Dear Mother Earth: An Environmental Oratorio
On April 23, 2011 Wesleyan University hosted the world premiere of Dear Mother Earth: An Environmental Oratorio as part of Wesleyan's 2011 Feet to the Fire Program, composed by Glenn McClure. The work is a musical model of the biomathematics concept of “emerging complexity.” It uses sound to illustrate the common themes of environmental messages collected from children around the world, as well as environmental data related to insect diversity in local rivers collected by Wesleyan University students and the College of the Environment. The model was developed collaboratively between McClure and professors in the Department of Mathematics.
McClure commissioned children to write letters addressed to “Mother Earth” in order to discover each child’s view of both the unique beauty and the challenges of their part of the world. While some movements are based solely on one child’s letter, other movements bring themes from multiple letters together, stretching from Ghana and Nicaragua to the classrooms of Middletown. Images of student letters and artwork were be projected during the performance of the oratorio. “While each letter is unique, they all share the central themes of celebrating beauty, thankfulness, compassion, and a call to action,” said McClure. “Just as a flock of individual birds turn together in the wind without any discernable leader, these children have expressed these themes in their letters and illustrations.” Along with the premiere, a project website will be launched that will continue to gather letters from children around the world and their musical responses, as well as provide educators with teaching lessons and musical scores. This information can be found at http://letterstomotherearth.com.
The premiere was performed by the Wesleyan University Orchestra conducted by music director Angel Gil-Ordóñez, joined by the Wesleyan Ensemble Singers, the Middletown All-City Grades 4 and 5 Chorus, singers from Middletown High School, and Ghanaian, Korean, Japanese Taiko, and Caribbean steel drummers.
Special thank you to Professors Karen Collins, Barry Chernoff, Angel Gil-Ordóñez, and Daniel Krizanc and Marco Gaylord of the Middletown Public Schools.