To the Children of War
Deon Nielsen Price: To the Children of War Metro Chamber Orchestra, Phil Nuzzo, director, Brooklyn Playhouse, NYC, April 1, 2017
JEANNIE GAYLE POOL
In a program titled “To the Children of War,” the world premiere of Deon Nielsen Price’s orchestrated song cycle of the same name was featured on April 1, 2017, with soprano Victoria Rodriguez and the Metro Chamber Orchestra, Phil Nuzzo, artistic director, at the Brooklyn Playhouse in New York City. Price herself performed the piano part, often playing the strings inside the piano to create poignant colors. The songs, based on poetry by Maya Angelou, with her gracious permission, began innocently with “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” but immediately descended to the depths of despair in “We Saw Beyond Our Seeming” and “Tears.” “Alone” described the frustrated plight of those who escaped from the terror. Compassion and hope began to emerge in the cantabile “Give Me Your Hand.” The final song, “Ships?” described the determined resolve of these young refugees to live their lives to full productivity.
Interspersed between the six songs were recitatives based on the tragic stories of teenagers who had fled from Central America and Southeast Asia in the 1980s, as reported in the Los Angeles Times in July 1988. Price was deeply moved by their desire to help bring peace to their war-torn countries when she personally heard several discussions by the youths themselves through their organization called Children of War. At the time, Price had also been reading and selecting poetry by Maya Angelou. When asked to prepare a song cycle on short notice for the National Association of Composers, she readily combined the two sources to compose the cycle To the Children of War for voice and piano. Tenor Darryl Taylor and Price performed the first version and recorded it in 1990 on SunRays (Cambria Master Recordings CD1056).
In keeping with the theme of the concert, the other works on this intense and moving program were Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s ground breaking tale of decadence and despair, the Mahogonny Songspiel, Maurice Ravel’s Kaddisch, and Arnold Schoenberg’s arrangement of Alexander Zemlinsky’s setting of the 23rd Psalm.