I have posted my cantata, The Skies Are Weeping, here before. It is my 2003-2004 tribute to the memory of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, killed by Israeli thugs in Gaza, during the run-up to the opening of the Iraq invasion, when the world was distracted elsewhere, and Brits and Americans could be murdered callously and with impunity.
Rachel was murdered 11 years ago Sunday. Remember her.
Next Saturday, March 16th, will mark the tenth anniversary of the death in Gaza, of Rachel Corrie. Rachel, then a senior at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, had gone to Gaza at the beginning of 2003, to fulfill aspects of her senior thesis. While there, she became active in efforts by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), to protect Palestinians from outrages of the Israeli occupation forces.
She was killed by an Israeli Army D-9 armored bulldozer, with two people aboard in the cockpit, one there to drive, the other, to observe. During the same time period, Israeli forces in Gaza shot and mortally wounded Tom Hurndall, a British photographer, also working with the ISM (April 11th), and mutilated Brian Avery (April 5th), another American ISM activist, in Jenin in the West Bank. This time period coincided with the American invasion of Iraq – March 19th to May 1st.
A notable aspect of Rachel Corrie’s legacy is the sheer volume of art her life and sacrifice evoked. Between March 19th 2003 and April 24th 2004, I collected over 160 poems written in the young woman’s honor, and posted on the web, in the English language. I used two of them in my 2003-2004 cantata, The Skies Are Weeping. California composer, Paul Crabtree composed another cantata about Corrie, American Persephone.
Corrie’s journals and emails from Gaza became the basis of the most widely viewed and highly regarded work of art about Corrie, My Name is Rachel Corrie. Written by Katharine Viner and Alan Rickman, the play premiered in London on April 5, 2005, in a highly evocative solo performance by actress Megan Dodds. Premiered in a very small theatre, it was revived in the 2005 fall London theatre season in a larger venue, and proceeded to win many awards.
The first attempt to produce My Name is Rachel Corrie in the USA, at the New York Theatre Workshop resulted in a cancellation, when the NYTW caved to threats from militant Zionist expansionists. (Incidentally – the article about the cancellation in The Nation, by writer Philip Weiss, and the pushback that writer got in the publishing world for having written so sympathetically about Corrie, and critically about the NYTW, was one of the epiphanies Weiss underwent that led him into new directions, now expressed most fully at his web site, Mondoweiss).
The play was derived from Corrie’s written material with cooperation of the slain activist’s family. Some of Corrie’s writings had been posted on the web soon after her death. Some soon became the basis of poems or lyrics. For instance, the concluding lyric in The Skies are Weeping is my editing (with the Corrie family’s approval) of one of her last emails home: Read the rest of this entry →
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 Weepingon 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 →
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