MAY 2020: Track of the Month
You are listening to the Boston Children's Chorus perform the world premiere of “The Song About the Child," a TMF LiberArte commission by Sivan Eldar. This piece received its Prague Spring International Festival premiere on May 20, 2018. The Martinú Voices performed.
Sivan Eldar is a widely acclaimed Israeli-born composer. Her TMF LiberArte commission, "Mother Tongue / The Song About the Child" unites TMF-commissioned poems about freedom by Agi Mishol, a Jewish Israeli poet whose parents survived the Holocaust, and Salman Masalha, an Arab-Israeli poet living in Jerusalem.
Ms. Eldar describes her commission:
"When Mark shared with me some of the poems he had recently commissioned, I fell in love with Agi Mishol's 'Mother Tongue.' A few weeks later, Mark sent me Salman Masalha's 'The Song About the Child,' and we both thought that the two would make a powerful and timely pair. Both poems tell the story of birth, of loss, and of finding hope. One from the perspective of a Jewish Israeli poet (born in Hungary to Holocaust survivors), and the other from the perspective of an Arab Israeli poet (born in the Arab town of Al-Maghar and living Jerusalem).
In my settings I first of all wanted to be true to each text. 'The Song About the Child' has beautiful rhymes and double rhymes in Hebrew. It is an anthem of sorts, but also a tragic lullaby. When I created the relationship between the soloist (singing in Hebrew) and the choir (singing in English) I wanted to highlight these two qualities.
'Mother Tongue,' on the other hand, is a narrative poem where each stanza paints a different image. A theme that ties all the stanzas together is the discovery of words - from vowels to letters to words to poetry. I decided to echo that process musically - moving from breath to pitched sounds to harmony. The birth of music. The words of the narrator, as in the poem, tie it all together.
I imagine the two settings as two movements: 'Mother Tongue' followed by 'The Song About the Child.' Harmonically, they transition into one another. The soloist also plays an important role in connecting them. When she finally begins to sing the text in the second movement, the choir follows, creating a kind of question and answer between the singular and plural experience, between vowels and words, and finally between different languages."