CROSSINGs’ Cycle (2015/17)
for large mixed choir a cappella
*Crossings’ Epigrams can be performed autonomously, or in conjunction with Crossings.
I. Crossings’ Epigrams
Crossings’ Epigrams is an elegy on things irretrievably lost. Once again, I turned to Ancient Greek literature because it expresses something about the human condition that resonates deeply within me. Three text fragment are interwoven throughout the three short movements that comprise Crossings’ Epigrams: the moment where Odysseus tries to grasp the fleeting vision of his mother, which escapes like a ‘shadow’, or a ‘dream’ (Homer, Odyssey, Book 11); the lines uttered to Antigone by the exhausted old Oedipus as they arrive in Athens, where they plan to seek refuge (Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus); Hecuba's lament over the fall of Troy and collapse of the House of Priam (Euripides, The Trojan Women). Epigram I is a fantasy on the words ‘shadow’ and ‘dream’ of the Homeric text. Epigram II interlaces Odysseus’ agonizing description with Oedipus’ painful realization regarding his current state. Epigram III presents Hecuba’s lament, echoed in distortion by the sea waves, transforming to a chaotic primordial cry. Shadows of the Homeric text trace an invisible but omnipresent line that connects the three Epigrams.
July 2015, Island of Lesvos, Greece. We arrive at the island of Lesvos at the same time as the first massive influx of refugees from Syria lands on the Greek shores. Lesvos is the primary destination for the hordes of flimsy inflatable boats, the transportation means of choice of the Turkish smugglers. The number of families with pregnant women or small children that arrive is astonishing. Toddlers younger than my three-year-old daughter, newborns, and their exhausted parents, brave the unforgiving heat without food or water as they walk the 60 miles of mountainous terrain that separate our resort town of Methymna from the port of Mytilene. There, they will endure unspeakable hardships for days until a boat chartered by the Greek government, itself collapsing under the uncontrollable financial crisis, transfers them to the port of Pireaus. From there, most will walk for three weeks to reach someplace in Europe, hopefully Germany or Sweden. As I am thinking about this piece, my wife suggests to reread the “Waste Land”.The verses “if there were water and no rock” and “who is the third who walks always beside you” seem painfully relevant.
For a review of the concert with special emphasis on “Crossings Cycle” by David Patrick Stearns, music critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, please click here.
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