Shelter guest response inspires new composition
This past September Shelter Music Boston proudly delivered just such a new work of music to our shelter audiences. Danielle Williams, composer, conductor, educator, and musical entrepreneur, set one of our audience members’ words to music. Here is the inspiration, written by one SMB audience member in December 2012:
“I love each time the violinists return here. The music gives me a chance to cease thinking about the stress and chaos. The pain, as it were, and the struggle. Each note lures my mind into a calm, and all I see is the path in front of me. The music reminds me that I am still human. And renews my ambition to resolve my circumstances. The debris of homelessness and past traumas are for a moment inconsequential and nonexistent. And I am eternally grateful to these beautiful, talented women for providing that release.”
Danielle and I met when, in 2013, I set up an internship program for SMB through the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra Crescendo! Education and Community Engagement program. Danielle has followed our work since 2013 and as of August 2016 is teaching at three music schools in the Middle East. Last summer when SMB announced the 2017 Women Composer's Project, funded by the Harvard Musical Association and The Good People Fund, Danielle reached out to me to see if she could be involved. I could not commission a new piece due to budget constraints, but I asked her if she had already composed works for our small ensembles, as I would love to present her music. She volunteered to write a new work and said it would be an honor to participate in the creative process to respect the citizens SMB serves. The resulting work, titled “Release”, is the collaboration between my idea and Danielle's musical setting of the words of one homeless individual we served at the Shattuck Shelter in 2012. Upon hearing the recording of our October 5, 2016 performance of “Release”, (linked HERE,) Danielle wrote this to me:
“I'm truly delighted that the piece was well received by the performers, audience, and especially shelter guests. I thought your performance of it was absolutely beautiful- it gave me chills at some point, and that certainly doesn't always happen for a composer. Thank you for performing it with such love and attention- I truly felt that the ideas coalesced as I had hoped-- even better, in fact! It was somewhat surreal to be composing it for you there when I was in the Middle East. I found that the daily calls to prayer from the surrounding mosques really inspired a lot of the musical ideas in it, subconsciously I believe! At one point I was composing at my music school and the call to prayer kicked on and I realized that I was more or less writing in the same mode as the call to prayer...crazy how it stuck in my ear like that.”
Our shelter audience members were extremely pleased to learn that the words of a young woman who had been homeless and sheltered at the Shattuck Shelter had inspired the creation of a new work of art. One young man at Lifebridge Salem told me that the shelter manager had convinced him to attend our September 18, 2016 concert, which was the world premier of “Release”. This young man, shown here, said he was feeling very, very depressed before the concert, and he had not been inclined to attend. Mike, the shelter manager, had gently insisted that he give the concert a try. Following the performance this young man said to me, “I’m so glad I came because now I feel happy, hopeful. The music had so many feelings in it. Thank you for coming here and providing us with an absolutely beautiful concert."