A Song of Sonia Sanchez

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A Song of Sonia Sanchez is in two versions:

1998; medium voice, violin, piano, 3 latin percussion, double or electric bass; 7′

2000; medium voice, violin, piano, 3 latin perc, double bass- timp.2perc-str. 7′. Review



Latin Fiesta, a rollicking band of about seven or so, commissioned me some eleven years ago to set the words of the poet Sonia Sanchez. (I have to hedge on the size of the group, because they add dancers and percussionists and others as the spirit and collaborations lead.) The premiere got such a huge reception that they asked me to arrange it for them fronting an orchestra, which I did, and which they’ve played with orchestras around the country. We’ve also done another work together, Alabanza, also with a Sanchez text, and also for the band with orchestra.

The first one, though, I had no idea what to call, since the text was not an entire poem. I ended up calling it A Song of Sonia Sanchez, not the snappiest title I admit, but one which I have grown to like.

They are on stage this Saturday, March 21st at 8pm, for the Third Hispanic Festival at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia, and will perform A Song of Sonia Sanchez. Ms. Sanchez herself will narrate and local legend Lenny Seidman will assist on tabla. I wish I could be there, but I will be giving the pre-concert lecture at the Pottstown Symphony Orchestra that night, which is ironic, since it was Pottstown that premiered Alabanza.

The piece is for medium voice, violin, piano, 3 Latin percussionists, and double or electric bass, but every time I see it there’s more percussion. It’s seven minutes long.

Text by Sonia Sanchez (used by permission)

i have cried all night
tears pouring out of my forehead
sluggish in pulse
tears from a spinal soul
that run in silence to my birth
am i born?
i cannot peel the flesh.
i hear the moon daring to dance these rooms.
O to become a star.
stars seek their own mercy and sigh the quiet like gods.

Audio excerpts are above. I have to warn you. In the middle of a wonderful review of another piece, the reviewer mentioned “expressively reckless” audio samples on my website. I don’t know (I should ask him), but I’d lay money he’s referring to A Song of Sonia Sanchez.


Posted on

27 February, 2018

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