We Who Would Be Great And Kind: A Composition For Mezzo Soprano And Ensemble

WE WHO WOULD BE GREAT AND KIND, op.10: a composition for soprano-coloratura, mezzo-soprano, and ensemble (1998).

Lyrics: Cecile Goding.

Duration: 6 minutes.

Premiere information: Emily Truckenbrod, soprano-coloratura; Rachel Andrews, mezzo-soprano; Heather Webb & Joao Baptista Sartor, alto flute and piccolo flute; Sarah Leavengood & Anton Hatwich, contrabasses; Pat Anderson, Joe Bohling, Jonathan Crawford, Scott Morgan, percussion; Sergio Espinoza, conductor.

Words and Music Concert, Clapp Recital Hall, The University of Iowa School of Music, Iowa City, IA, April 19, 1998.

Program Notes

We Who Would Be Great And Kind was created in 1998, as a collaboration between the music composition department and the writers workshop of The University of Iowa. Twenty composers and twenty poets were chosen by lot five times. The resulting five "pairs" had to create projects, from minor to major ones, within an academic semester. This composition is the final project of the "pair" Cecile Goding/Katerina Stamatelos.

Cecile Goding's Notes

I told Katerina I'd been reading about a funeral performed by Scandinavian merchants on the Volga in A.D. 922, during which a child was sacrificed. The rhythms of Lamentations (the King James version) were also in my mind. We listen to the news. We can hardly hear the innocent on the bier.

Katerina's Notes

As the "pairs" of the last (and main) project of this collaboration were announced and I found out that Cecile was my assigned poet, I felt really excited! 

I had liked her poetry all along but never had the chance to work with her.

We started working right away, and she handed me this rough 'account' among other poetry of hers: that triggered my fantasy! I picked it up and just 'cut' the four pages into just one, to fit the rather short composition. But Cecile wanted to rework on it. Just two days later, we met for coffee and she gave me her poem to read: I was truly impressed! Here, in front of me, stood a masterpiece of a poem!

The story of the account is this: there was apparently a small group of young girls (pre-adolescent ages) living with the merchants. When the death of their 'master' is announced, the girls are asked the question: "who is going with him?" A young girl springs up and shouts: "me!". Is it really a sacrifice? Is the young girl a 'willing offer'? Cecile's adaptation of the text is masterful: there is darkness, there is love, there is ambition (the girl wants to be a 'star'!). In the background of the actual collaboration, the Bosnia war was going on: Cecile is a very sensitive person and reacted accordingly. I tried to pay tribute to this amazing poem by choosing a 'dark' instrumentation and two amazing singers.

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We Who Would Be Great and Kind: the recording

The recording of this composition was based on its live performance during the World and Music concert, as stated above.