Three American Voices
Brian Gaber composed Three American Voices as a way of saying thank you to three Americans who have immeasurably enriched the cultural fabric of our nation by virtue of the way they thought and lived: Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes and Satchel Paige. A particularly eloquent statement made by each of these unique individuals inspired the piece, which combines elements of jazz, gospel and Afro-Cuban traditions.

Duke Ellington: "Freedom is a word that is spoken and sung, loudly and softly, all around the world. The word is used for many purposes. It is sometimes even used in the interest of... Freedom." Late in life, Ellington contributed to the humanity and heart of the nation with his Sacred Concerts. He made this statement on the occasion of the second Sacred Concert performed in 1968 at the Cathedral of St. John in New York.

Langston Hughes: "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is like a broken-winged bird that cannot fly." Langston Hughes was one of the most important writers and thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance; the artistic movement of the 1920s that celebrated black life and culture. As one of our first widely acclaimed African-American authors, Hughes left behind a rich legacy or written beauty that never seems to age.

Satchel Paige: "Work like you don't need the money, Love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching." One of the greatest pitchers of all time, racism confined Satchel Paige to play in the Negro Leagues and in leagues abroad for most of his long career. On July 9, 1948, Paige became the oldest man ever to debut in the major leagues when he took the mound for the Cleveland Indians at the age of 42 years and 2 days. No one is 100% sure to whom this quote should be attributed. It has often, mistakenly, been attributed to Mark Twain. Satchel Paige had a seemingly endless supply of verbal wit and it is generally accepted that this is one of his.

Composer and arranger Brian Gaber is a graduate of The Eastman School of Music and is currently the director of commercial music program at Florida State University. His compositions and arrangements have been played by more than 50 major orchestras nationwide including the Baltimore Symphony, the Nashville Symphony, the Fort Worth Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Jacksonville Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the Long Beach Symphony, and the Boston Pops.

Three American Voices Instrumentation:
2, 2, 2, 2, 4, 3, 3, 1, 2 perc. + Timp. Rhythm section Bass, Drum Set
Ancestral Waters
Ancestral Waters is a work borne of two poems; “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by the well-known and highly revered American poet, Langston Hughes, and “The Old SeaChain” by the nearly forgotten Ghanaian playwright and poet, Joe Coleman De Graft.

In “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Hughes evokes by name, the Euphrates, the Congo and the Mississippi, tapping the ancestral significance of the each river. In this way, the river is seen metaphorically as birthing pool, reflector and conduit of the African American experience, and within the space of his powerful poem the fullness of time emerges from the rivers that shaped his African forefathers to the American river that shaped him, Hughes’ thoughts reach far across the ocean, from west to east and far into the past, from dawn to sunset. By contrast, Joe Coleman De Graft gives us the perspective of a West African looking westward, to the place where his ancestors were taken. At first, his depiction of the slave ship is cloaked in paradoxically beautiful language and fresh sea images. It isn’t until the poem arrives at the haunting idea of the rusted chains that have stained the rocks like blood do we get our bearings and begin to understand the perspective of the poem. As in the Hughes poem, blood is again evoked; the chain becomes a chain of flesh and iron that, again, reaches across, this time east to west, from Africa to America, and again, from past to present. The movement, and the whole work ends with a song of the Housa people of West Africa. It is a lament of death and loss.

La lem u lo, La lem ha du-a
Nay de-ka ma chi fu-li-fo, La lem ha du-a
La lem ha du-a, La lem u lo La lem ha du-a
Nay de-ka ma chi fu-li-fo, La lem u lo.
These two movements are bridged by a wordless prayer - a prayer for all the loss, a
prayer for the healing of wounds inflicted on not just one, but on many cultures; a prayer
for remembering.

Many thanks to the fabulous Mezzo-Soprano Suzanne Duplantis for an inspired performance.