Grandmother’s Garden

Grandmother’s Garden. Text: Grandmother’s Garden, the children’s book by John Archambault. 2-part Children’s Choir, Piano, opt. C Instrument, 9′.

GrandmothersGardenCommissioned by Settlement Music School, Philadelphia, in honor of the 10th Anniversary of the Gleeksman-Kohn Children’s Choir, Rae Ann Anderson, director. Premiered April 10th, 2016, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Cherry Hill, N.J. and May 1st, 2016, First United Methodist Church (Germantown), Philadelphia.

I was honored to be asked to celebrate the choir’s 10th Anniversary by setting this book. I was so taken with the text and illustrations that the musical ideas came to me very quickly—and that does not happen often. The magic of the book, I think, is in the realization and acceptance of two opposing thoughts, that we are all separate, and that we are all together. We are all different, and all the same. Each thought is made stronger by the acceptance of its opposite.

The book makes it real by picturing our fingers in the soil, by picturing our faces rising to the sun—while time stands still. The individual names and countries are sources of pride; there is nothing wrong, and everything right in that. At the same time, there is pride in our togetherness. All different, all the same, all in one garden.

Grandmother’s Garden plays a part in my essay Patriotism and Music, first published in Broad Street Review.

GrandmothersGarden.p3Roses, carnations, chrysanthemums—
In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
She tenders us, gentles us, nurtures us with care.
Born from the earth with water and air,
Born from the earth with water and air.
Earth is a garden turning ’round the sun,
With room to bloom for everyone.
We’re all flowering faces reaching for the sun.

In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
We are one, we are one.
In Grandmother’s garden, we are one.
Turning ’round the sun,
We are one.

Grandma Rose used to say to me,
“Feel the earth on your hands and knees.
Till your fingers through the soil ’til the time stands still,”
In Grandmother’s garden.
It all starts from a tiny seed.
A little patch of earth is all we need.
Fresh river water or falling rain,
A little bit of sunshine and lots of love.
A little bit of sunshine and lots of love.
Different colors, different faces, different names—
Underneath our skin, we are all the same.
We are flowering faces reaching for the sun.

In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
We are one, we are one.
In Grandmother’s garden, we are one.
Turning ’round the sun,
We are one.

Grandma Rose used to say to me,
“Feel the earth on your hands and knees.
Till your fingers through the soil ’til the time stands still,”
In Grandmother’s garden.
Joseph, Camille, and Alexandria—
In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
She tenders us, gentles us, nurtures us with care.
Born from the earth with water and air,
Born from the earth with water and air.
José from Mexico, Celine from France,
David, Mohammed, Sarah, and Hans,
Stanley, Tyler, Michael, and Collette,
Sergei, Kevin, Keiko from Japan,

In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
We are one, we are one.
In Grandmother’s garden, we are one.
Turning ’round the sun,
We are one.

—John Archambault

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