My Hands Are Lifting Up

view the score
mixed choir, piano, and viola (5:38)
May, 2010

This piece was commissioned by the Roger Wagner Choral Center at Cal State LA, and was premiered by the Los Angeles High School for the Performing Arts at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new affordable housing development in downtown Los Angeles. The lyrics were taken from different poems, essays, conversations and letters written by people who live in one of the roughest areas of San Francisco. They live in the community housing development that Mercy Housing runs there, the same organization that is building a new affordable housing community here in LA.

When I was presented with the challenge of writing the piece, I immediately felt a spiritual connection to the housing project. I wanted to write something that captured the sound of that spiritual context, but that would allow for a wide range of experiences when hearing the piece. I wanted something that would stand for both the need for help, but also the sense of empowerment that ran through the writing of the people helped by Mercy Housing. The image of a raised hand seemed to capture all of those meanings in one powerful symbol.

In writing this piece, I got to spend time both with the people who would be directly affected by the new housing development, and with the high students who would be performing the piece. To see such intensity and passion come together on a project was truly one of the highlights of my year. This demo can’t come close to capturing the raw energy that the choir brought to the performance, but perhaps it will give you some indication of where the focus of the event came together.

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