NEC Symphonic Choir and Chamber Singers: Great Music in a Great Space - Sanctuary

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

Tonight's program is focused on the inter- and intrapersonal impacts of sanctuary, and the definition of the word as both a noun and an adjective.  The two selected works, both by Pulitzer Prize winning composers, are Caroline Shaw's To the Hands and John Corigliano's Fern Hill.  
The concert opens with Fern Hill, a setting of the poem by Dylan Thomas, which looks back with bittersweet longing at the innocence and freedom of his childhood summers on a Welsh farm, a time before life had stepped in and taught the concepts of mortality, change, and loss.  To the Hands takes texts from the Old Testament, Emma Lazarus' "The New Colossus", and current statistics of the displaced persons around the world today.  The search for safety, the pain of leaving one's homeland, and the hope for sanctuary have been constants in human history-and perhaps never so widespread as in the world we live in today.
        Erica J. Washburn conducts both ensembles.

This is an in-person event with a public live stream


  • NEC Symphonic Choir and NEC Chamber Singers
  1. John Corigliano | Fern Hill (1961)


    Program note

    I first encountered Dylan Thomas’ work in 1959, my last undergraduate year at Columbia College. It was a revelation. Both the sound and structures of Thomas’s words were astonishingly musical. Not by accident, either: “What the words meant was of secondary importance; what matters was the sound of them...these words were as the notes of bells, the sounds of musical instruments," he wrote in his Poetic Manifesto of 1951. I was irresistibly drawn to translate his music into mine.
         One poem captivated me: Fern Hill, about the poet’s “young and easy" summers at his family’s farm of the same name. I wanted to write this work as a gift for my high-school music teacher, Mrs. Bella Tillis, who first encouraged my musical ambitions. She introduced Fern Hill with piano accompanying her (and, once, my) school choir.
         Fern Hill is a blithe poem, yet touched by darkness; time finally holds the poet “green and dying," but the poem itself, formally just an ABA song extended into a wide arch, sings joyously of youth and its keen perceptions. I set it for mezzo-soprano solo, chorus, and orchestra, aiming to match the forthright lyricism of the text. (The direction “with simplicity" is everywhere in the printed score.)

    – John Corigliano

    • NEC Symphonic Choir
    • Nancy Schoen, mezzo-soprano
    • Subin Oh, flute
    • Kelley Osterberg, oboe
    • Tyler Bourque, clarinet
    • Rachel Brake, French horn
    • Jordan Hadrill, Peixuan Wu, Jiaxin Lin, violin 1
    • Caroline Smoak, Emily Lin, violin 2
    • Eunha Kwon, Joy Hsieh, viola
    • Zachary Keum, Jung ah Lee, Michelle Jung, cello
    • Yizhen Wang, double bass
    • Jingtong Zhang, harp

  3. Caroline Shaw | To the Hands (2016)

    In medio / in the midst
    Her beacon-hand beckons
    ever ever ever
    Litany of the Displaced
    i will hold you

    Program note

    The Crossing commissionedTo the Handsas a response toAd manusfrom Dieterich Buxtehude’s 17th century masterpiece,Membra Jesu Nostri. It is a part of the Seven Responses project and was performed by members ofThe Crossing, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and the early music ensemble Quicksilver, alongside the complete Buxtehude and new works by six other composers.

    To the Handsbegins inside the 17th century sound of Buxtehude. It expands and colors and breaks this language, as the piece’s core considerations, of the suffering of those around the world seeking refuge, and of our role and responsibility in these global and local crises, gradually come into focus.
         The prelude turns the tune ofAd manusinto a wordless plainchant melody, punctured later by the strings’ introduction of an unsettling pattern.The second movement fragments Buxtehude’schoral setting of the central question,“quid sunt plagae istae in medio manuum tuarum,”or “what are these wounds in the midst of your hands.” It settles finally on an inversion of the question, so that we reflect, “What are these wounds in the midst of our hands?” We notice what may have been done to us, but we also question what we have done and what our role has been in these wounds we see before us.
         The text that follows in the third movement is a riffon Emma Lazarus’ sonnetThe New Colossus, famous for its engraving at the base of the Statue of Liberty.The poem’s lines “Give me your tired, your poor,/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and its reference to the statue’s “beacon-hand” present a very different image of a hand — one that is open, beckoning, and strong. No wounds are to be found there — only comfort for those caught in a dangerous and complex environment. While third movement operates in broad strokes from a distance, the fourth zooms in on the map so far that we see the intimate scene of an old woman in her home, maybe setting the table for dinner alone. Who is she, where has she been, whose lives has she left?This simple image melts into a meditation on the wordsin cavernafrom the Song of Solomon, found in Buxtehude’s fourth section,Ad latus.
         In thefifth movement the harmony is passed around from one string instrument to another, overlapping only briefly, while numericalfigures are spoken by the choir.These are globalfigures of internally displaced persons, by country, sourced from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) data reported in May 2015 (accessed on 20/03/2016 at www.internal Sometimes data is the cruelest and most honest poetry.
         The sixth andfinal movement unfolds the wordsin cavernainto the tumbling and comforting promise of “ever ever” — “ever ever will I hold you, ever ever will I enfold you”.They could be the words of Christ, or of a parent or friend or lover, or even of a nation.
    - Caroline Shaw

    • NEC Chamber Singers
    • Caroline Smoak, Jordan Hadrill, violin
    • Peter Jablokow, viola
    • Kei Otake, cello
    • Yizhen Wang, double bass

    NEC Symphonic Choir / NEC Chamber Singers

    Symphonic Choir
    Aislin Alancheril
    Genie Alvarado
    August Baik
    * Ilan Balzac
    Emelia Boydstun
    Peter Butler
    Gia Cellucci
    ‡ Coco Chapman
    Baian Chen
    Chen Chen
    Xingyan Chen
    Daniel Chen Wang
    Su Cong
    Ivy Evers
    Timothy Goliger
    ‡ Bailee Green
    Jialin Han
    Cameron Hayden
    Jinyu He
    ‡ Jackie Hu
    Jane Ai Jian
    ‡ Yoomin Kang
    Ian Yoo Kim
    Song Hyeon Kim
    Molly Knight
    Jinyoung Kweon
    Yu Lei
    Lucci Zimeng Li
    Matthew Li
    Shawn Xiangyun Lian
    Kira Lim

    Hao Wei Lin
    Nine Lin
    Angelina Pin-Hsin Lin

    * Sally Millar
    Hannah Miller
    Yechan Min
    Samuel Mincarelli
    Yowon Nam
    Grace Navarro
    Daniela Pyne
    Quinn Rosenberg
    Nancy Schoen
    Samuel Schwartz
    Yide Shi
    * Tamir Shimshoni
    Yunsun Shin
    Eunchae Song

    ‡ Maggie Storm
    Minhyuk Suh
    Haolun Alan Sun
    ‡ Matthew Tirona
    ‡ Calvin Isaac Wamser

    Haowen Wang
    Qizhen Steven Wang
    Tianyou Wang
    Yinuo Wang
    Yixiang Wang
    Zhaoyuan Wang
    ‡ McLain Weaver
    Lena Ying Ting Wong

    Shanshan Xie
    Chenran Yang
    ShengQiao Ye
    *Aimee Yermish
    ‡ Henri Youmans
    Honghao Howard Zheng
    * Maggie Zheng
        *community member
        ‡Corigliano small chorus

    Chamber Singers
    Pitiki Aliakai
    Ashley Chen
    Anjulie Djearam
    Haijie Du
    Timothy Goliger
    Bailee Green
    Jackie Hu
    Siyu Leng
    Corinne Luebke-Brown
    Colin Miller
    Yuanwei Ni
    Nicholas Ottersberg Enriquez
    Anna Poltronieri Tang
    Rafe Schaberg
    Rachel Solyn

    Maggie Storm
    Chloe Thum
    Valentine Umeh
    Calvin Isaac Wamser
    Ying Ting Lena Wong
    Yumeng Xing
    Henri Youmans
    Honghao Howard Zheng