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Music about Human Rights, specifically women

Looking for programming ideas for a concert that tackles the theme of Human Rights, most specifically dealing with women's human rights.  For example, women's right to education, domestic abuse, sex trafficking.... domestic and global.  
65+ voice auditioned choir, SATB.  
And would be especially thrilled if someone knew if this quote (or idea) was set to choral music somewhere:    "For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root." -- Thoreau
Jennifer Anderson
Artistic Director, VocalPoint
Replies (19): Threaded | Chronological
on June 9, 2014 3:57pm
Hi Jennifer,
By now, you may have seen Joan Szymko's posting.  Here it is below.
Good luck!
Subject: "Malala" by Joan Szymko; SSAA, doumbek. Inspired by education activist, Malala Yousafzai. Date: June 9, 2014 By: Joan Szymko URL: "I've composed a new work for treble chorus that is strong, direct and with a powerful feminine fluidity— like Malala herself.  A spoken solo "rap” on a quote* from her 2013 UN speech occurs in the middle of the piece and lends "Malala" a contemporary feel." — Joan Szymko   see and hear the score:   Malala Yousafzai was already known as an advocate for girls' education in her native Pakistan when she survived 3 gunshot wounds to the head at the hands of the Taliban in 2012.  After the attack young people around the world stood up in solidarity saying, “I am Malala.”   Since her miraculous recovery, she has become a global advocate for children's education and the youngest person ever to recieve a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.   * One child, one teacher, one pen, one book—    can change the world .
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 10, 2014 2:56am
Hello Jennifer,
I give you some suggestions of arrangements, compositiion I have made for choir, human rights:
Woman, Neneh Cherry
Woman's worth    Alicia Keys
They are both for SSAA a cappella....
I can rewrite them for  SATB
Perhaps HOPE on a poem of Emily Dickinson
Is this the world we created    Freddy Mercury
I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
Something inside so strong  Labi Siffre
Jetse Bremer
on June 10, 2014 5:11am
If you are interested in it, I could send you an SATB arrangement of BREAD AND ROSES that I have made (and used several times): it is an ANON melody and text from the matchworkers  strike in Massachusetts in 1912.
Greetings, Marilena Zlatanou
on June 10, 2014 5:44am
Still I Rise by Rosesphayne Powell
While not about human rights specifically, it speaks to women overcoming adversity. Very inspiring!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 10, 2014 6:29am
We have a setting of the Mother's Day Proclamation, written by one of our singers:
"I Love Everybody" was sung by civil rights activists to put them in a loving space before they went out to face police, water cannons, and dogs: We don't have music for this; we just came up with our harmonies. We often have the audience do the "Hm, I love" bass line.
"Rise in Love" was written by Ysaye M. Barnwell in response to Sept 11th. I have permission for my arrangement:
Let me know if you're interested in any of these.
Sing on!
on June 10, 2014 9:41am
Please consider The 21st Century (A Girl Born in Afghanistan), my SATB setting of excerpts from Kofi Annan's Nobel Peace Prize lecture.  You will find the complete text, a recording and a free downloadable PDF perusal score on my website at 
on July 2, 2014 8:07am
on June 10, 2014 10:34am
Randall Thompson: Testament of Freedom. No one ever said it better than Thomas Jefferson.
on June 11, 2014 5:13am
Check out "The Right to Vote" by Gwyneth Walker:
Another song worth consideration is  March of the Women (1911) written by Dame Ethel Smyth for the Women's Social and Political Union - sung at women's suffrage meetings. I'm not sure what arrangements exist of this piece, but recently heard it performed by a women's chorus.
on June 11, 2014 8:51am
Hi, Jennifer...
Kirby Shaw here. Female empowerment has been a big deal for me for a long time. Please go to my on Search Catalogue, then, in the style box..choose Inspirational, Better World/MLK Day..up will pop a large list of songs that will fit your programming ideas. A few include Freedom's Gonna Come. This Is Our Time and We Will on the title and listen to the full recording.
Please go trumpet your concert  topic loudly and's time for a little less testosterone in this often uncertain world...
In harmony -
Kirby Shaw
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 29, 2014 9:18pm
on July 2, 2014 9:37am
This is obviously a very necessary, great, beautifully-composed, and significant work!
  Can you point us to a resource to read the lyrics, (just to scan and ponder, not to copy or use) .... or are they also under copyright?
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 24, 2014 11:24am
Thank you for your kind words Lucy!
Yes the lyrics are in the sheet music which is available from Pepper and SMPlus (links above); yes, the lyrics are under copyright; we got permission from the Milk estate and from the Milk archive to use the texts.  More on that story is here:
The text combines excerpts from famous speeches as well as unpublished texts from the archive. It includes excerpts from the "Recruit You" speech and the "Hope" speech. [Here's an excerpt from the Hope speech: "Without hope, not only gays, but those who are blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us's: without hope the us's give up."]
The texts we chose showcase Milk as a civil rights leader for everybody. He was a bridge-builder and a labor activist and way ahead of his time. So far the piece has been performed by University, High School, and community choruses. It's 20 minutes long, so it's pretty substantial, and if you're thinking about music dealing with civil rights, I think it would be a great piece to program.  And of course, it's SATB, including everybody, as Harvey would have wanted! 
on July 1, 2014 8:05am
Hi, Jennifer -
Kirby Shaw here.  Go to on View Entire Catalogue. Then in the Style Box, choose Inspirational/Better World/MLK Day and up will pop 165 choral arrangements...there are lots to choose from. Click on any title and you'll hear the full recording. A couple of my favorites for your topic are We Will Sing and How Long?
Choral music is a great way to address this issue. Good luck and inspirational singing!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 2, 2014 9:34am
I am glad you and your choir(s) are doing this.
I applaud Mitos' recommendation of Joan Szymko's "Malala".
"Harvey MIlk; A Cantata" also sounds interesting, powerful , necessary, and appropriate for a number of settings, even if you/your committees decide not to include it here.
 I would also recommend Clifton Noble's "Hold On".  (SSAA)
If you wish to have a moment that is more peaceful/hopeful, I'd recommend Jackson Berkey's "Balm in Gilead". (SSAA)
I like the philosophy indicated by Cairril, that we should have a "heart-check" (bring an attitude of love) before these events.  (Frustration, anger, wanting a change, demanding a change, appreciating what's come about so far ...can all be expressed - stronly - in an attitude of love.)
If there is a way to film this concert, and a *venue to post it, I know that I would love to see/hear it, and I imagine others would also.
*Can you, without significant legal preparation/permissions, [not to mention repercussions!;) ]   post this onto Youtube?
Thanks to you and your choir for representing this important awareness.
Best Wishes to you all!
on July 2, 2014 11:13am
Hi Jennifer, 
Just visited your chorus site; how exciting, wow!!!
At the core of misogyny, sexual and domestic violence is an acute void of empathy. So I recommend a piece about compassion:
• All Works of Love (SATB)   Listen & view score on line at:
text: "If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other / Remember / All works of love are works of peace. "
• She Who Makes Her Meaning Clear / text by African American poet Audre Lorde.  (I think it would be very effective re-scored for SATB)  
text: "When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision,  then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." 
• As a Woman / text by Virginia Woolf
As a Woman I have no country / As a woman I want no country / As a woman the whole world is my country
Thank you for the important work you and Vocal Point Chorus is doing in your community — in the world!
on July 21, 2014 8:47pm
Hi Jennifer!
I'd love to recommend "We Can Mend the Sky" about the immigrant experience and the right to peace and acceptance. The main poem is by 14-year-old Warda Mohamed, a student in Minneapolis, and is paired with two Somali proverbs ("If we come together, we can mend a crack in the sky"). You can read more about the work here.
See here to view a perusal score, listen to audio, and to purchase scores through JR Music.
All best,
Jake Runestad, composer
on July 22, 2014 8:27am
I can't believe I spaced this -- I have an SSA piece called "Vow" which is a powerful piece about domestic violence. You need two strong soloists and a drummer. It's really written for a big chorus but our small ensemble (8 voices) recorded it. The Indianapolis Women's Chorus did it at a national chorla convention and got a standing ovation. You can download a copy for free at Just scroll down on the right side -- everything's in alphabetical order. Let me know if you're interested in rights.
Sing on!
on July 28, 2014 3:06pm
I don't know if anyone's set the Thoreau quot...but I'd be happy to set it for you! ^_^
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