Ted Hearne: Letter to my father

Written by Sam Grosby


In category: Song of the Day

Published August 29, 2017

Today’s selection comes from Ted Hearne’s 2015 composition Coloring Book. He describes the work as such: “I set the words of three great black American writers of different generations (Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Claudia Rankine) in texts dealing with identity, not because I could ever pretend to speak for them, but because I wanted to know: Could I better understand their words by speaking them in my own voice? Could I better understand my own perspective—my own identity, my whiteness, my relationship to racism—by appropriating the perspective of someone different? What are the boundaries that separate me from not-me? And what does it mean to hold myself apart?” Below is the text, a poem by Zora Neale Hurston.

Letter to my father
Him. He
He has only heard what I
I felt. He
He is far away but I
I see him.
Him but dimly across the ocean and the continent that have fallen between us.
Us. He
He is so pale with his whiteness then and I
I am so colored.
Music. The great blobs of purple and red emotion have not touched him.
He is so pale with his whiteness then and I
I am so colored.

—Zora Neale Hurston
from “How it feels to be colored me” (1928)

author: Sam Grosby

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Tenor Sam Grosby is an alum of Eastman School of Music and Northwestern University, and spent this past summer with Wolf Trap Opera performing the role of the Miller in The Juniper Tree by Philip Glass. He made his NYFOS debut this summer in Red, White, and Blues as part of the NYFOS@North Fork residency, and is thrilled to work with Opera for the Young as the Prince in Dvořák’s Rusalka this fall and spring.


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