Judging by Navona’s VOICES OF EARTH AND AIR VOL. III, this century is facing a significant paradigm shift in contemporary composition. The third installment of the trailblazing series again showcases contemporary choral music, and once more, it is mesmerizing – mesmerizingly tonal and aesthetic. Mother of Exiles, written by Theresa Koon, aims not only to address the complex issue of immigration, but to offer a voice to immigrants who lack one. It is centered around Emma Lazarus’ poem The New Colossus, which is inscribed in the Statue of Liberty.
Today, Theresa is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to discover her path from a music-filled childhood home to composing for choir today…
Who were your favorite artists growing up?
There was always music in our house, since my mom was a pianist and all six kids studied music. Someone was always practicing, and most of the music was classical. I loved Bach, Chopin, and Brahms, in particular, and usually a favorite piece emerged from among the various projects my family members were working on. I was pretty sensitive, so it felt like music created a world that I could understand and where I could be understood. It was a haven for me that mattered tremendously.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
For me, there was never a question about it or a moment of discovery. Music was always my world, so it was clearly where I belonged. I loved singing best, and realized in grade school that that would be my path. I loved to perform, and found I had a knack for arranging music to serve a given situation. It was later in my adult career that I also began composing in earnest.
What does this album mean to you personally?
This album offers a chance for my work to reach audiences that might otherwise never find out about what I do. My hope is that Navona Records (and PARMA) is providing bridges that help individual artists be heard in the most appropriate contexts, including internationally. This is an opportunity for us—a risk worth taking.
Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?
I believe the majority of Americans, despite our differences, still view the Statue of Liberty as the face and voice of U.S. democracy. We see her as a symbol of welcome to our immigrant ancestors, many of whom were desperate people in need of asylum. We are living at a time when immigration is a world-wide issue, which no one country can solve alone. To me, this is a delicate and complex situation that deserves compassionate consideration and collaboration. My hope is that Mother of Exiles will help communicate this message world-wide.