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Gilroy, CA – The Gilroy High School Chamber Singers and Christopher High School Chamber Choir will debut the world premiere performance of “May Our Eyes Remain Open” by prominent American composer, Dr. Giselle Wyers on Monday, December 9, 2019. The choirs commissioned Dr. Wyers to create a new choral composition for mixed chorus and piano in the wake of the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Choir directors Jonathan Souza (Gilroy High School) and Kira Dixon (Christopher High School) worked closely with Dr. Wyers to bring this composition to life.
Following the shootings at the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival, Mr. Souza and Miss Dixon collaborated with Dr. Wyers to create an anthem of hope, compassion and honesty. A great number of the Gilroy and Christopher High School Choir and booster club members were volunteering at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on July 28, 2019.
The premiere will take place at the Gilroy High School Student Center at the high school’s winter concert December 9 and 10, 2019. Both performances begin at 7:30pm.
Notes from the composer:
May our Eyes Remain Open, composed by Giselle Wyers
I wrote this work for Gilroy High School and Christopher High School’s choirs shortly after the tragic Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting, an event attended by many local students as they were working for their booster programs as part of annual fundraising efforts. Three young people were killed—a 6 year old, a 13 year old, and a 26 year old—and 17 were injured. Imagine the shock and fear everyone felt, on a random day in July when they had expected to just be together, make some food for festival participants and enjoy the sunny weather.
Unfortunately, this is too common an occurrence in American today, and my composition is only one of many written to commemorate losses from mass shootings. I thought long and hard, and collaborated closely with one of the commissioning choir’s directors, Jon Souza, before choosing the text you will hear today. The poem, May Our Eyes Remain Open, chooses hope, truth and honesty over fear, cynicism and the shame of “survival guilt.” It asks us, “even in the face of tragedy” to “transform poison” by finding “the gift of the fire burning in our being.” It asks that we find a way to accept “the greatness of our sorrow and not run from its touch or its flame.” Finally, it asks us to remember who we really are, even when pain and loss inevitably changes us.
To set the scene for this poetic journey, I chose a rocking, almost poetic motive in the piano which represents the “happy sad” quality of life. The harmony continually shifts, representing our walk through tragedy into joy, vacillating through d minor, e minor, D major, and ending on an F major chord. There are moments of poignant dissonance in the voices, but I also chose to utilize rhythms and chords from classic rock, bringing an almost “anthem-like” feel to the center of the piece, as the singers search for strength, meaning and hope. Listen for the moments when the choir sings in unison, with an intent of emphasizing certain phrases of text and the choristers’ united purpose and strength.
It is my sincere hope that listening to this work will allow a framework for the listener to contemplate and hope for a better world. Let us all set our intentions to work for a day when we are safer from random violence and more able to live in peace, even amidst life’s inevitable challenges.
Dr. Giselle Wyers
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