By Ian Bush
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As the country prepares to mark a year since the Sandy Hook massacre, a Lehigh University professor looks to respond to the tragedy in song, with a focus on how children have been affected by loss.
From elementary school students’ words and drawings, Steven Sametz is making music.
“The idea is to write a work which gives voice to children’s responses to tragedy and loss,” he says. “I’m going to create a libretto of short sayings or mottos from the children and then set those to music in some kind of longer work,” Sametz explains, with thoughts toward producing a half-hour choral and orchestral piece. “It may entail some soloists. It may include a children’s choir.”
Sametz, the Ronald Ulrich professor of music at Lehigh, is planning the work — tentatively titled ‘A Child’s Requiem’ — as the recipient of the 2013 Sackler Prize in Composition for chorus and chamber orchestra, a $25,000 award administered through the University of Connecticut.
The acclaimed composer grew up in Westport, CT, not far from Newtown. For the victims’ families — and for the rest of us still shell-shocked by the shooting — Sametz says some healing can come through song.
“Music is this language that gives voice to things that are beyond us,” he says. “That’s what I would hope would come out of this new work — that it both honors the memories of those lost and has some element of consolation for those who are mourning.”
He expects to debut the work in 2015 with performances in Connecticut and at Lehigh, where they’re still accepting submissions from kids.