Starting Now

  • Composer: Jocelyn Hagen 
  • Publisher:
  • Canadian Work: No
  • Duration: 4:40

Program Notes:

Joyce Sidman is a Newbery Medal award-winning author, best known for her works for children, of which Starting Now is one such poem. According to the publisher: “ What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings is a collection of poems to provide comfort, courage, and humor at difficult or daunting moments in life. It conjures forth laments, spells, invocations, chants, blessings, promises, songs, and charms. Here are pleas on how to repair a friendship, wishes to transform one’s life or to slow down time, charms to face the shame of a disapproving crowd, invocations to ask for forgiveness, to understand the mysteries of happiness, and to bravely face a dark and different world. These words help us remember or grieve; they bolster courage and guard against evil; they help us celebrate and give thanks.”

Conductor Notes:

Jocelyn is well-known American composer and frequent writer for choir. Her “Moon Goddess” is frequently performed in the United States and Canada. “Starting Now” came to us through the Celebrating Women Composers project, in this case an open call for existing works with piano, the winner of which would be performed in an Elektra concert. While it was not originally to be part of the Fire Flowers concert, it fit the theme so beautifully, I made room for it.

It strikes me that this is a very grown-up poem for children, but timely at this moment, between the disconnect between many Americans and their political representatives, the MeToo movement, and the gun conversations. Like “My People are Rising” by Carol Barnett, it is hopeful and positive in the face of extreme challenges, and it talks about individuals taking action after a long time of struggle and uncertainty.

Scored for SSAA choir and piano, this work is broad and sweeping. Diction sits perfectly in this tessitura, bringing the strength of the text forward, supported by a robust piano part. Most of the choral writing is homophonic, with the notable exception of a middle section in which each voice finds its rhythms and vies for our attention.


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



Poem by Joyce Sidman (1956-) from What the Heart Knows, H MH Books for Young Readers (Oct. 8 2013)

It is time for us to wake:
We who stumble through the day With our gripes and complaints,
Who drift numbly
Through thronging halls and streets- You and I,
Who rant about injustice,
Who see all that is wrong in this world But believe we are shackled
And powerless.
It is time to look into
Each other’s faces,
We who glide along the surface, Time to dive down
And feel the currents
Of each other’s lives.
Time to speak until the air
Holds all of our voices.
Time to weave for each other
A garment of brightness.
Open your eyes.
Feel your strength.
Bless the past.
Greet the future.
Join hands.
Right here.