Song of Hope


UCLA Chorale, Angeles Chorale, and UCLA Philharmonia

Karen Vuong, soprano

Donald Neuen, conductor

Live performance at Schoenberg Hall, UCLA on March 15, 2003


Song of Hope is a seventeen-minute cantata which was composed between March 2000 and June 2001.  Its initial topic of the ugliness of war can be interpreted literally or figuratively, as an allegory to the formidable struggles one encounters during their own lifetime.  While there will always be struggles, war-related or otherwise, I firmly believe there are still reasons for hope.  In this piece I draw from the work of six poets in an attempt to share with the listener my own personal view on those reasons.


- Mark J. Lathan

Texts for Song of Hope


I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask "Mother, what was war?"

(Eve Merriam; © 1986 by Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers.)

SPAIN 1937, from SONNETS FROM CHINA  (begins at 0’44”)

Here war is harmless like a monument
A telephone is talking to a man;
Flags on a map declare that troops were sent;
A boy brings milk in bowls. There is a plan

For living men in terror of their lives,
Who thirst at nine who were to thirst at
Who can be lost and are, who miss their wives
And, unlike an idea, can die too soon.

Yet ideas can be true, although men die;
For we have seen a myriad faces
Ecstatic from one lie,

And maps can really point to places
Where life is evil now,
Where the silenced cannons take their toll
Without a sound.

(W. H. Auden, adapted by MJL; © 1937, 1945 by Random House.)

MIDWINTER  (begins at 3’57”)

My window looks upon a world gone gray,
Where grim trees seem like troubled men in prayer;
Smoke pours from chimneys, telling that the day
Is drear - that piercing winds have chilled the air.

No songbird trills - only the sparrows wait
Hunched in their feathers, for the proffered crumb;
It is as if some stern, relentless fate
Had gripped the earth and left it tired and numb.

Even the far-off whistling of a train
Sounds weary, dwindles to a ghostly wail;
Does all the world reflect war's gloomy strain,
Wondering what foes, what evil may assail?

But spring will come - of this there is no doubt,
With blossoming bough...if mankind would implore
The powers that be to put war's curse to rout,
Could peace not bloom, too, in the world once more?

(Margaret Bruner; © 1941, 1956 by Doubleday.)


Far from love the Heavenly Father
Leads the chosen child
Oft’ner through the realm of briar
Than the meadow mild

Oft’ner by the claw of dragon
Than the hand of friend,
Guides the little one predestined
To the native land.

(Emily Dickinson)

PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS  (begins at 10’00”)

Lord, make me an instrument of your will and of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt let me believe.
Let me bring hope in despair and light in the darkness, and in sorrow let me know joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console and understand;
Not to be loved as to love.
For in giving we receive, forgiving we are pardoned, and so in dying we are born.
We are born, in dying, to eternal life.

(St. Francis of Assisi, adapted by MJL)

INTERLUDE  (begins at 12’13”)


PSALM 121  (begins at 13’07 ”)

I lift my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from?
I put my trust in the Lord, almighty God.
Maker of heaven and earth, by whom all things were made.

He watches over you, He is your shade at your right hand.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

He will not let you stumble, He who watches over you
And He who watches over all His people,
Israel, will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord will keep you from all harm, He will watch over your life.
The Lord will watch over your coming and going for now and evermore.

(New International Version, adapted by MJL; © 1995 by The Zondervan Corportation.) home