Commissioned by The Glimmerglass Festival
reduced orchestration by Rick Bassett
- 2(pic).2(ca).2(bcl).2(cbn)/2.2.2+btbn.0/timp.2perc/hp.pf(cel)/str (126.96.36.199.2)
- 1(pic).1(ca).1(bcl).1(cbn)/1.1.1(btbn).0/timp(perc)+perc/pf(cel).hp/str (188.8.131.52.2)
- Mz, B-Bar, T, Bar, S, Mz, A, T, T, Bar, Treble
- 2 hr
- Tazewell Thompson
THE MOTHER: Mezzo-soprano
THE FATHER: Bass-baritone
THE SON: Tenor
THE REVEREND: High Baritone
GIRLFRIEND 1, NURSE, CONGREGANT 1: Coloratura Soprano
GIRLFRIEND 2, CONGREGANT 2: Mezzo-soprano
GIRLFRIEND 3, CONGREGANT 3: Alto
POLICEMAN 1, CONGREGANT 1: Tenor
POLICEMAN 2, CONGREGANT 2: Tenor
POLICEMAN 3, CONGREGANT 3: Baritone
YOUNG CHILD: Treble
The Mother calls her Girlfriends together to her apartment in Harlem to tell them she is expecting a child. Their joy turns to concern when she tells them she is carrying a boy; they warn her that her son will not be welcomed in this country. When her hope and love — for the child she carries and for The Father, a policeman — will not be shaken, her Girlfriends relent, blessing her and the child. The Father’s police officer buddies, on the other hand, are immediately joyful — and a bit jealous — when they learn their fellow officer has fathered a son.
Sixteen years later, The Son, a student artist and activist, frequently finds himself at odds with the law for his involvement with non-violent political protests. The Father confronts The Son, who pushes back, accusing his police officer Father of upholding an oppressive system. Despite The Son’s bitter words, The Father tells him he will always love him and hold him close.
After The Son is shot by a police officer at a protest, the heartbroken Father meets with The Reverend, who attempts to comfort him and encourages him to forgive. The Father, adopting the attitude of The Son, lashes out angrily. As the funeral for The Son approaches, The Girlfriends return to Harlem to support the grief-stricken Mother as she prepares to lay her son to rest.
At the funeral, Father and Mother pray with the congregation, asking God to welcome their son to Heaven. The Father briefly becomes lost in a fog of emotion, guilt, regret and memory, then finds his way back to the community gathered around him in church.
In an epilogue, we see The Father, The Mother and The Son, together, in a bittersweet moment around a kitchen table, sharing a meal, as The Son reconciles with his father and announces his plans for further artistic studies and one more peaceful protest.