James McMillian: Sun Stone

Written by Rebecca Jo Loeb


In category: Song of the Day

Published October 1, 2019

Given the current political climate I feel it would be remiss of me to not include at least one good political song. For some reason this choral piece I sang at the University of Michigan popped into my head and I gave it a little re-listen and was pleased that I found it as impactful as I did when I first heard it.

Cantos Sagrados sets poems by Ariel Dorfman and Ana Maria Mendosa on the subject of political repression in Latin America combines with traditional religious texts in Latin. As MacMillan states in his preface to the score ‘the title Sacred Songs is …slightly misleading as the three poems are concerned with political repression in Latin America and are deliberately coupled with traditional religious texts to emphasise a deeper solidarity with the poor of that subcontinent’.

The Sun Stone movement depicts death by firing squad during the Pinochet regime.

I highly recommend listening to the entire piece, but maybe this movement will spur your interest. If you don’t like the piece then maybe you’ll be moved by the poem:

They put the prisoner
against the wall.
A soldier ties his hands.
His fingers touch him – strong,
gentle, saying goodbye.

– Forgive me, companero –
says the voice in a whisper.
The echo of his voice
and of
those fingers on his arm
fills his body with light
I tell you his body fills with light
and he almost does not hear the sound of the shots

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Based in Germany, American mezzo-soprano Rebecca Jo Loeb sings regularly with Deutsche Oper Berlin and across Europe. Last season she created the role of Lumee in the premiere of Ellen Reid’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera p r i s m. In addition to her operatic repertoire, Becca Jo specializes in the music of Kurt Weill. Becca Jo returns to NYFOS in this fall in Blitzstein’s No For An Answer and Weill’s Der Silbersee.


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