I. On March 16, 2003, Near the southeast border of Gaza, Evergreen College senior Rachel Corrie was run over by an Israeli Army bulldozer, and killed. Four days later the United States invaded Iraq.
Soon after the war started, I decided that I would write an anti-war musical composition, centered around Corrie. After sharing my proposed lyrics with her family, I got their permission to go ahead. Six months later, The Skies Are Weeping was complete, and we were beginning to rehearse the work for soprano, small chorus and percussion ensemble with the University of Alaska Anchorage’s percussion group.
In the lead-up up to a public meeting about the work’s perceived anti-Israeli content, I became the subject of an incredibly intense on-line attack, peaking on April 7th through 10th, 2004, at hundreds of hostile e-mails per hour. By the time the meeting was held, co-hosted by an Anchorage rabbi, I had decided that I couldn’t expose the kids in the percussion group or choir to the same vituperation and beyond that I was experiencing and being threatened with.
As word got out, 24 groups or individuals worldwide asked for copies of the score (the music the conductor uses) and MP-3 MIDI audio. I sent the material out, and got 17 responses. I followed through on the few with promise. First choice was a group in Brooklyn, who eventually decided to drop the project. Funding from generous donors might suffer, it was thought. A small group in Toronto was seriously interested, but I was leery of their agenda, and backed away.
Eventually, I became convinced by London-based soprano and peace activist, Deborah Fink, to go with a London production sponsored mostly by Jews for Justice for Palestinians, as a benefit for Israeli and Palestinian progressive groups.
We were able to present The Skies Are Weeping on November 1, 2005, as part of a concert featuring other works about the conflict in Palestine.
I flew from Alaska to the UK to help with rehearsals, and my wife came over and joined me a few days before the performance. Our hosts were so outgoing, energetic and positive about the concert project.
Craig and Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s parents were there, along with Jocelyn Hurndall. She is the mother of Tom Hurndall, another peace activist killed by the IDF in Gaza that spring. Jocelyn and I held hands as the group played the memorial dance I had written for her young son.
We wanted to create a professional recording of the concert, perhaps to make a fundraising CD. But the singers’ union needed a lot of money if they were to allow us to do that. We preferred to use that money on the charities the concert supported.
So I recorded The Skies Are Weeping with a portable digital recorder that I set on the concrete floor beneath my front row seat. Right below the choir.
Wednesday and Thursday I created a Youtube of The Skies Are Weeping’s London audio recording. It includes all the lyrics, and occasional photographic comments on the content of the music. Read the rest of this entry →