Voyage Though Death to Life Upon These Shores
jackson_slave_ship_2.jpg

7 pm Friday, February 25th, 2022

St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, San Diego

with the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir of San Diego

Pre-concert lecture by Dr. Geoffrey West

 

5 pm Thursday, March 3rd, 2022

Terrace Theater, Long Beach

American Choral Directors Association Regional Conference: Lift EVERY Voice and Sing

Content warning: This piece graphically depicts atrocities and uses sexist and racist language, including the n-word, as written in Robert Hayden’s poem “Middle Passage” and as set by composer Anthony Davis.

 

PROGRAM

Welcome

Voyage Through Death to Life Upon These Shores*

Becca Ung, Soprano; Elly Roseberry, Alto; Adam Davis, Bass; Colin Barkley, Daniel Moyer, Tenors

Composed by Anthony Davis

SACRA/PROFANA

Intermission

In keeping with the tradition of the Spirituals and Gospel Music, selections will be announced from the stage

Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir of San Diego

Worship the Lord 

Composed by Edwin Hawkins

Combined Groups

*Only this work will be performed as part of the American Choral Directors Association Conference

PERFORMERS & LEADERSHIP

 

SOPRANOS

Courtney Minor

Jessica Trost

Rebecca Ung

Libby Weber

ALTOS

Rachelle Butler

Lanett Grant

Lara Korneychuk

Elly Roseberry

Michael Sakell

TENORS

Colin Barkley

Aaron Burgett

Daniel Moyer

Kurt Wong

BASSES

R. Aaron Bullard

Adam Davis

Jonathan Gonzales

Thomas Lokensgard

Jonathan Nussman

STAFF

Juan Carlos Acosta, Artistic Director

Aaron Burgett, Assistant Conductor

Adam Ferrara, Collaborative Pianist

Becca Ung, Chorus Manager

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Karl Bunker, President

Tori Haberman, Secretary

Eric Swanson, Treasurer

Leslie Conner

Linda Kewin

Mirabelle Kirkpatrick

Glenda McKibben

Krishan Oberoi

SACRA/PROFANA

 

Founded in 2009 by Krishan Oberoi, SACRA/PROFANA quickly gained acclaim as “San Diego’s go-to choral ensemble” for their collaborations with the region’s top performing arts groups including the San Diego Symphony, the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir of San Diego, the L.A. Choral Lab, Mainly Mozart, Malashock Dance, La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Opera, Bodhi Tree Concerts, and San Diego Dance Theater, among many others. Notably, the group gave the red carpet world premiere live performance of Michael Giacchino’s score for Star Trek: Beyond with the San Diego Symphony at San Diego Comic-Con in 2016, as well as Alan Menken’s and Stephen Schwartz’s stage adaptation of Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2014.

 

Specialists in the work of living composers, SACRA/PROFANA have given world, national, and regional premieres by contemporary luminaries such as David Lang, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Shawn Kirchner, Saunder Choi, Brandon Waddles, Anthony Davis, Amy Gordon, Stephen Feigenbaum, Jason Carl Rosenberg, Stephen Sturk and many others. They have also embraced the challenging choral masterpieces of twentieth century icons Arnold Schoenberg, György Ligeti, Dominick Argento and Ernst Krenek.


The group released their first full length album Elegies & Ecstasies in 2012, followed by the world premiere recording of when we were children by David Lang in 2014. Since then, the group has produced numerous recordings and videos, most notably their socially distant pandemic cover of “Cars” by Gary Numan. SACRA/PROFANA recently released A Longing for Christmas with Grammy award winning producer Peter Rutenberg.

JUAN CARLOS ACOSTA, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Juan Carlos Acosta was appointed Associate Artistic Director and principal conductor of SACRA/PROFANA in 2015, and named Artistic Director in 2018. Under his direction, the group has continued its artistic excellence and commitment to contemporary choral music, while diversifying its repertoire, representation and engaging in socially relevant issues. 

 

Juan Carlos has received critical praise for his interpretations, as well his refinement of the choral sound, with Ken Herman (San Diego Story) writing “The warm, superbly balanced sonority of Sacra/Profana persuasively communicated this work’s emotional depth. Kudos to Acosta for cultivating such a well-balanced, finely tuned ensemble sound that still retains the color and vitality we cherish in a great singer.”

 

In 2018 Juan Carlos conducted San Diego Opera’s collaborative performance of All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 for three sold out audiences and live broadcast on KPBS. The performances were hailed as “masterfully conducted” (San Diego Union-Tribune) and were awarded the 2018 Craig Noel Special Event award by the San Diego Theater Critics Circle.

 

Over a career that is approaching twenty years, Juan Carlos has been active nationally, regionally, and locally as speaker, presenter, and clinician for such groups as Choristers Guild, the American Guild of Organists, the San Diego Arts Mega Conference, and the California and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). Together with composer Brandon Waddles, Juan Carlos and SACRA/PROFANA were awarded the inaugural Diverse Voices Collaborative Grant by the ACDA for a work based on the life and work of activist James Baldwin for double choir and jazz trio. 

 

In addition to his work with SACRA/PROFANA, Juan Carlos Acosta also serves as the Director of Worship at the Village Community Presbyterian Church, where he directs the Chancel Choir, Youth Choir, Choral Scholars, and the Village Community Chorale. He has also conducted the Concert Choir and Choral Scholars of the University of San Diego, the Cuyamaca College Choir, and served as choral director for the Chula Vista School for the Creative and Performing Arts. He holds a Bachelor of Music Education, and a Masters of Music in Choral Conducting from San Diego State University. Juan Carlos has done additional study with Charles Bruffy at the Westminster Conducting Institute, and Jon Washburn with the Vancouver Chamber Choir.

MARTIN LURTHER KING JR. COMMUNITY CHOIR OF SAN DIEGO
KEN ANDERSON, DIRECTOR

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Choir San Diego (MLKCCSD) is a non-profit charitable organization. The Choir’s purpose is to raise funds through a series of concerts for educational grants that we distribute to aspiring college-bound high school majors in Visual and Performing Arts from the San Diego County area.

The repertoire of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Choir San Diego is primarily gospel, both traditional and contemporary.  Unlike traditional gospel choirs, we include a part for bass and baritone.  The choir is also proficient in Negro spirituals, anthems, and oratorios.  With the exception of classical pieces and some Negro spiritual arrangements, the music is taught by rote, after the oral tradition from which the music comes.  Participants are non-auditioned, needing only to be able to sing in tune.  Some vocal training is provided and some coaching for those who don’t read music.

ANTHONY DAVIS, COMPOSER

Anthony Davis is widely regarded as one of the most important composers of our time and has been called “the dean of African American Opera Composers” (Michael Cooper, The New York Times) and “A National Treasure” (Opera News). His compositional output for stage and concert hall have often dealt directly with issues of racism and social justice, such as X: The Life and Times of Malcom X, Amistad (both an opera and symphonic work), and Wakonda’s Dream. In 2020 Anthony Davis received a Pulitzer Prize for Music for his opera The Central Park Five which had its premiere with the Long Beach Opera Company in June of 2019. Other works often explore political and national trauma including SHIMMER a music theater work about the McCarthy Era, and Restless Morning an oratorio that addresses the 911 tragedy. 

 

A native of Paterson, New Jersey and graduate of Yale University, Mr. Davis is currently a professor of music at the University of California, San Diego. In addition to his acclaim as a composer, Anthony Davis is a highly regarded and sought after jazz pianist. He is known for his free-jazz solos, and his role as both bandleader and sideman, with over forty commercial releases in jazz and classical idioms.

ROBERT HAYDEN,  POET

Robert Hayden was born in the Paradise Valley neighborhood of Detroit in 1913 and earned degrees from Detroit City College (later Wayne State University) and the University of Michigan, where he later became the first Black faculty member in the English Department. Hayden was also the first African American to be appointed as the “Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress,” which is commonly referred to as the United States Poet Laureate. 

 

Mr. Hayden spent a considerable amount of time researching Black history, starting in the 1930s through the Federal Writers Project and continuing throughout his career. His interest and study included the story of Black people from their roots in Africa to their condition in the United States, and much of his output stems from this study. Writing for MELUS Vilma Raskin Potter remarked “The gift of Robert Hayden’s poetry, is his coherent vision of the black experience in this country as a continuing journey both communal and private.”

 

Mr. Hayden’s poem “Middle Passage,” originally published in 1945 and revised in 1962, depicts the transatlantic slave trade and the slave revolt on the ship La Amistad from the perspective of European participants and seeks to “contribute toward an understanding of what our [African-American] past had really been like.” The epic text draws from historical resources and the Western literary tradition to confront the horror of chattel slavery and its fundamental place American history. 

 

Mr. Hayden’s output is by no means limited to the Black experience, and many of his most famous poems deal with nature and personal experience. Among the many awards Robert Hayden received during his lifetime were honorary degrees from Fisk and Brown Universities, and an Academy of American Poets Fellowship.

 

PROGRAM NOTES

“In an era in which Critical Race Theory is coming under attack, and racism is banned from being taught in schools, the presentation of this work can be seen as an act of defiance.” Anthony Davis recently said of Voyage Through Death to Life Upon These Shores. Originally commissioned by a consortium of America’s top professional choirs including Chanticleer, the Dale Warland Singers, and Musica Sacra in 1991, this challenging work has only been performed by a handful of choirs since. SACRA/PROFANA is the first choir to return to the piece.  

 

While this a cappella secular cantata is an exemplar of Mr. Davis’s oeuvre, its frank depiction of historical atrocities make it a departure from standard choral repertoire. In addition to the difficult subject matter, Voyage Through Death to Life Upon These Shores is set in the octatonic mode, which organizes the 12 steps of the chromatic scale into an 8-note scale of alternating whole and half-steps. The scale has no functional tonal center, and while it was commonly used in jazz improvisation, it is infrequently used in choral music. The text setting is driven by polyrhythmic speech and jazz influences. 

 

The focal point of the composition is Robert Hayden’s iconic 1945 poem “Middle Passage,” which was revised in 1962. The piece is divided into three movements according to the structure of the poem, and is intended to be performed in sequence without pause. Robert Hayden draws from multifarious sources, including the logs of slave ships, court records, and Shakespeare, to bring these historical atrocities to life. Mr. Hayden uses indentations, italics, and quotations to indicate various voices and sources, and to comment on those texts. Mr. Davis ingeniously crafts his choral setting to give voice to different lines of poetry simultaneously, often antiphonally or in hocket, to further illustrate and comment on Hayden’s text.

 

TEXT FOR THE "MIDDLE PASSAGE"

I

Jesús, Estrella, Esperanza, Mercy: 

       Sails flashing to the wind like weapons, 

       sharks following the moans the fever and the dying;   

       horror the corposant and compass rose. 

 

Middle Passage: 

               voyage through death 

                               to life upon these shores. 

 

       “10 April 1800—

       Blacks rebellious. Crew uneasy. Our linguist says   

       their moaning is a prayer for death, 

       ours and their own. Some try to starve themselves.   

       Lost three this morning leaped with crazy laughter   

       to the waiting sharks, sang as they went under.” 

 

Desire, Adventure, Tartar, Ann: 

 

       Standing to America, bringing home   

       black gold, black ivory, black seed. 

 

               Deep in the festering hold thy father lies,   

               of his bones New England pews are made,   

               those are altar lights that were his eyes. 

 

Jesus    Saviour    Pilot    Me 

Over    Life’s    Tempestuous    Sea 

 

We pray that Thou wilt grant, O Lord,   

safe passage to our vessels bringing   

heathen souls unto Thy chastening. 

 

Jesus    Saviour 

 

       “8 bells. I cannot sleep, for I am sick 

       with fear, but writing eases fear a little 

       since still my eyes can see these words take shape   

       upon the page & so I write, as one 

       would turn to exorcism. 4 days scudding, 

       but now the sea is calm again. Misfortune 

       follows in our wake like sharks (our grinning   

       tutelary gods). Which one of us 

       has killed an albatross? A plague among 

       our blacks—Ophthalmia: blindness—& we   

       have jettisoned the blind to no avail. 

       It spreads, the terrifying sickness spreads. 

       Its claws have scratched sight from the Capt.'s eyes   

       & there is blindness in the fo’c’sle 

       & we must sail 3 weeks before we come 

       to port.” 

 

               What port awaits us, Davy Jones’ 

               or home? I’ve heard of slavers drifting, drifting,   

               playthings of wind and storm and chance, their crews   

               gone blind, the jungle hatred 

               crawling up on deck. 

 

Thou    Who    Walked    On    Galilee 

 

       “Deponent further sayeth The Bella J 

       left the Guinea Coast 

       with cargo of five hundred blacks and odd   

       for the barracoons of Florida: 

 

       “That there was hardly room ’tween-decks for half   

       the sweltering cattle stowed spoon-fashion there;   

       that some went mad of thirst and tore their flesh   

       and sucked the blood: 

 

       “That Crew and Captain lusted with the comeliest   

       of the savage girls kept naked in the cabins;   

       that there was one they called The Guinea Rose   

       and they cast lots and fought to lie with her: 

 

       “That when the Bo’s’n piped all hands, the flames   

       spreading from starboard already were beyond   

       control, the negroes howling and their chains   

       entangled with the flames: 

 

       “That the burning blacks could not be reached,   

       that the Crew abandoned ship, 

       leaving their shrieking negresses behind, 

       that the Captain perished drunken with the wenches: 

 

       “Further Deponent sayeth not.” 

 

Pilot    Oh    Pilot    Me 
 

II 

 

Aye, lad, and I have seen those factories,   

Gambia, Rio Pongo, Calabar; 

have watched the artful mongos baiting traps   

of war wherein the victor and the vanquished 

 

Were caught as prizes for our barracoons.   

Have seen the nigger kings whose vanity 

and greed turned wild black hides of Fellatah,   

Mandingo, Ibo, Kru to gold for us. 

 

And there was one—King Anthracite we named him— 

fetish face beneath French parasols 

of brass and orange velvet, impudent mouth 

whose cups were carven skulls of enemies: 

 

He’d honor us with drum and feast and conjo   

and palm-oil-glistening wenches deft in love,   

and for tin crowns that shone with paste,   

red calico and German-silver trinkets 

 

Would have the drums talk war and send   

his warriors to burn the sleeping villages   

and kill the sick and old and lead the young   

in coffles to our factories. 

 

Twenty years a trader, twenty years, 

for there was wealth aplenty to be harvested   

from those black fields, and I’d be trading still   

but for the fevers melting down my bones. 
 

III 

 

Shuttles in the rocking loom of history,   

the dark ships move, the dark ships move,   

their bright ironical names 

like jests of kindness on a murderer’s mouth;   

plough through thrashing glister toward   

fata morgana’s lucent melting shore,   

weave toward New World littorals that are   

mirage and myth and actual shore. 

 

Voyage through death, 

                               voyage whose chartings are unlove. 

 

A charnel stench, effluvium of living death   

spreads outward from the hold, 

where the living and the dead, the horribly dying,   

lie interlocked, lie foul with blood and excrement. 

 

       Deep in the festering hold thy father lies,   

       the corpse of mercy rots with him,   

       rats eat love’s rotten gelid eyes. 

 

       But, oh, the living look at you 

       with human eyes whose suffering accuses you,   

       whose hatred reaches through the swill of dark   

       to strike you like a leper’s claw. 

 

       You cannot stare that hatred down 

       or chain the fear that stalks the watches 

       and breathes on you its fetid scorching breath;   

       cannot kill the deep immortal human wish,   

       the timeless will. 

 

               “But for the storm that flung up barriers   

               of wind and wave, The Amistad, señores, 

               would have reached the port of Príncipe in two,   

               three days at most; but for the storm we should   

               have been prepared for what befell.   

               Swift as the puma’s leap it came. There was   

               that interval of moonless calm filled only   

               with the water’s and the rigging’s usual sounds,   

               then sudden movement, blows and snarling cries   

               and they had fallen on us with machete   

               and marlinspike. It was as though the very   

               air, the night itself were striking us.   

               Exhausted by the rigors of the storm, 

               we were no match for them. Our men went down   

               before the murderous Africans. Our loyal   

               Celestino ran from below with gun   

               and lantern and I saw, before the cane- 

               knife’s wounding flash, Cinquez, 

               that surly brute who calls himself a prince,   

               directing, urging on the ghastly work. 

               He hacked the poor mulatto down, and then   

               he turned on me. The decks were slippery 

               when daylight finally came. It sickens me   

               to think of what I saw, of how these apes   

               threw overboard the butchered bodies of 

               our men, true Christians all, like so much jetsam.   

               Enough, enough. The rest is quickly told:   

               Cinquez was forced to spare the two of us   

               you see to steer the ship to Africa,   

               and we like phantoms doomed to rove the sea   

               voyaged east by day and west by night,   

               deceiving them, hoping for rescue,   

               prisoners on our own vessel, till   

               at length we drifted to the shores of this   

               your land, America, where we were freed   

               from our unspeakable misery. Now we   

               demand, good sirs, the extradition of   

               Cinquez and his accomplices to La   

               Havana. And it distresses us to know   

               there are so many here who seem inclined   

               to justify the mutiny of these blacks.   

               We find it paradoxical indeed 

               that you whose wealth, whose tree of liberty   

               are rooted in the labor of your slaves 

               should suffer the august John Quincy Adams   

               to speak with so much passion of the right   

               of chattel slaves to kill their lawful masters   

               and with his Roman rhetoric weave a hero’s   

               garland for Cinquez. I tell you that   

               we are determined to return to Cuba 

               with our slaves and there see justice done. Cinquez— 

               or let us say ‘the Prince’—Cinquez shall die.” 

 

       The deep immortal human wish,   

       the timeless will: 

 

               Cinquez its deathless primaveral image,   

               life that transfigures many lives. 

 

       Voyage through death 

                                     to life upon these shores.

 

THANK YOU TO OUR DONORS

We are grateful to our supporters for their generous contributions!  Please join us in thanking them for being an important part of what we do.  Total donations February 1, 2021 to January 31, 2022.  Please let us know if any info is listed incorrectly.

THANK YOU TO OUR DONORS

Visionaries $10,000+

Betsy Manchester

Sandra New

 

Underwriters $5,000-9,999

Tori & Aaron Haberman

Peter Rutenberg

Sustainers $2,500-4,999

Karl & Leslie Bunker

Susan Childs

Larry & Susan Gerling

Linda Kewin

Glenda & Rob McKibben

Susan & Douglas McLeod

Eric & Rexanna Swanson

Benefactors $1,000-2,499

Anonymous

Juan & Andrea Acosta

Leslie Conner

Sandra Duncan

Fusenot Foundation

David & Patricia Lokensgard

Greta & Stephen Treadgold

Advocates $500-999

Walter Baumhoff

Holly & Warren Otto

Qualcomm Charitable Foundation

Deborah Rimkus

Friends $250-499

Anneke Doty

Jan & Rick Farley

Alan & Pam Hay

Marilyn & John Shelton

William Slack & Mark Malean

Supporters $100-249

David Bardwick

Steven Barkley

Jay & Mary Hanson

Mary Koto

Stacey Love

Carol Manifold

Joani Nelson

Mary Ellen O’Malley

Mary Ray

Bill & Georgiana Simmons

Kent Swedell

Acknowledgments

Thank You!

Darin Arnston, Lead Pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church;

Dr. Geoffrey West, UCSD Analytical Writing Department;

Libby Weber, Program Note Assistance;

Clara Joy Welcome, Program Design

To Support SACRA/PROFANA

Donate online:  www.sacraprofana.org/donate

By Check Payable to:

SACRA/PROFANA

P.O. Box 712049, San Diego, CA 92171-2049

 

SACRA/PROFANA is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, EIN 46-0549914.  All donations to support SACRA/PROFANA are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Financial support is provided by the

City of San Diego. 

UPCOMING EVENTS

American Landscapes – March 27, 3:00 PM, Mission Theater in Fallbrook

Garden Party – May 7, 5:00 PM, Private Residence, La Jolla

Seconds – May 20, 7:00 PM, Christ Lutheran Church, Pacific Beach

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