Welcome to The Hudson-Mohawk Chorale’s Spring Concert! We are glad that you are here to join in the celebration of honoring the Earth through beautiful and thoughtful music.
Today’s concert grew out of the idea of commemorating the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, which fell close to our performance date. First celebrated in 1970 in the U.S. to honor the earth and the concept of peace, this secular holiday now has more than 193 countries participating in various events on that day. Finding music to praise the beauty of this planet we inhabit was not difficult as poets and composers alike find inspiration through nature. But there is more to be considered as we travel through time and space. Not only is our environment lovely, it is also fragile, and we humans need to protect it. The words from “The Web of Life: Litanies For the Earth” remind us of the importance of being aware of the condition of our home. Al Fedak’s musical settings and choice of readings emphasize that awareness.
Joining us for a second time, the Saratoga Children’s Chorus will sing songs about peace, our moon, and the joy of singing and enjoying the things of earth. Their presence is also a reminder of why we adults must do all that we can to preserve and watch over our “Big Blue Marble”.
“Teach your children what we have taught our children,
That the earth is our mother.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of earth.
This we know.”
The basic principle underlying The Web of Life: Litanies for the Earth is what the radical Christian theologian Matthew Fox calls “Creation Spirituality.” Creation Spirituality takes as its starting point not the sinfulness of human nature, but the essential goodness of all of creation. Its emphasis is on the inherent beauty and wisdom of the cosmos, and on God’s supreme act of creative love in calling it into being and sustaining it. We humans are beloved creatures, made by the Creator to live in harmony with the rest of creation, which is also beloved. Living out this theology in practice involves treating all of creation with reverence, holding all life as sacred, valuing beauty and creativity, and actively working for peace, harmony, and justice. It can be argued that embracing this approach to life may be our last, best hope for the future of humanity and of the ecosystem we inhabit.
Nearly all the world’s religions include an element of mystical Creation Spirituality. This tradition is strong, of course, in Native American spirituality, and in various non-western faiths, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and the native religions of Africa and Australia. But there is also a venerable strand of creation-based mysticism in both Judaism and Christianity, extending from the early church and the ancient Kabbalists, through the medieval Rhineland mystics, to the present day. The texts for The Web of Life were selected to reflect this broad diversity and to be inclusive in as many ways as possible. Thus, represented in the texts are sources as varied as the Old Testament book of psalms, Native American prayers, ancient Sanskrit writings, African tribal poetry, Christian mystics, two nineteenth-century men of letters, three modern women (including a radical feminist), the UN Environmental Sabbath Program, and the Christian Eucharistic liturgy.
The texts are so arranged as to present a coherent (if not exactly linear) message. They celebrate the beauty of creation, affirm the interconnectedness of all things, acknowledge our abuse of creation and of each other, recognize the reality of our own mortality, and offer a vision of hope and of promise for the future.
The style and structure of the musical materials employed in the work were suggested by the poetry itself. Since several of the texts are in the form of litanies (as suggested in the title), the music is sometimes quite repetitive and minimalist in character. But there is also an early American hymn tune, a German Lutheran chorale, and a Taizé-style ostinato chant. Beyond providing variety, the eclectic range of musical sources and styles further serves to illustrate, I hope, the all-encompassing nature of the work’s overarching theme.
-Alfred V. Fedak, composer