I Raise Up My Voice

Jessie Montgomery (b.1981): Banner

Born in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Montgomery received a Bachelor’s degree from the Juilliard School in Violin Performance in 2003. She joined Community MusicWorks in Providence, Rhode Island, and became a member of the Providence String Quartet. She was a founding member of PUBLIQuartet, and has performed in the Catalyst Quartet. She is currently touring with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. Since 1999, she has been affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports the accomplishments of young African-American and Latino string players. In 2012, she completed her graduate degree in Composition for Film and Multimedia at New York University.

In 2009 Montgomery was commissioned by the Providence String Quartet and Community MusicWorks to write Anthem: A tribute to the historical election of Barack Obama. “In that piece,” she says, “I wove together the theme from the Star Spangled Banner with the commonly named Black National Anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson (which coincidentally share the exact same phrase structure).

When the Sphinx Organization commissioned a new work, Montgomery responded with Banner, which was introduced in September, 2014 of that year at the New World Center in Miami. Montgomery calls the work “a tribute to the 200th Anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner…. Scored for solo string quartet and string orchestra, Banner is a rhapsody on the theme of the Star Spangled Banner. Drawing on musical and historical sources from various world anthems and patriotic songs, I’ve made an attempt to answer the question: ‘What does an anthem for the 21st century sound like in today’s multicultural environment?’ Banner picks up where Anthem left off by using a similar backbone source in its middle section, but expands further both in the amount of references and also in the role play of the string quartet as the individual voice working both with and against the larger community of the orchestra behind them…. The Star Spangled Banner is an ideal subject for exploration in contradictions. For most Americans the song represents a paradigm of liberty and solidarity against fierce odds, and for others it implies a contradiction between the ideals of freedom and the realities of injustice and oppression.”

Louise Farrenc (1804–1875): Symphony No. 3 in G minor, Op. 36

Born in Paris, Jeanne-Louise Dumont married the flutist and music publisher Aristide Farrenc in 1821. She began piano lessons at the age of six. She later studied with Anton Reicha, Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Ignaz Moscheles. In 1842 she became the first woman professor of piano at the Paris Conservatory, a position she held for thirty years.

Farrenc’s first compositions, for solo piano, were issued by her husband’s company in the 1820s. She later shifted to chamber music: two piano quintets, a piano sextet, two piano trios, a nonet for winds and strings, two trios, and several instrumental sonatas. She wrote two concert overtures in 1834, which were performed in Paris, Brussels and Copenhagen. And in 1841, she composed the first of three symphonies. Her music had many admirers, including Daniel-François-Esprit Auber, Fromental Halévy, Hector Berlioz and Robert Schumann.  

Her Third Symphony was introduced at the Société des concerts du Conservatoire in 1849. Katy Hamilton detects the influence of Weber and Beethoven in it, especially in the first movement, and Mendelssohn and Schumann in the last movement. “The second movement,” she writes, “is a beautifully lyrical Andante; and this is followed by a dancing Scherzo, the music driven forward on insistent, bouncing eighth notes in the lower strings.”

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990): Songfest

Subtitled “A Cycle of American Poems for Six Singers and Orchestra,” Songfest was originally commissioned for the American Bicentennial Year (1976). It wasn’t finished in time, so the world premiere took place on October 11, 1977 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. Bernstein conducted the National Symphony Orchestra, with soloists Clamma Dale, soprano; Rosalind Elias, mezzo-soprano; Nancy Williams, mezzo-soprano; Neil Rosenshein, tenor; John Reardon, bass; and Donald Gramm, bass-baritone.

During the two years of its composition, Bernstein had considered a number of titles before settling on Songfest for the premiere. These included An American Songfest, Six Characters in Search of an Opera, Notes Toward an American Opera, The Glorious Fourth, Mortal Melodies, A Secular Service and Ballet for Voices, among others.

In his program note on the Bernstein website, Jack Gottlieb wrote that Bernstein’s purpose was “to draw a comprehensive picture of America’s artistic past, as seen in 1976 through the eyes of a contemporary artist. The composer has envisioned this picture through the words of 13 po­ets embracing 300 years of the country’s history. The subject matter of their poetry is the American artist’s experience as it relates to his or her crea­tivity, loves, marriages, or minority problems (blacks, women, homosexuals, expatriates) within a fundamentally Puritan society.

“The strongest binding musical force in the Cycle is that of unabashed eclecticism, freely reflecting the pluralistic nature of our most eclectic country. The composer believes that with the ever-increasing evidence of this unfettered approach to writing new music, typical of many other composers to­day, we are moving closer to defining ‘American music’. In a musical world that is becoming ever more international, the American composer–to the extent that his music can be differentiated as ‘American’–inevitably draws from his own inner sources, however diverse and numerous they may be.”

Text of Songfest

1. To the Poem (Frank O’Hara)
Let us do something grand
Just this once Something

Small and important and
UnAmerican Some fine thing

Will resemble a human hand
And really be merely a thing

Not needing a military band
Nor an elegant forthcoming

To tease spotlights or a hand
From the public’s thinking

But be In a defiant land
Of its own a real right thing

2. The Pennycandystore Beyond the El (Lawrence Ferlinghetti)
The pennycandystore beyond the El
Is where i first
Fell in love
With unreality
Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom
Of that september afternoon
A cat upon the counter moved among
The licorice sticks
And tootsie rolls
And Oh Boy Gum

Outside the leaves were falling as they died

A wind had blown away the sun

A girl ran in
Her hair was rainy
Her breasts were breathless in the little room

Outside the leaves were falling
And they cried
Too soon! too soon!

3. A Julia de Burgos (Julia de Burgos)
Ya las gentes murmuran que yo soy tu enemiga
Porque dicen que en verso doy al mundo mi yo

Mienten, Julia de Burgos. Mienten, Julia de burgos
La que se alza en mis versos no es tu voz: es mi voz
Porque tú eres ropaje y la esencia soy yo; y el más
Profundo abismo se tiende entre las dos

Tú eres fria muñeca de mentira social
Y yo, viril destello de la humana verdad

Tú, miel de cortesana hipocresías; yo no;
Que en todos mis poemas desnudo el corazón

Tú eres como tu mundo, egoísta;
Yo no; que en todo me lo juego a ser lo que soy yo

Tú eres sólo la grave señora señorona; yo no
Yo soy la vida, la fuerza, la mujer

Tú eres de tu marido, de tu amo; yo no;
Yo de nadie, o de todos, porque a todos, a
Todos en mi limpio sentir y en mi pensar me doy

Tú te rizas el pelo y te pintas; yo no;
A mí me riza el viento, a mí me pinta el sol

Tú eres dama casera, resignada, sumisa
Atada a los prejuicios de los hombres; yo no;
Que yo soy Rocinante corriendo desbocado
Olfateando horizontes de justicia de Dios

Tú en ti misma no mandas;
A ti todos te mandan; en ti mandan tu esposo, tus
Padres, tus parientes, el cura, el modista
El teatro, el casino, el auto
Las alhajas, el banquete, el champán, el cielo
Y el infierno, y el que dirán social

En mí no, que en mí manda mi solo corazón
Mi solo pensamiento; quien manda en mí soy yo

Tú, flor de aristocracia; y yo, la flor del pueblo
Tú en ti lo tienes todo y a todos se
Lo debes, mientras que yo, mi nada a nadie se la debo

Tú, clavada al estático dividendo ancestral
Y yo, un uno en la cifra del divisor social
Somos el duelo a muerte que se acerca fatal

Cuando las multitudes corran alborotadas
Dejando atrás cenizas de injusticias quemadas
Y cuando con la tea de las siete virtudes
Tras los siete pecados, corran las multitudes
Contra ti, y contra todo lo injusto y lo inhumano
Yo iré en medio de ellas con la tea en la mano

[Already the people murmur that I am your enemy
Because they say that in verse I give to the world my I

lie, Julia de Burgos. They lie, Julia de burgos
The one that rises in my verses is not your voice: it is my voice
Because you are clothing and the essence is me; and the
deepest abyss

lies between the two You are cold doll of social lie
And I, virile flash of the human truth

You, honey of courtesan hypocrisy; I do not;
That in all my poems I bare the heart

You are like your world, selfish;
I do not; that in everything I play it to be what I am.

You are only the grave lady lord;
I am not I am the life, the strength, the woman

You are of your husband, of your master; I do not;
I belong to nobody, or to everyone, because to everyone, to everyone
in my clean feeling and in my thinking I give

you You curl your hair and paint yourself; I do not;
The wind curls me, the sun paints me

You are a homemade lady, resigned, submissive
tied to the prejudices of men; I do not;
That I am Rocinante running runaway
Smelling horizons of justice of God

You in yourself do not send;
They all send you; you send your husband, your
parents, your relatives, the priest, the dressmaker
The theater, the casino, the car
The jewels, the banquet, the champagne, the sky
And the hell, and the one who will say social

In me not, that in me, my only heart sends
My only thought; whoever commands in me is I

You, flower of aristocracy; and I, the flower of the people
You in you have everything and you all
owe it to you, while I, my nothing to anyone, owe it to you

You, nailed to the static ancestral dividend
And I, a one in the figure of the social divisor
We are the duel to death that approaches fatal

When the crowds run rampant
Leaving behind ashes of burned injustices
And when with the tea of the seven virtues
After the seven sins, run the crowds
Against you, and against everything unfair and inhuman
I will go in the middle of them with the tea in your hand]

4. To What You Said (Walt Whitman)
To what you said, passionately clasping my hand, this is my answer:
Though you have strayed hither, for my sake, you can never belong to me
Nor I to you
Behold the customary loves and friendships the cold guards
L am that rough and simple person
L am he who kisses his comrade lightly on the lips at parting
And I am one who is kissed in return
I introduce that new American salute
Behold love choked, correct, polite, always suspicious
Behold the received models of the parlors —
What are they to me?
What to these young men that travel with me?

5. I, Too, Sing America (Langston Hughes)/Okay “Negroes” (June Jordan)
I, too, sing America
I am the darker brother

Okay, okay, okay Negroes
American Negroes
American Negroes

They send me to eat in the kitchen

Looking for milk

When company comes

Crying out loud

But I laugh
And eat well

In the nursery of Freedomland

And grow strong

The rides are rough

I’ll sit at the table
When company comes
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me
“Eat in the kitchen,”

Tell me where you got that image
Of a male white mammy
God is vague and he don’t take no sides

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed —

You think clean fingernails crossed legs a smile
Shined shoes
A crucifix around your neck
Good manners
No more noise
You think who’s gonna give you something?
You think who’s gonna give you something?

I, too, am America

Come a little closer
Where you from?

I, too, am America
Tomorrow I’ll sit at the table

Come a little closer
Where you from?

6. To My Dear and Loving Husband (Anne Bradstreet)
If ever two were one, then surely we
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee
If ever wife was happy in a man
Compare with me, ye women, if you can
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold
My love is such that rivers cannot quench
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray
Then while we live, in love let’s so persever
That when we live no more, we may live ever

7. Storyette H. M. (Gertrude Stein)
One was married to someone. That one was going away to have a good time. The one that was married to that one did not like it very well that the one to whom that one was married then was going off alone to have a good time and was leaving that one to stay at home then. The one that was going came in all glowing. The one that was going had everything he was needing to have the good time he was wanting to be having then. He came in all glowing. Glowing. Glowing. The one he was leaving at home to take care of the family living was not glowing. The one that was going was saying, the one that was glowing, the one that was going was saying then, I am content, you are not content, I am content, you are not content, I am content, you are content, you are content, I am content

8. If you can’t eat you got to (e.e. cummings)
If you can’t eat you got to

Smoke and we ain’t got
Nothing to smoke: come on kid

Let’s go to sleep
If you can’t smoke you got to

Sing and we ain’t got

Nothing to sing; come on kid
Let’s go to sleep

If you can’t sing you got to
Die and we ain’t got

Nothing to die, come on kid

Let’s go to sleep
If you can’t die you got to

Dream and we ain’t got
Nothing to dream (come on kid

Let’s go to sleep)

9. Music I Heard With You (Conrad Aiken)
Music I heard with you was more than music
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead

Your hands once touched this table and this silver
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass
These things do not remember you, beloved
And yet your touch upon them will not pass

For it was in my heart that you moved among them
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always, –
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise

10. Zizi’s Lament (Gregory Corso)
I am in love with the laughing sickness
It would do me a lot of good if I had it —
I have worn the splendid gowns of Sudan
Carried the magnificent halivas of Boudodin Bros
Kissed the singing Fatimas of the pimp of Aden
Wrote glorious psalms in Hakhaliba’s cafe
But I’ve never had the laughing sickness
So what good am I?

The fat merchant offers me opium, kief
Hashish, even
Camel juice
All is unsatisfactory —
O bitter damned night! you again! must I yet
Pluck out my unreal teeth
Undress my unlaughable self
Put to sleep this melancholy head?
I am nothing without the laughing sickness

My father’s got it, my grandfather had it;
Surely my Uncle Fez will get it, but me, me
Who it would do the most good
Will I ever get it?

11. What Lips My Lips Have Kissed (Edna St. Vincent Millay)
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry

Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more

12. Israfel (Edgar Allan Poe)
In Heaven a spirit doth dwell
“Whose heart-strings are a lute;”
None sing so wildly well
As the angel Israfel
And the giddy stars (so legends tell)
Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell
Of his voice, all mute

Tottering above
In her highest noon
The enamored moon
Blushes with love
While, to listen, the red levin
(With the rapid Pleiads, even
Which were seven,)
Pauses in Heaven

And they say (the starry choir
And the other listening things)
That Israfeli’s fire
Is owing to that lyre
By which he sits and sings—
The trembling living wire
Of those unusual strings

But the skies that angel trod
Where deep thoughts are a duty—
Where Love’s a grown-up God
Where the Houri glances are
Imbued with all the beauty
Which we worship in a star

Therefore thou art not wrong
Israfeli, who despisest
An unimpassioned song;
To thee the laurels belong
Best bard, because the wisest!
Merrily live, and long!

The ecstasies above
With thy burning measures suit—
Thy grief, thy joy, thy hate, thy love
With the fervor of thy lute—
Well may the stars be mute!

Yes, Heaven is thine; but this
Is a world of sweets and sours;
Our flowers are merely—flowers
And the shadow of thy perfect bliss
Is the sunshine of ours

If I could dwell
Where Israfel
Hath dwelt, and he where I
He might not sing so wildly well
A mortal melody
While a bolder note than this might
From my lyre within the sky