Our world is a wondrous place; but it is also a deeply troubled place, in need of messages of inclusion, trust, kindness, compassion, humanity, and mutual respect. The texts for this work act as poetic responses to the verses in the traditional Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The poet has taken each blessing ("Tuvayhun" in Aramaic) and crafted a text as if to say, “Yes, and…” These new texts illustrate how that blessing applies in the real world. It seems as though words two millennia ago still resonate, and the types of people Jesus sought to comfort with his blessings are still in need of blessing, and the societal shortcomings he drew attention to then are still challenging us today.
One might think that each of the eight verses in the Beatitudes concerns different groups of people: the poor in spirit, the meek, the peacemakers, the merciful. However, these are not eight different groups of people but are eight moral qualities that all of us can possess. We are all in need of these blessings, and we are all called to act as the agents of blessing. The texts range from a lullaby to a refugee narrative, from folk dance to an anthem of universal human needs and dignity, interspersed with messages of hope and blessings, framed by Jesus’ beatitudes sung in Aramaic. It ends with an exhortation for all of us to let our light shine and be a blessing to others.
As part of the message to embrace our differences, "Tuvayhun" is a crossover work with elements from classical, jazz and world music. The work was commissioned and premiered by the Manhattan Girls Chorus and conductor Michelle Oesterle, April 2018.