Many people have been asking us just how do you program a choral concert around the topic of sex trafficking? The answer was simple when left in the capable hands of Artistic Director Phillip Swan. Music for the performance will be presented in four segments: reflection on the dilemma with songs of personal struggle and searching; a glimmer of hope for another life, another path; songs that express freedom, truth and justice; and concluding with songs that are anthems for personal and community responsibility.
Swan chose the concert topic to musically communicate the many aspects within the human trafficking issue. “Choral music has a special ability to tackle delicate subject matter in ways that gently challenge our comfort level and passivity, and move us to action,” Swan said. “Themes of individual struggle and hope have been expressed through music for hundreds of years, and become so much more vivid when the lyrics are interpreted within the context of human trafficking.
Music genres include sacred music, folk songs, spirituals, contemporary compositions, and a cappella settings of familiar hit songs. Although the subject matter is intense, many of the songs are hopeful and have lyrical melodies.
The program within the reflection on the dilemma section includes pieces that are stark and mournful—and pieces in which beautiful melodies are paired with dramatic lyrics. The flowing melody of “If I Should Ascend” presents a biblical text in which lyrics caution that even secret sins are open before a loving God. The familiar, magnetic melody of “Wayfaring Stranger” tells the story of a wanderer hoping for better times in the afterlife.
Songs expressing a glimmer of hope include Morten Lauriden’s familiar “Sure on this Shining Night” in which the subject reflects on a life full of ups and downs yet still acknowledges the wonder of kindness in the world. A rich African-American spiritual, “City Called Heaven” tells the story of a life being abandoned and hopeless and longing for an eternal home. The musical setting is powerful and moving.
Songs of freedom and justice start with a familiar American classic by Stephen C. Foster. “Hard Times” has been an anthem for the Civil War, the Depression and here takes on a new meaning as it proclaims that hard times will not come again. The song “Al Shlosha D’varim” is a graceful melody based on Jewish morality laws which state that the world is sustained by truth, justice and peace.
The program will end with joyous songs that proclaim if we are to change the situation, we must become involved. The song “Beautiful City” is from the musical “Godspell” and delivers a hopeful message that despite being battered, we can build a better community. The final selection of the concert is a choral setting of “Do Something” by Matthew West, in which lyrics speak of how change requires action:
If not us, then who/If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when/Will we see an end
To all this pain/It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something