But Joy Comes in the Morning: Choral Music by Margaret S. Meier

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The acronym SOCSA, appearing in the title of the work A SOCSA Quilt by California-based composer Margaret S. Meier, stands for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse and was coined by the composer. The topic has been more commonly addressed in popular music than in the concert music sphere, where Meier's work may be the first to take up the theme; she furnishes her own texts, combined with others drawn from the Bible (including the album title But Joy Comes in the Morning). The quilt structure has the subject of more than one failed attempt to translate it into musical terms, but Meier's solution is simple and convincing: the biblical texts, unified respectively in each half of the work by melodic or harmonic means, form the frame or "border" of the quilt, enclosing each individual episode. Those episodes straightforwardly set out the events of child sexual abuse (in Part I: Horror and Heartache) and subsequent recovery (in Part II: Healing and Hope). Some of the episodes are spoken, and each tends to bring out a short phrase such as "If you tell they won't believe you." With its square rhythms the music may seem a bit bare, but it makes an impact. Meier's approach is religious, and with the economical brass writing of the opening Te Deum plus choral settings of poems by Christina Rossetti and Emily Dickinson ("After Great Pain"), all of which lead up to A SOCSA Quilt in a general way, the program forms a powerful whole. The chief problem here is the performance of A SOCSA Quilt by the Ars Brunensis Chorus and Moravian Philharmonic of Olomouc in the Czech Republic. The orchestra has appeared on many discs of new music, which is all to the good, but a veteran choir singing Meier's words in definitely Slavic-accented English is a distraction; the work seems intended for a choir of young people such as the Chamber Singers of Mt. San Antonio College that acquits itself well in the three opening works. Perhaps the recording will help put the music into more general circulation, for there are many situations in which the performance of A SOCSA Quilt could aid in the healing process the composer intends to depict.

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