The New Colossus (2002) for choir – 3’ (Lazarus)
–Commissioned by Judith Clurman and the TODI Music Festival Choir
Score available March 1st, 2013 from G. Schirmer
Text: Emma Lazarus: The New Colossus
“The New Colossus” was written for conductor Judith Clurman and the Todi music singers. Ms. Clurman recommended that I set the poem by Emma Lazarus that is at the site of the Statue of Liberty. On reading these words, I was very moved by the sentiment of welcome that Lazarus–herself an immigrant–conveys in the message: “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” And it is not just some people that the Statue welcomes, but everyone–even the “wretched refuse.” This to me was the true spirit of the United States embodied in poetry: our strength in diversity and tolerance. I wrote the work soon after 9/11, and because of that, the words of the poet were particularly poignant to me.
The piece begins in somber unison and remains in that setting, like chant, as the poet compares the Statue of Liberty to the Colossus of Rhodes from ancient Greece. It is not like the Colossus, she notes, in that it is not meant to be an imposing figure but instead the embracing “mother of exiles.” At the most famous lines the music opens up into harmony until the end, repeating the words “I lift my lamp, beside the Golden Door”–to the port of entry of a nation of immigrants.
The New Colossus was played as the introitus for the prayer service of the 57th Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama.
“Ludwig’s The New Colossus began in sober unison. As harmonies evolved to greater dissonance, the singers became more expressive, an effective dramatic device.” –The Virginian Pilot