The Benediction

This song, commissioned and recorded by New York tenor Kyle Bielfield, is largely a meditation on America’s unsettled state in the years following the financial crash. This is accomplished mainly through vignettes suggesting unfinished business, a desperate anger simmering below the surface and, finally, the hope of optimism and wisdom personified by a young child. The music is mainly rhapsodic, save for an outburst of despair just past the midpoint.

Date: 2012Composer: Mark AbelText: Mark Abel

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From sea to shining sea …

Evergreen cliffs lean into the Pacific,
beneath a leaden sky where avocets play
along the strand that stretches forever.
Glad to be alive!

I sense a building tide sweeping across
a discontented land that needs renewal.
When the change comes, who will be ready?
Who will be ready? …
Throw away your easy answers,
they will not help you now.

Rolling along a Dixie highway,
kudzu cloaking the tallest trees.
A place of ghosts,
piney woods and savage seasons.
We are crying out for truth and reason.
See how the path is overgrown!

In the green fields of the heartland
towns are thinning out, dreams downsizing.
A chill wind blows through the empty mall.
Somewhere a young man cleans his gun.
“They have stolen my America,” he cries.
Who will draw the poison from his heart?
… From his heart.
A girl or God, we pray.

Far New England, autumn time.
A child stares at red leaves
and wonders how a miracle is made.
She will grow and she will know before long
the path of grace, the changing face of our age
— ever shifting, elusive, turned toward the future.
Of this she is sure: Yesterday is gone
and open hearts must point the way.

And with her go the hopes of all,
from sea to shining sea.

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