Finding something painfully familiar.
Premiering a new work is always exciting. Singing “Voices of the Silenced” is also a bit daunting.
Through our voices, and the music of Kim André Arnesen, we are given the awesome responsibility, and privilege, of sharing the innermost thoughts and deepest emotions of individuals who have suffered in a variety of ways. Brought together, these texts offer a window into our humanity, and into the cruelty, challenges, deficits, and imperfections of the world in which we all exist. These texts were written by individuals; but, their words resonate with larger groups of people who have had similar experiences or feelings.
At first glance it wasn’t obvious why the words of a father to his son, born with Down Syndrome, were included in this piece. On further reflection, I found myself hearing not just one, but two silenced voices in this movement.
First, the courageous and honest voice of a struggling parent. Unexpectedly faced with fathering a son with a genetic disorder that is associated with a variety of medical, intellectual, and emotional challenges, John McLorinan describes a range of polarizing emotions that mirror what he finds in the members of the community—“bringing out the very best” in most, while in others, “incomprehension, fear…..”
Certainly, not all parents have children with genetic disorders or would say a child has “wrecked [their] career.” But, I would guess most parents have felt, as I have at times, that their children have “challenged [our] sanity.” And yet, many parents deal with feelings of frustration, fear, anger, depression, and even insanity, in isolation. Afraid of being judged, ashamed of not being a good enough parent, they stay silent.
Second, I hear the voice of a child representing all children. Whether they have a genetic disorder or some other emotional or physical struggle (don’t they all?), a child is asking “to understand and be understood.” Children are, at times, “wonderfully irreverent, irrelevant, inappropriate, and spontaneous” but also “asking only for time to love and be loved.”
Children pick up on our non-verbal messages, our looks of disapproval and our, sometimes unintentionally, harsh words that can squash their curiosity and learning. If we are not careful, they will stop asking questions and expressing their emotions, and become silent. But, if we stop and listen to their voices, as this father listened to his son, we may find our senses opened, our humanity restored, and our expectations shattered.
Each of us who sings, or hears, Voices of the Silenced will find something painfully familiar, or perhaps reassuring, about at least one of the voices represented. It is through these experiences that we can deepen our compassion for each other and work to find our own voice while also truly listening to the voices of others. As Euan Tait implores in the final movement, “Gaze at me. See all of me, my fractured story…can you stop, gaze at me, learn too, that yes, I will heal you.”
Sasha Kuftinec is a Psychiatrist based in Concord, NH who has been singing with the New Hampshire Master Chorale since 2016 as well as the Manchester Choral Society since 1994.
Friday, November 22, 7:30 p.m.
First Congregational Church, 10 South Park St., Lebanon, NH
Saturday, November 23, 7:30 p.m.
First Congregational Church, 177 North Main St., Concord, NH
Sunday, November 24, 4 p.m.
Plymouth Congregational Church, 4 Post Office Sq., Plymouth, NH
Tickets are free for undergraduates and students in grades K through 12
$25 for seniors
$30 for general admission
Pay what you are able” tickets are available to ensure that anyone can attend regardless of financial ability.
The New Hampshire Master Chorale, led by Dr. Dan Perkins, is a non-profit choir established in the spring of 2003. This premier chamber ensemble is dedicated to excellence in the art of choral music performance. Members of the group are trained singers, auditioned from throughout New England, who have performed as soloists and in choral ensembles throughout the world. You can get a taste of the NHMC on our SoundCloud page: soundcloud.com/nh-master-chorale or find us on Facebook and twitter: www.facebook.com/NHMasterChorale and twitter.com/nhmasterchorale.