The Immigrant Experience - Music Sunday
December 8, 2019 at 10:00 a.m.
This Sunday, we continue our exploration of the theme of compassion as it relates to the issue of immigration. The centerpiece of the service will be a presentation of a recent work by John Kramer, who serves as Music Director of the Winchester Unitarian Society in Winchester MA. The Immigrant Experience is a cantata whose seven movements offer a variety of perspectives on what has been and continues to be the experience of those individuals who leave their homelands in search of a better life here. The piece opens and closes with words from “The New Colossus,” the poem by Emma Lazarus inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” The excited response of those reaching the United States in anticipation of the freedom they believe awaits them is reflected in an ebullient “Welcome to this land of freedom for all!” The cantata explores the historical basis of this promise of freedom for all by presenting the words of those who helped found this nation, notably George Washington, who in a letter to Irish American immigrants in 1783 wrote, “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions.” Next is a movement celebrating the diversity of lands from which people have come in the hopes of finding this promised freedom, which for many proves to be elusive because of the anti-immigrant prejudice faced in trying to establish a new life here. Next is a movement recognizing that many undertake the journey here at great personal risk, traveling great expanses on foot or on the top of trains with little or no food and water and sometimes in desperation seeking the services of traffickers to bring them across the border. Many do not survive their journey, and others who were brought to this country against their will have perished as well. In memory of those whose journey took them “across the river, but not to the land of the living,” there is a soulful and moving litany: “We remember and we cry.” The cantata ends with words from the founders establishing this country as a haven for those fleeing persecution and from 20th-century politicians extolling the immigrant spirit and the ways in which the contributions of immigrants have enriched the lives of all Americans.
To say that this work is timely would be a gross understatement. What seems most to be lacking in our country today is a willingness on the part of those with the power to shape our policies on immigration to live into that sense of welcome and compassion that has historically, though certainly not always perfectly, characterized the spirit of our nation.
We hope you will join us on Sunday!
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