EarthRise

(A Song of Healing)

Adolphus Hailstork

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

?It?s up?to us?. Those words sprang to mind when I chose the rhythm of the last four notes of Earthrise. It is a quote from the opening theme of the Beethoven Ninth Symphony. The new piece itself, after 30 minutes of encouraging attitudes of caring and fellowship, had suggested its own simple and straightforward summation.

James Conlon, music director of the Cincinnati May Festival had asked me to write a piece that would join an African-American choir with the festival chorus in a gesture of racial cooperation, a concern in Cincinnati and several American communities. When I asked myself what text addressed issues of joining people together in peace and social healing, the obvious one was the daring one: the Schiller ?Ode to Joy?, which everyone knows in the immortal setting by Beethoven. It is a text that speaks to the whole world, and I knew I had, finally, the perfect opportunity to express the overwhelming emotions I felt in 1969, when I saw the great orb of planet Earth rise slowly into view over the edge of the moonscape.

Does that mean I have written an ?outer space? score? No. I?ll leave that to others. Musically, Earthrise is a ?find the hidden (and some not so hidden) references? for those listeners who really know their Beethoven Ninth Symphony (all four movements, not just the Finale). The words of the opening chorus are based on the famous baritone call to the orchestra to ?cease these tones (of strife)?, but I asked a local teacher of German to modify it a little so the two choirs would begin the dialogue. After the African-American choir enters with an updated translation of that opening, the two choirs alternate statements and styles until they join together on the words ?respect one another? and bring the prelude of the composition to a sonorous conclusion.

The orchestra begins gently after that, gradually building to a rollicking, syncopated entrance of both choirs singing ?Joy?. Throughout the piece, the two choirs sing together more than apart, but that?s the point: they are asking the listeners to join them in peace and joy. And those words ?peace, love, and joy? are intoned quietly at the most solemn moment of the composition, when, over an orchestral quote of a Black spiritual, the two choirs merge.

A final raucous outburst in the orchestra subsides into a hymn of unity as Schiller invokes us to ?Draw the Sacred Circle Closer?. The verses of the hymn increase in intensity, climaxing with the words ?living as one again?. Then those four notes from Beethoven reappear to remind us that when it comes to social harmony and justice, love, and peace, ?it?s up?to us?.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Cincinnati Musical Festival Association.
Composition Date 2006
Duration 00:28:00
Orchestration 2 Choirs; 2(dbl. Picc.) 2 2 2(dbl.Cbsn.) - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
Premiere May 19, 2006. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Conlon; May Festival Chorus and Brazeal Dennard Chorale. Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH.

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