dark, though the stars in heaven can’t be seen, though the world is cold, you will be safe, safe with me.” Brilliant opportunities for teaching phrasing, dynamic contours, breath support, and general musicianship abound. The depth of beauty and sensitivity in this Bryan Sharpe original make it a stunning addition to any concert program.

You Will Be FoundYou Will Be Found (from “Dear Evan Hansen”) arr. Mac Huff
The powerful Act I closer from the Broadway hit musical “Dear Evan Hansen” explores the complexities of social connectivity and our need for respect and love. A perfect choral showcase for pop and concert choirs!

For more information and recommendations, visit our website at stantons.com, email us at choral@stantons.com, or call us at 1.800.42.MUSIC

About the Authors:
Jen Sper has been with Stanton’s since 2006. A former middle school and high school choral director, she holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music. An active choral singer and accompanist throughout the Central Ohio area, she also enjoys good food, running (to counteract the good food…) and the Muppets.

Alissa Ruth began working at Stanton’s in the summer of 2016. She is a former middle and high school choir director and holds a Bachelor of Music in Education degree from Capital University. She is a very active choral singer, and spends her free time running, doing yoga, cooking, and watching Netflix.

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Categories: New Publications, School Choral, Staff Picks

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