Desert Voices

Scoring

-SATB Choir, soprano solo, chamber ensemble
(flute doubles piccolo & alto flute; clarinet; cello; harp; piano; percussion
-Lullubies may be extracted for solo high voice solo with instrumental ensemble
(flute, clarinet, cello, perc.)

 

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Details

17:00
1993

Santa Fe Desert Chorale, 1993

Santa Fe Desert Chorale, 1993

Santa Fe Desert Chorale
Steven Sametz, guest conductor

Alliance Music Publication No.AMP 5008
reissued by Steven Sametz Publications

Program Notes

Desert Voices was commissioned for the Santa Fe Desert Chorale in 1993 by Mrs. Rufus G. (“Susie”) Poole.   It is based on Tewa poetry from the pueblos surrounding Santa Fe.  The movements may be programmed separately: the two lullabies (movements four and five) are scored for unison trebles and could form a triptych around the solo soprano movement  (No. 6, “Now Sleep the Old Ones).

1. Old Ghost (chorus)
2. At Blue Nightfall (Datura Song) (Chorus)
3. My Morning Star
4. Sleepy Bird Lullaby
5. Lullabye of the Cannibal Giants (Unison trebles, clarinet, marimba)
6. Now Sleep the Old Ones (Soprano solo, flute, marimba)
7. Skyloom (Chorus)

Text

1. Old Ghost

Old Ghost,
Can you forgive
this name-stealing nation
Of People
Who never had The courage
To call themselves
The People?

Geronimo
May we borrow your name?
You won’t miss it
After we’re through with it.

What Algonquin ghost
Dances on your city
of homeless
Home-makers?

How many names can we name?
Chickasaw
Choctaw
Creek Shawnee

Where have they gone?

Ramapo
Chicago

Old ghost,
Can you forgive
this name-stealing nation
Of People
Who never had
The courage
To call themselves
The People?

Mr. Long-hair
Mr. Highcheekbones
Mr. Peyotebreath

When I dream
I see a thousand
a thousand feather-crowned warriors
They are silhouetted
by and old Sun of seasons long gone

These warrior’s mouths
dry, lips rough
dust of forgotten miles

I can’t find the anger that powered my thoughts
I thought
just a moment ago
Then why,
Think about
just a moment ago

Old ghost, Can you forgive
this name-stealing nation
Of People
Who never had
The courage
To call themselves
The people?

lines from “The naming of Names” by Gerald Hausman
and “Wish to Walk Thru Walls” by Loren Straight Eagle Plume
from 
Turtle Island Alphabet
By permission of St. Martin’s Press

 

2. At Blue Nightfall (Datura Song)

At White Dawn I arose and went away
I ate the thornapple leaves
At Blue Nightfall
I drank the thornapple flowers

The leaves made me stagger
The hunter Bow Remaining overtook me
The hunter Reed Remaining killed me
He cut and threw away my horns
Cut my feet and killed me.

Now the drunken butterflies sit
with opening and shutting wings
At Blue Nightfall
At White Dawn.

Pima Healing Song translated by Frank Russell
(From the 26th Annual Report, Bureau of American Ethnology, 1908)

3. My Morning Star
in the naming ceremony of the child, the mother throws a live coal; the godmother throws sacred meal.

My Sun!
My Morning Star!
Help this my child become a man.
I name him
Rain-dew Falling!
I name him
Star Mountain!

from “When the Child is Named”
translated by Herbert spiden in 
Songs of the Tewa
(used by permission of the Sunstone Press)

4. Sleepy Bird Lullaby

There are many sleepy little birds
So go to sleep my sleepy little girl.
O come and slumber on her eyes,
on her hollow eyes
That she may sleep the livelong day
That she may sleep the livelong night.

translated by Herbert spiden in Songs of the Tewa
(used by permission of the Sunstone Press

5. Lullaby of the Cannibal Giants
The Saveyo (or Tsave Yoh) are masked supernatural whippers who live in caves. They are represented in the trival dances once each season when they may discipline unruly members of the tribe. Mothers may tell children who misbehave that the Saveyo can be summoned to carry them off to the sacred hills where they may be whipped or seaten. (cf. Alfonso Ortiz, The Tewa World)

Go to sleep now, my little boy Primrose.
That Saveyo Sendo will take you if you cry.
Over there he will eat you, if you don’t stop crying;
That Saveyo Sendo in his bag he will put you.
Stop crying, go to sleep my little boy Primrose.
Over there he will take you, then I will be crying!
Very thick now are the leaves of cottonwood,
Very thick now are the leaves of willow,
There he will take you in under the willow,
That Saveyo Sendo walk and they hear every sound.
And there in the mountains that one he will take you
Where now they are taking the big boys and girls.

translated by Herbert spiden in Songs of the Tewa
(used by permission of the Sunstone Press)

6. Now Sleep the Old Ones

Oh, my little breath, under  willows by the water side we used to sit.”
And there the yeloow cottonwood bird came and sang.
That I remember; therefor I weep.
Under the growing corn we used to sit,
And there the little leaf bird came and sang.
That I remember; therefore I weep.
There on the meadow of yellow flowers we used to walk.
Alas! how long ago that we two walked in that pleasant way.
Then everything was happy. alas! how long ago.
There on the meadow of crimson flowers we used to walk.
Oh, my little breath, now I go there alone in sorrow.
Now sleep the old ones
Far away now their children.
Now sleep the old ones.
The waters run quitetly by
so not to wake them;
the sun climbs high in the sky
to warm them
The wind and the rain come to clean them
Now sleep the old ones.

“The willows by the Water Side” translated by Herbert spiden in Songs of the Tewa
(used by permission of the Sunstone Press)
“Now sleep the Old Ones” attributed to a translation by herbert Spiden
in a text from Bandelier National Monument.

7. Skyloom
The Skyloom referes to the dramatic striations of light across the sky during the desert rain.

Oh our Mother Earth, oh our Father Sky,
Your children are we; with tired backs
we bring you gifts that you love.
Then weave for us a garment of brightness;
May the warp be the white light of morning,
May the weft be the red light of evening,
May the fringes be the falling rain,
May the border be the standing rainbow.
Weave for us a garment of brightness
That we may walk fittingly where birds sing,
where grass is green,
Oh our Mother Earth, Oh our Father Sky,
Weave for us!

translated by Herbert spiden in Songs of the Tewa
(used by permission of the Sunstone Press)