Beatitudes for a Wounded World

The Manhattan Girls Chorus presented the world premiere of their commissioned work from celebrated Norwegian classical composer Kim André Arnesen and acclaimed lyricist Charles Anthony Silvestri in April 2018. Recognizing the need for messages that transcend political, religious, economic and other barriers, the team collaborated on the development of a musical experience that focused on inclusivity, kindness and compassion. The resulting work, Tuvayhun – Beatitudes for a Wounded World, is an oratorio of peace and blessings for humanity (“Tuvayhun” is Aramaic for “Blessed are…”).

The time I spent with Michelle and the girls of the MGC was one of the top highlights of my career in choral music. They found complexities and depths and nuances in my words and in the music that I didn’t know were there. The combination of musicianship, professionalism, warmth, integrity to the piece, and vision that I experienced with the MGC were unparalleled. Truly exceptional.” 

                                                          Charles Anthony Silvestri, Lyricist

Starting with the Beatitudes from Matthew 5, the work responds with a poem addressed to those being blessed: the poor in spirit, the merciful, the peacemakers, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the pure in heart and others. This suite of varied text is extremely relevant to our current world situation and ranges from a lullaby to a refugee narrative, from a hymn to an anthem on universal human needs and dignity, interspersed with messages of hope and blessings in English, Aramaic (the original language of the Beatitudes) and many other languages. The ending creates a call to action to inspire the singers and the audience to share their light and their compassion, and be a blessing to others.

This performance was staged in the Angel Orensanz Center, a magnificent and soaring performance space with historical significance in New York City. The Center was originally built as a Gothic Revival synagogue in 1849 and is the fourth-oldest surviving synagogue building in the United States.  The Manhattan Girls Chorus were joined by a select group of world-renowned soloists and instrumentalists playing ancient instruments. This project was launched with initial support through a grant from The Norwegian Composer Fund in April 2017.