Today Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in state in the nation’s capitol, the first woman to be so honored. She spent her career advocating for women’s rights and gender equality and leaves behind a legacy that has inspired countless citizens.
This past week I have reflected fondly on the times that I was fortunate to personally interact with Justice Ginsburg. A well-known lover of opera, she made regular pilgrimages to the Santa Fe Opera where I was lucky to perform over several summers. She was also involved in a number of panel discussions concerning opera as it relates to the law, and I count myself blessed to have taken part in one of those sessions. (There is nothing quite like performing a Gilbert & Sullivan song only to have its contents immediately dissected by a justice of the Supreme Court!) It is an experience I will always treasure.
This week’s Art Song Fix looks back on our American Woman concerts, which celebrated many of the civil rights advancements that Justice Ginsburg tirelessly worked for over a period of decades.
American composer Jennifer Higdon utilizes texts from the Civil War era in her song cycle Civil Words, among them an excerpt from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. Lincoln speaks to a nation at war:
With malice toward none, with charity for all…let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.
The mood is somber, the piano part thick and plodding, the harmonies searching desperately for resolution. Higdon paints a vivid picture of the sixteenth president: a leader seeking to inspire hope and reconciliation in a country entrenched in battle. As the United States continues to experience civil unrest in the present day, Lincoln’s words seem as timely as ever. May we soon achieve a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Rest well, RBG.
Lincoln’s Final was recorded in November of 2019 at St. Paul and the Redeemer in Hyde Park, and features pianist Maria Sumareva.
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