Paulus: Hope, Light and a Future

Paulus Prayers NY TrueConcord logo

On September 11, the Tucson, AZ-based ensemble True Concord Voices and Orchestra travels to Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall to present the New York premiere of Stephen PaulusPrayers and Remembrances, led by music director Eric Holtan. Commissioned by True Concord (formerly known as Tucson Chamber Artists), Prayers and Remembrances received its world premiere on September 11, 2011, as the Tucson Symphony joined the choral ensemble in a program paired with the Mozart Requiem.

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Photo: Michael C. Sultzbach; courtesy: True Concord Voices & Orchestra

Prayers and Remembrances was written as a 10th-anniversary memorial of the 9/11 tragedy, in which several members of the local-Tucson community were lost. The seven-movement work features various reflections including the writings of St. Francis of Assisi, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Blake, and traditional Navajo prayers and Hebrew texts. True Concord repeats their premiere program for its New York debut concert.

Stephen Paulus attended the premiere, and during a pre-premiere chat, he noted, “The idea for Prayers and Remembrances began with Eric Holtan. He approached me a few years back with a vision of writing a commemorative work for chorus and orchestra…My concern was to write a [piece] that would not only honor the 9/11 tragedy and all those who perished, but also one that would address the memories, the grieving and the recovery for anyone dealing with a circumstance in which loved ones had perished.

“Performing Prayers and Remembrances in and for the community most affected by the 9/11 tragedy is something Stephen, Dorothy Vanek (the sponsor of the commission), and I envisioned before we premiered the work in Tucson in 2011. We, along with the board, musicians and supporters of True Concord have felt that the compelling words and music of the piece have the power to heal, and I am grateful for all those that made it possible for us to share it with the people of New York. As with our Stephen Paulus album released, on the same day as the concert, we seek through this performance to bring together hearts from Tucson with those in New York and around the world, through the power of music by one of America’s greatest and most beloved composers. ” — Eric Holtan

“The goal was to find a combination of poems that were both secular and sacred—from poets who addressed grief, recovery, and a spiritual focus in life—that would highlight common beliefs across distinct religious traditions…Throughout the work I have been conscious of trying to bring melodic and harmonic ideas to the fore that would suggest hope, light and a future. To me, this seems to be the hardest thing to accept in any tragedy, whether it involves one person or thousands. So there are sometimes bright, colorful harmonies or melodies in both the orchestra and the chorus: this is not a work meant to…dwell in tragedy. I am hopeful that the sounds and words meld… towards repair and healing.”

Coinciding with True Paulus Prayers TrueConc CD artConcord’s New York premiere of Prayers and Remembrances is the world launch of the ensemble’s new release Far in the Heavens: Choral Music of Stephen Paulus on Reference Recordings (FR-716). The all-Paulus disc offers world premiere recordings of all the featured works including: Prayers and Remembrances, Nunc dimittis, The Incomprehensible, I Have Called You By Name, Little Elegy, and When Music Sounds. To listen to a pre-release sampler, visit Reference Recordings here.