SONGS FROM THE NORTH

For soloists and mixed choir

Text: Inuit poems

duration 14 minutes

1. Do not wait for the dawn – Vänta aldrig på gryningen
2. But when I heard of people murdered, fleeing
3. We understand so little of the majesty around us
4. The day rises – Dagen reser sig

Without words. In unison. This piece starts so. A slowly spun melody develops into harmony. Gradually the words become:

The time is now. If you yearn, do not wait for the dawn.

It is sung in Swedish and English. The original language is actually something else. This is arctic poetry, created by people who belong to indigenous populations on Greenland and in Canada. In their directness, the poems are enormously inspiring. It concerns life, what it means to be human.

The texts in the two last movements are recited by Simigaq. She was the oldest woman at the settlement Ulugssat when explorer Knut Rasmussen met her in the beginning of the 20th century. She shared her experiences from a long life in the far North.

I have now interpreted these texts to music in my way, for choir.

A choir is a group of people. One can sing with and against each other. One can stand a bit away from each other or close together. The most important thing is that those who sing and dance together are not at war.

Karin Rehnqvist
English translation by Rebecca Seeman

Songs from the Northwas composed for Sacred and Profane, A Chamber Chorus in celebration of their 40th anniversary season; and Rebecca Seeman, Artistic Director.First performance at St Mark’s Episcopal, Berkeley 11/5 2018


Texts:

1. Do not wait for the dawn – Vänta aldrig på gryningen

The time is now. If you yearn, do not wait for the dawn.

Vänta aldrig på gryningen då du längtar.

– Anonymous

 

2. But when I heard of the people murdered, fleeing

But when I heard

of people murdered, fleeing

the ground became a precipice

and I stood atop it swaying

– Ulvúnuaq (Netsilik people; Pelly Bay, Canada); excerpt

 

3. We understand so little of the majesty around us

We understand so little of the majesty around us,

even when we come to the places where one is alone with the world in silence.

– Simigaq (Ulugssat, Greenland)

 

4. The day rises – Dagen reser sig

Dagen reser sig ur sin dvala The day rises from its sleep

Dagen vaknar med gryningen The day wakes with the dawn

Också du skall resa dig You too shall rise

också du skall vakna you too shall wake

med dagen with the day

– Simigaq (Ulugssat, Greenland)

 

Poems collected and translated to Swedish by Ann Smith.
English translations by Robin Blanton