At the Heart of Our Stillness
- Composer: Kathleen Allan
- Canadian Work: Yes
Commissioned by the 2016 Women’s Choir Commissioning Consortium of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), Iris S. Levine, National Repertoire and Standards Chair for Women’s Choirs. SSA and piano. A very mysterious poem is set evocatively. Pitches and rhythms are quite challenging, but logical, gratifying, and memorable. The piano part is equally challenging. I wish we had had time in 2017 to record this piece. Being an ACDA Commissioning Consortium piece, there are probably other performances on YouTube.
Composer / Arranger Notes:
The poet of the text for “At the heart of our stillness” is Joy Kogawa, a phenomenal Japanese-Canadian writer. When she was six years old during World War II, her family was sent to an internment camp, an experience which she has written vividly about throughout her career. Her poem, Stations of Angels, provides the text for this piece. I was drawn to the imagery of darkness and light, of simultaneous inside and out, and the powerful recollection of a faraway mother singing. About the poem, Joy says:
“The universe of flame contains both the devouring and unholy fires of the holocaust and the holy and healing light that guides us. Within these flames are the stations of angels – to bring us solace and their presence as they yearn for us in our suffering, and to attend us as we watch for them and wait.
Our angels assist us in our own longings, unnamed until we name them as rage and vengeance, or forgiveness and compassion, or combinations of either.
We are to plunge, to leap into the darkness that we fear, trusting in a light that cannot be blown out.
In that stillness, do we not hear the echoes of love singing?”
This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.
Stations of Angels by Joy Kogawa
Within the universe of flame in the time between watching and waiting
are the fire creatures
holy and unholy
hungry for those
many coloured parts of us which have no names.
Blow out the candle, friends quickly, and let us
close our eyes
while the devouring
is at hand.
At the heart of our stillness, in peaceable flames we shall hear
shall we not hear
our mothers singing.