Stephen Paulus (b. 1949)
To Be Certain of the Dawn (2005), oratorio for cantor, soloists, children’s chorus, mixed chorus and orchestra
Text: Michael Dennis Browne
Bis CD1726
Barry Abelson, cantor
Elizabeth Futral, soprano
Christina Baldwin, mezzo-soprano
John Tessier, tenor
Philip Cokorinos, bass-baritone
Minnesota Chorale
Minnesota Boychoir
The Basilica Cathedral Choir
The Cathedral Choristers
Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä
The oratorio To Be Certain of the Dawn was commissioned by a Catholic body — the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis — as a gift to the Jewish community, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the freeing of Holocaust survivors and to help teach an important lesson: the prevention of future genocide is in the hands of today’s children. In creating the work, composer Stephen Paulus and librettist Michael Dennis Browne have emphasized the victimization of innocent children, and a children’s choir plays an important part in the score. This aspect was further underscored at the first performance in 2005 by the projection of photographs from 1935-1938 of Jewish children living in cities and villages in Eastern Europe. The highly moving work, which raises eternal questions regarding humanity, tolerance and respect, became a labour of love for Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as the other musicians involved in the first performance, many of whom also participated in the present recording. The oratorio has subsequently been performed by student forces in the USA who have also taken it to Germany, Switzerland and a former concentration camp, Natzweiler-Struthof, in France. Stephen Paulus, a prolific Minnesota-based composer, has received commissions from orchestras and institutions such as the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Washington Opera and Los Angeles Master Chorale. His close collaboration with librettist Michael Dennis Browne on To be Certain of the Dawn is a continuation of a creative partnership of long standing which has also produced, among other works, the operas The Village Singer, Harmoonia and The Three Hermits.