Philip Munger, composer of "The Skies Are Weeping," canceled a performance of the cantata after its lyrics provoked negative reaction. (Photo by Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News)




Text to 'The Skies Are Weeping,' a cantata by Philip Munger

Flashpoint cantata

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(Published: April 25, 2004)

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Listen to two selections from the 7-movement cantata "The Skies are Weeping," by Alaska composer Philip Munger.

Movement No.2, "Dance for Tom Hurndall." (This piece will be performed under a new title, "Recently Untitled Dance" on Tuesday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall of the UAA Arts Building.)

Movement No.7, "Rachel's Words."
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Scenes from the April 8 meeting at UAA, jointly called by Rabbi Yosef Greenberg and composer Philip Munger, to discuss and answer questions on Munger's 7-movement cantata, "The Skies are Weeping." Those at the meeting did not hear the music before commenting. The session was marked by discord, confusion and incivility. Some segments include strong language.

Watch six scenes from the meeting.
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1. Choral Prelude: Psalm 137 (King James Version)

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when

we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in

the midst thereof.

For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song;

and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, "Sing us

one of the songs of Zion."

How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget

thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do

not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my

mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of

Jerusalem; who said, "Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation


O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he

be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he

be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

2. Dance for Tom Hurndall (no lyrics)

3. Aria-Lament: Rachel

(For Rachel Corrie)

With the name Rachel,

she would be matriarch of the people,

those suffering a fearful life of drought,

loss of home and land,

history of ancestors

buried in heaps of disrespected earth,

she had no choice

but to follow her heart,

faith must have filled her soul,

that she could hold a child's tears

in the cup of her hand,

that her small body

would take the form of her spirit,

large enough to protect those she felt connected to,

she risked her last breath

against the hardness of steel,

her arms became wings of resolve,

she was the laughter of wind,

offering joy to those in lament,

this is my song to you young sister,

you have touched this world

with your strong voice

crying for justice.

(Phil Goldvarg -- March 18, 2003)

4. Song: God the Synecdoche in His Holy Land in memoriam Rachel Corrie

Around you the father gods war. This

Father. That father. The other father.

What more dangerous place could

A woman stand, upright, than on that sand, as if

She were still antiphon to that voice, the other

Mind of that power. The very idea!

Crush her back in to her mother!

Crush her. Crush her. Consensus. War.

-- Linda McCarriston

5. Recitative: I had no mercy for anybody

I would erase anyone with the D-9, and I have demolished

plenty. I wanted to destroy everything. I begged the officers, over

the radio, to let me knock it all down; from top to bottom. To

level everything. When I was told to bring down a house, I took

the opportunity to bring down some more houses.

For three days, I just destroyed and destroyed. The whole area. I

wanted to get to the other houses. To get as many as possible. I

didn't see, with my own eyes, people dying under the blade of the

D-9. But if there were any, I wouldn't care at all. If you knocked

down a house, you buried 40 or 50 people. If I am sorry for

anything, it is for not tearing the whole camp

down. I had lots of satisfaction in Jenin, lots of satisfaction. No

one expressed any reservations against doing it. Who would dare

speak? If anyone would as much as open his mouth, I would have

buried him under the D-9."

-- from

6. Song: The Skies Are Weeping

The birds have flown away

With rain-sodden flowers in hand

I wait for you, Rachel.

The rain drops trickle

Washing the scent off the mourning tulips

Pounding the healing earth

The howling winds and trembling blades of grass

Calling for you, Rachel.

Dust dancing around my knees

Walling me in, and my grief

From the weeping heavens faintly at first

I hear you, Rachel.

You give strength to my tears

And resolve to my limbs

As I stand up with my broken tulips

The skies are clearing

The earth is sprouting fresh blades of grass

That whisper your name, Rachel.

The winds are gentle

Reassuring in their calmness

Heaven and earth rejoice today

As you're with me again, Rachel.

-- Thushara Wijeratna

7. Chorale with soprano solo; Rachel's Words (edited by Philip Munger)

Feel sick to my stomach a lot

from being doted on all the time,

very sweetly,

by people who are facing doom.

You can always hear the tanks and bulldozers

passing by.

I have had bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers

outside our house

and you and me inside.

Tanks and bulldozers destroyed 25 greenhouses

the livelihoods for 300 people.

Then the bulldozers come and take out

people's vegetable farms and gardens.

This happens every day.

I think that I should at least mention that

I am also discovering a degree of strength

and of basic ability for humans to remain human

in the direst circumstances.

I think the word is dignity.

I wish you could meet these people.

Maybe, hopefully, someday

you will.

Flashpoint cantata

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Anchorage Daily News Story Alaska composer's tribute to a dead American activist exposes sharp conflict over art, balance and freedom of expression.