Raquel Garcia, Artistic Director of The Philadelphia Chorus, one of the finest and oldest choruses in the region (founded in 1951), brutally aware of “senseless violence . . . prejudice and discrimination being rampant,” shared her fear:
“I feel like we are becoming desensitized as these horrid events are more and more common every day.” She concluded, “Let love and unity prevail. Please, let’s all embrace differences and make our world a peaceful place.”
Garcia annually presents winter and spring programs that go way beyond the popular and the tried and true.
This year, together with a chorus of 65 singers, 15 orchestra members, and two guest artists – lyric soprano Melanie Sarakatsannis and baritone John David Miles – Garcia dedicated the entire winter concert at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral to The Voice of Peace: Poetry and Music after Auschwitz.
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when he is silent.
I believe through any trial,
there is always a way
But sometimes in this suffering
and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter,
to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me, saying hold on
my child, I’ll give you strength,
I’ll give you hope. Just stay a little while.
I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there
But I believe in God
even when he is silent
I believe through any trial
there is always a way.
May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace….
The performance continued with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ (1872-1958) “Dona Nobis Pacem” (“Grant us peace”), based on the violence during the Spanish Civil War and performed with texts from various sources, including Walt Whitman’s 1861 work of war-fever—“Beat! Beat! Drums!” —set to powerful “rhythms of drums and trumpets, instruments of war . . . even as they shatter every-day peaceful endeavors . . . and obliterate the fundamental civility of reasoned discourse and the compassion which pleas should evoke.”
The Philadelphia Chorus then presented David Burger’s “T’filah”—a Hebrew prayer, dedicated to Israel: “Give peace to the land and joy to all her inhabitants. Amen.”
Later, we heard the famous “Gloria” by John Rutter, Britain’s prolific composer, who wrote it as his first major composition for an American group in 1974—a symphony inspired by Gregorian Chants and New World tempos, where brass and choir combine in such exuberant rhythms that they suggest American jazz and theater.
The Voice of Peace concert took the standing room only audience around the world, including the Jack Jarrett arrangement of Austria’s “Silent Night”—from a wordless rendition to the original German lyrics to the English version; followed by Christopher Tin’s “Baba Yetu”—a rousing African song; and Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World,” sung in a way that only The Philadelphia Chorus can: both beautiful and thought-provoking—a hallmark of every one of their concerts.
The Voice of Peace concert was performed on Saturday, December 4, 2016 by The Philadelphia Chorus.
*All non-Adorno related quotations come from the detailed program notes of The Voice of Peace program.
Originally published by DC Metro Theater Arts.