Central Pennsylvania Womyn's Chorus
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This Land is OUR Land!

Spring 2001 Concert
Dan Krynak, Director
Catharine Roth, Accompanist

Program Notes

A list of tunes performed follows these notes.

Tonight we celebrate American music of many genres, a wide range of American poets and composers, and a variety of American experiences. In doing so, we claim our own place in this boisterous and beautiful country.

Katherine Lee Bates

Generally known only as the poet who composed America the Beautiful, Katherine Lee Bates was a fascinating woman. The daughter of a Congregationalist pastor, she was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts in 1859 and spent her life in New England. According to Planet Out web site, she “was a precocious child who at the age of nine already had strong likes and dislikes. ‘I like women better than men,’ the young girl wrote in her diary. ‘I like fat women better than lean ones.’ She also showed her early feminist proclivities: ‘Sewing is always expected of girls. Why not boys?’

“After graduating from Wellesley College in 1885, Bates was invited to stay on and teach English. Pursuing a teaching career was one way that young, middle-class women at that time could become economically independent and remain unmarried if they so chose. In fact, Susan B. Anthony called the last years of the 19th century ‘the epoch of the single woman,’ because so many educated women opted not to marry men and instead partnered off with other women in romantic friendships.”

At Wellesley, she met and formed a lifelong partnership with another professor, Katharine Coman, who founded the college's economics department. Such relationships were accepted enough to earn the term “Boston marriages”, or sometimes, “Wellesley marriages”. (Here are links to articles on Boston marriage in the women's history section of about.com.)

In 1893, traveling cross-country to a summer teaching job in Colorado Springs in 1893, a trip up Pike's Peak inspired her to write America the Beautiful. Although she originally considered the poem unworthy of publication, after several years she published it in The Congregationalist and it became immensely popular. After it was set to music the royalties supported her comfortably for the rest of her life.

Bates wrote many books and hundreds of poems. In 1912, Coman was stricken with breast cancer, and Bates nursed her through three painful years of decline. Katharine Bates lived until 1929, but she never stopped mourning Katharine Coman. Yellow Clover, her poem about the flower they collected for one another, is a moving expression of this grief, which we have reprinted on our web site. Here is a link to the text of If You Could Come, another poem that seems to address this loss.

Aaron Copland

We like these quotes from a recent Chicago Tribune article about Aaron Copland (1900-1990): “Copland... was the greatest composer the American century produced. Like his Old Testament namesake, he was a high priest and public spokesman for his religion -- in his case, American music....

“Copland always was circumspect about his private life.... He apparently accepted his homosexuality at an early age but refused to go public with it, even when Bernstein urged him to do so in the '80s. ‘I'll leave that to you youngsters,’ Copland retorted. As was the case with his friend, composer Benjamin Britten (who played a central role in English musical life similar to the one Copland played in the U.S.), it is impossible to fully understand Copland's music without taking his sexuality -- or, for that matter, his Jewish heritage -- into account.”

PBS has a Copland biography on its web site.

Gwyneth Walker

Dr. Gwyneth Walker (b. 1947) is a graduate of Brown University and the Hartt School of Music. She holds B.A., M.M. and D.M.A. Degrees in Music Composition. A former faculty member of the Oberlin College Conservatory, she resigned from academic employment in 1982 in order to pursue a career as a full-time composer. She now lives on a dairy farm in Braintree, Vermont. She has written some of the most beautiful and challenging arrangements we have performed.

Walker says that in the old Quaker hymn, How Can I Keep from Singing? “references to the persecution of Friends may be heard in the lyrics. This new arrangement emphasizes the celebratory and life-affirming aspects of the song.”

More information can be found at on her web site.

Stephen Foster

Struggling with what to sing -- and what not to sing -- at this concert was a growing experience for the chorus. In conjunction with its documentary on Stephen Foster, PBS posted a page of quotes from various sources: Should we change Foster's songs to remove their racist aspects, or not perform them?

Tunes Performed

(The Harrisburg Men's Chorus and the Central Pennsylvania Womyn's Chorus)

T H E W O M Y N ‘ S C H O R U S


This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island
From the redwood forest to the Gulf-stream waters
This land was made for you and me.


As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me. [CHORUS]

Some folks are marching, some folks are preaching
Some folks are praying, and we’re here singing
We've got a right to be who we are
And this land belongs to you and me.

Cruel laws won't stop us, plagues won't destroy us
When oppressors stalk us we'll bravely meet them
We want to live out our lives in freedom
Our love will conquer bigotry.

We come from cities and mountain cabins
From many nations and many colors
They can't ignore us, 'cause we're here singing
That this land was made for you and me
[CHORUS: This land is your land,
this land is OUR land....]

T H E M E N ‘ S C H O R U S

T H E W O M Y N ‘ S C H O R U S


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