La Madre Triste
performed with children’s choir as part of St. Michael’s Sunday Service
St. Michael’s Episcopal Church
Dusty Francis, choirmaster and conductor
225 w 99th Street, New York, NY 10025
October 6, 2019 at 10:00 AM
While strings keen a contrapuntal lament, the sad mother croons a lullaby to the baby swaddled and swaying on her back. Her melody is a paraphrase of a 15th century Sephardic folksong, originally sung by Spanish Jews fleeing their own persecution. Intermittently, children sing along with the strings, echoes of hope and consolation.
Originally the middle movement of a larger work, Piececitos, La Madre Triste is a vivid musical meditation on motherhood, migration and exile based on poems by Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American to win a Nobel Prize in Literature. Set in the original Spanish, Piececitos’ five songs for voice, violin, cello and piano interweave Latin American dance rhythms with haunting melodies: lullabies and laments of a mother on her treacherous journey toward refuge. La Madre Triste has been expanded for Habitat Home.
La Madre Triste and Piececitos as a whole use traditional musical patterns and pre-existing quotations to blend or contrast with newly composed elements/ Folkloric wisdom, generational and cultural ties clash in a mother’s inner dialogue of hope, terror and love as she struggles toward refuge for her children.