Choir director puts poetry about immigration to music – Rochester Minnesota news, weather, sports
One piece of music may not radically change people’s minds, but David Kassler hopes it will be a good start.
Kassler, the musical director of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, said he started thinking about “Out of Eden,” his next choral piece, about four years ago, after the church invited the recent Rochester Registrars to discuss their own immigration stories.
The White House administration at the time was firmly anti-immigration. The issue was constantly in the news, he said.
“When you’re a songwriter, the issues sort of end up in your pen,” he said. And as the great-grandchild of immigrants – a fourth-generation immigrant, if you will – Kassler wanted to take a stand on welcoming people to the United States.
His original idea, to write a booklet using the words of immigrants from Rochester as lyrics, ran into a roadblock.
Kassler is not a writer.
So he turned to poets like writers Winona James Armstrong and Ken McCullough, Ray Gonzalez and Mai Der Vang.
The title of the completed cantata, written for mixed choir and “the king of instruments, the organ” is “Out of Eden”. This stems from the feeling that the Biblical figures were all metaphorical “refugees from Eden,” Kassler said.
One of the major themes of the play is the construction of walls, both figurative and literal, for “others” certain groups of people.
There will be two performances of “Out of Eden”. The first, January 14, will feature St. Paul’s One World Secondary School Choirs before the cantata. The second, January 16, will begin with community members singing songs from their childhood and teaching them to the audience before the cantata begins.
Nisha Kurup, Victim Services Program Manager at the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association in Rochester, will share “Humko Man Ki Shakti Dena”, an Indian song calling for an end to the division.
“Give us the strength to overcome our negative thoughts and before we try to conquer others, first let us conquer ourselves,” Kurup said. “You know, take away all discrimination. If your friends make mistakes, let’s try to forgive them.”
Kurup is not a professional singer, she says, but she does believe that music is a “powerful connector.”
“All over the world, human miseries and misfortunes are the same,” she said. “Art is a great way to bring people together, to connect and to draw energy from each other.”
There is no ticket price, but a voluntary donation will be collected at both concerts to benefit Catholic Charities, the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association and the Rochester Area Foundation.
Members of the public are required to wear masks and show proof of vaccination prior to entry.
The cantata will be performed by a choir of professional musicians from the Twin Cities.
Kassler hopes the music will appeal to listeners with diverse backgrounds – and attitudes toward immigration.
“There will be people who disagree with the message and people who agree,” he predicted. “They will be seated together, experiencing the music.”
Kassler hopes that “Out of Eden” will accomplish two tasks: first, that it will encourage listeners to see classical music as a current medium for discussing burning issues.
Second, it “will make us all think about whether or not we are ‘other people’, and what we do to feel more connected to those who are different from us,” he said. “I want people to have an experience that touches them. “
What: “Get out of Eden”
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14, 4 p.m. Jan. 16
Or: Christ United Methodist Church, 400 Fifth Ave. SW, Rochester
Cost: Voluntary donation collected at each concert.