In 1893 Kathryn Lee Bates, standing near the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado, was moved by the surrounding natural wonders to compose the poem we know as, “America the Beautiful.” A perusal of her words reveals a prayer, a plea for divine grace, a petition that God might guide America’s fulfillment of the noble dream that inspired its origin, to unflinchingly pursue liberty and justice for all, to overcome its shortcomings and flaws, ultimately to make America as beautiful in brotherhood as it is in nature. This message strikes me as one that desperately needs to be heard as strife, repression, tyranny, lawlessness, absurdity and the like menace liberty’s candle. And this need to be heard moved me to write this music.
It is set as a prayer to lament the ugliness around us, to confess losing our vision and abandoning our mission, and to cry out for fulfilment of Bates’ dream that our “alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears.” It’s also structured in traditional prayer format with an introduction as the Conviction that drives us to prayer, three varied melodic settings as Lament, Confession, and Petition, and a brief closing passage as the Amen. The music is full of pain that reflects our hurting peoples. There are moments of shock at how much has been lost so quickly. And there are moments of sweetness and light in hope that God may indeed mend our every flaw.