My newest creation is a commission for the Vancouver Peace Choir, my choral alma mater. Writing for the Peace Choir was both my first writing opportunity and singing gig outside a university environment. It was a pretty big deal for me. When you leave school, the first thing that greets you is an immense gaping maw of, “WHAT DO I DO NOW?!”. Having the opportunity to write for a willing group was immeasurably valuable for my craft and creative momentum. For that, I owe them a great debt of gratitude so when they ask me to jump, I hold my breath and launch myself into orbit.
With this piece, I really wanted to honour the choir’s legacy of championing social justice causes while also making something the group would enjoy singing (Easy, right?). Past concerts have highlighted a litany of causes such as the plight of First Nations people, the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the “It Gets Better” campaign.
Fierce Green is a sort of desperate response to human caused climate change. While I’m mostly buoyed by the incremental steps many of us take to reduce our ecological footprints I’m also incredibly frustrated, and sometimes embittered, by resistance to the most innocuous positive developments and jaw-dropping denial of a massive body of scientific evidence. I was especially hit hard by the recent American election; here we have one of the world’s largest industrial power houses now talking about bringing back coal, dismantling the EPA, and rolling back limits on vehicle emissions. It’s painful to watch.
Setting the scene is a poem by a relatively obscure Victorian poet (The place – not the time period!) named Denise Cammiade called, Vegetative Seasons:
Plants chisel skyward
lean shoots weave through soil, grasp air
Vein this new drug, sun.
Corn dreams tall. Orchard
scents baste the leafy noon.
Grass shears marimba.
Asters sprawl mauvely.
The cabbage crouch like broody
hens. Rain staples down.
Brittle stalks rehearse
a subtle sky. Whistle tunes
sieve the sucked year.
While I don’t necessarily think Denise had climate change in mind when she wrote this poem, there’s a two-faced quality to it that’s somehow embedded with echoes of it. It’s as lush and pastoral as a Beethoven pastoral scene, but it’s also parched and desperate in a way that makes the piece feel more part of my era than the old master’s.
Friday, May 26th – 8pm @ Peace Mennonite Church, Richmond
Saturday, May 27th – 8pm @ St James Anglican Church, Vancouver