Letters to the Future (I)

March 19, 2006

Letters to the Future poster

Following the success of “Hidden Legacies,” I received a commission in 1993 for a work for the Windy City Gay Chorus, conducted at that time by founding director, Richard Garrin. Richard’s energy as a conductor was high: he created tremendous momentum, thrilling phrasing, and a very sexy singing sound in his 60 voice male chorus.

Their interest in the commission was addressing the future of gays and lesbians.

My response was to propose approaching eight prominent gay and lesbian living poets, and ask that they contribute a poem, or suggest a yet unpublished one that would be appropriate for this project. The chorus approved the proposal and off I went.

What was different about this project is that I didn’t want to collaborate only one lyricist. I wanted the freedom of picking my own texts from a variety of poets and a variety of points of view, which seemed appropriate for this project.

The poems and poets appear below:

1. Song of God Biology (James Merrill)
2. Symmetrical Companion (May Swenson)
3. Distressed (Thom Gunn)
4. Spring Spell (Francisco X Alarcon)
5. the last song (bell hooks)
6. Years from Now (J. D. McClatchy)
7. Now and Forever (Allen Ginsberg)
8. Something in Mind (Adrienne Rich)

The process of composing this piece was tremendously stimulating, and this is one of my favorite pieces. Garrin wanted a similar orchestration to “Hidden Legacies” so I scored it for men’s chorus, soloists, bass, 3 synthesizers, and drums. (I got to play bass.)

I will serialize the story of writing this piece and share the poetry used for this cantata, most of which has been published since, some will appear here for the first time. I will attach a performance of each movement with each installation for your entertainment.

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