A Blessing of Cranes

Program Notes:

Commissioned by the American Choral Directors Women’s Choir Commissioning Consortium

Conductor Notes:

SSAA and piano

This is a powerful and lyrical work that, at over 7 minutes, can be a centrepiece for a concert. A joy to play, conduct, and sing. There are many fine performances on YouTube. Highly recommended.

Composer / Arranger Notes:

In August 1945, the force of the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima, Japan, blew two-year old Sadako Sasaki out the window. She survived, but by age 12 had begun to show signs of leukemia, caused by radiation from the blast. Her friend Chizuko visited her in the hospital and brought a gold piece of paper which she had folded into a paper crane, using the ancient Japanese art form of origami. A Japanese legend promises a wish to the person who folds a thousand cranes, so Sadako set to work, saying “I will write peace on your wings, and you will fly all over the world.” She folded over 1,300 cranes in the hope of healing her cancer, and healing the world from war. Sadako died later that year, but her statue stands today, holding an origami crane – now a worldwide symbol of peace – at the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima, which receives colorful “Senbazuru” (a thousand cranes tied together) from people all over the world. I’ve wanted to write music about this story for so long, and when I realized there would be about 1,000 singers as part of this special commission, I wondered, could I ask each singer to fold a paper crane? Perhaps together we could advance our wish for peace. What if each person could “fold” a paper crane musically, just by singing? I started experimenting with the paper, creasing and folding – trying to figure out how to render this beautiful, meditative, and geometric activity into sound. I mapped each fold to a note on the staff, and thus slowly transformed the folding process from physical to musical. With my cranes and sketches in tow, I went to my friend Michael Dennis Browne, poet and librettist, to ask if this idea inspired him too, and I’m so grateful that it did. He wrote a beautiful poem for this project – a quiet, geometric, hopeful and personal poem – and I’ve attempted to craft the music with as much elegance and thoughtfulness. At the end of this score is a pattern for you to cut out and fold into your own origami crane. I hope that you enjoy the process of transforming this flat square into a symbol of hope, and of transforming this silent score into sound.

References:

This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.

Collections:

Concerts:

Text: Michael Dennis Browne

How do we love you more than to shape you?
Turning so firmly in the shadows of fingers.
How do we love you more than to let you go?

Waves of earth’s oceans, waves of our willing hands
Creasing and folding, creasing and folding, unfolding.
How do we love you more than to shape you?

Never a thought of thinking, only this weaving,
These thousands of wings we make to carry our longing;
How do we love you more than to let you go?

No trembling before the task, simply this sweetness,
Freedom from fear, receiving this heartbeat, receiving.
How do we love you more than to shape you?

Blossoms that shimmer and gather about their branches,
Returning to earth her peace, her original blessing;
How do we love you more than to let you go?

Deeper than dream to say, even than singing,
Releasing the wishes we have, the asking for healing;
How do we ever love you more than to shape you?
How do we love you more than to let you go?