The pianist Sarah Cahill performed pieces from "A Sweeter Music" last Saturday evening at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as a benefit for the American Friends Service Committee, which is the oddly clunky name for Quakers. She was joined by her daughter Miranda (above) who helped out during a rehearsal of the official world premiere of a Pauline Oliveiros piece for audience sing-a-long called "A New Indigo Peace."
I heard a preview of Ms. Oliveiros' protest peace song over a year ago at Mills College and loved it, encouraging Sarah to program it again. She took me up on the challenge and insisted I be in charge of the audience sing-a-long at the Conservatory benefit, which was a stretch because my singing voice only approximates pitch. Plus, after a week of wage slavery at the Census Bureau, I had come down with a horrible cold for the weekend. Thankfully, I was able to dragoon a trio of Quakers from the weekly federal building peace vigil to fill in for me.
Also helping with the audience sing-along was Miranda. As Sarah wrote, "Before the concert I talked with Miranda about the history of the American Friends Service Committee, as much as I know about it, and she said she felt the same about the senselessness of war and the possibilities of peace. And when it came time for Pauline Oliveros' sing-along, she decided she wanted to go stand in front of the audience and guide the singing with the Quakers."
The three brave souls were (left to right above) Stephen Matchett, Sandra Schwartz, and Markley Morris. It helped that Matchett could read the penciled out score and sing with near-perfect pitch.
Markley Morris wrote an account:
"We came for rehearsal two hours before the show. When Sarah played it through, I was dazzled. The idea is simple: a three-part round based on the words “We want peace on earth” is embedded in brilliant swirls of piano music. There’s a certain rowdiness about it. The repeating words evoke the chanting at a demonstration.
I was sorry Mike was under the weather but thankful he was there to help us rehearse. I was given the simplest part of the round but clearly was out of my depths. I never did manage to sing it through correctly to say nothing of in tune!
When it came time to perform, Sarah and then Stephen skillfully explained the piece to the audience and we practiced a little. Then we sang. Somehow it all came together. “A New Indigo Peace” was glorious. I couldn’t really hear the audience but I could see that their mouths moving and the music flowed everywhere.
I think the sing-along was a pleasant and energizing break after some quite demanding music. Sarah likened it to the sing-alongs Pete Seeger’s been leading all these years.
I love “A New Indigo Peace,” and I hope it goes on to have a long life.