In the years following his 1933 escape from Nazi Germany Bertolt Brecht penned some of his most extraordinary and grim anti-war poetry. This bitter, anti-war literary crusade finds one of its most poignant expressions in a ballad that springboards with dramatic precision from reality to intimate, personal contemplations of that same reality. The Kinderkreuzzug consists of 35 4-line stanzas. Brecht's simple and direct tone betrays a lyric force and beauty that stems from and unfolds in an unadorned and episodic story-telling style that is never sentimental or callous.
Kinderkreuzzug is a dramatic cantata for children's voices and small chamber ensemble including clarinet, string trio (vln, vla, vc), sanctus bells, and organ. The story is simple: in 1939, fifty-five war-orphaned children embark from Poland in search of a land of peace. Brecht's socio-political commentary is as relevant and necessary today as when it was first published in 1941.
There is nothing new in the deprivation, want, suffering, and death Brecht profiles. Nor is there any redemptive moral hidden in the lost innocence, dogged hope, and simple sincerity of this little band of children. They are neither martyrs nor heralds of goodwill, but simply orphans who are hungry and tired. Their plight and wretchedness are actually quite unremarkable and all too familiar tale in that each generation from time past to time present bears witness to such pitiful crusades. Even hope has become ordinary. In fact the only extraordinary outcome would be for these children to actually find a land of peace. Probable?
I felt utterly compelled to write this music. Brecht's children still walk and suffer in our collective conscience. Although my music may not give bread, it just may harbor their hope, and ours, for the extraordinary.
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