This post comes to us from Shara Worden. Her choral work The Pleiades will be premiered at YNYC’s upcoming concert, Live to Tell: The Warrior.
When Young New Yorkers’ Chorus first approached me about writing choral pieces based on feminine heroes, we went through a list: Joan of Arc, Hildegard of Bingen, Emily Dickinson, etc. We were searching for an idea together. I started thinking about friends of mine who have been heroes to me. For my birthday a few years ago my friend Becky Stark, of the band Lavender Diamond, gave me a birthday package with themes based on the Seven Sisters, the star cluster known as The Pleiades. As I was reflecting on who those Seven Sisters might be in the constellation of my own life, Becky happened to send me a poetic and loving email and it was from that email that I cut and pasted the text for “Mother Maker”, the first movement of this cycle.
Every culture seems to have its own story about this star cluster. I latched on to a few of the stories from Wikipedia (below) and edited them into song form.
“Accordingly to a Ukrainian legend, seven maids lived long ago. They used to dance the traditional round dances and sing the glorious songs to honor the gods. After their death the gods turned them into water nymphs, and, having taken them to the Heavens, settled them upon the seven stars, where they dance their round dances (symbolic for moving the time) to this day.”
“A Cherokee myth (similar to that of the Onondaga people) indicates that seven boys who would not do their ceremonial chores and wanted only to play, ran around and around the ceremonial ball court in a circle, and rose up into the sky. Only six of the boys made it to the sky; the seventh was caught by his mother and fell to the ground with such force that he sunk into the ground. A pine tree grew over his resting place.”
This song cycle was also being created while artist Roger Feldman was building a sculpture which has three intersecting circles. The sculpture stands in Lakey, Texas and the sky there is so clear that you can always see the stars. I imagined the choir in this space, surrounding the circular structure, singing in the round, looking up at the stars.