Moravec: The Meaning of Freedom

Paul Moravec’s Sanctuary Road is a perfect work for starting meaningful conversations about equality, race, and the meaning of freedom.”

And so Rossen Milanov, music director of the Columbus Symphony, shares some insight into the orchestra’s upcoming October 11 and 12 performances of Moravec’s oratorio during its American Festival. Sanctuary Road is written for five soloists, chorus, and orchestra, and features a libretto by award-winner Mark Campbell. Campbell’s libretto is based after the writings of historic figure William Still — the son of a former slave, a Philadelphia-based businessman, writer, philanthropist, historian, abolitionist and a conductor for The Underground Railroad. Still helped almost 800 slaves escape to freedom, and meticulously and passionately documented many of their lives in his 1872 memoir, The Underground Railroad Records. Moravec’s 45-minute oratorio was commissioned by the Oratorio Society of New York and premiered in May 2018 at Carnegie Hall, conducted by Kent Tritle.

Rossen Milanov conducts the Columbus Symphony. Photo: Stephen Pariser Photography; courtesy: Columbus Symphony

Milanov continues. “Sanctuary Road is a unique opportunity to see the history through the eyes and the hearts of the people that created it. The words of Mark Campbell tell the story of hope, courage, and path to freedom and the music of Paul Moravec makes them soar. This vivid and emotionally gripping oratorio inspires us to revisit the darker chapters of our history as a nation and find in them surprising parallels with the time in which we live.”

Campbell and Moravec also comment. “Sanctuary Road,” Campbell shares, “honors the courage and humanity of individuals escaping to freedom, while celebrating the inspirational, collective power of the movement William Still recorded in his memoir… Sanctuary Road is more important than ever…We can only move forward as a country by reminding ourselves where we’ve been.” Moravec adds, “The saga of The Underground Railroad is always timely…Mark’s compelling libretto faithfully projects the luminous spirit of Mr. Still’s own words describing and recording ‘the death struggles of slaves in their efforts of freedom.’ Throughout the creative process of imagining the music, I was guided by their ennobling courage and strength.”

More news: Coming in January 2020, Naxos Records will release the world premiere recording of Sanctuary Road, featuring the original commissioner – the Oratorio Society of New York led by Kent Tritle.