Sacred Place[s]

May 15, 2024, 8:00 pm
Distler Performance Hall, Tufts University

Tufts University
Granoff Music Center
20 Talbot Avenue
Medford MA

Map • Phone: 617-627-3564

Embark on a captivating musical journey through “Sacred Place[s],” exploring diverse cultures and breathtaking natural sites worldwide. Experience the serene beauty of Alex Berko’s “Sacred Place” and the heartfelt melodies of “Carrickfergus.” Find inner peace with “Nearly Insane” and marvel at the wonders of the Black Forest in “Mummelsee.” Lastly, cherish the tender themes of “Yeke, Omi Mi” as it celebrates maternal love. Join us for this transcendent experience in the world of music.


The Mummelsee is a lake in the Black Forest of Germany that was the source of many legends and tales. August Schnezler, an early 19th century collector of legends and author of fiction and poetry, wrote the poem that forms the text of this piece. In addition, he wrote two other poems about the lake and its stories: Die Lilien and Mummelsees Rache. The name itself comes from the vernacular German, “Mummeln,” for white waterlilies, or Nymphaea Odorata, which were plentiful in the lake.

Joseph Rheinberger (1839–1901) was a composer who was born in Liechtenstein and lived in Bavaria most of his life. He wrote a lot of sacred music, as well as operas, symphonies, chamber music, and choral pieces. A leading composer of the Cecilian movement, Rheinberger incorporated earlier harmonic styles along with the romantic harmonies of his time and was particularly known for his many organ works.

Mummelsee is a piece that has fallen into obscurity in our times. It tells a rollicking tale of the mysterious lake in which the water lilies blow in the wind until night falls when they are transformed into nymphs and they crawl out of the water, to dance to the sounds of the wind blowing through the reeds. The music evokes their entwining themselves into a ring and swaying in the breeze until a thunderous voice sends them, frightened, back into the lake.
—Stephanie Engel

HAVAA’s lullaby

This piece was written for our God-Daughter Havaa. Since her father is a jazz musician, we thought it appropriate to write it in a mixed meter, which only increased the motion of the melodies. This can be sung as a duet or by multiple sections of a choir. It should stay fairly quiet throughout, like a true lullaby. “Havaa’s Lullaby” has been used crib-side as well as on stage in a Nation concert.
—Jocelyn Hagen and Timothy C. Takach


Yeke, Omo Mi is a Nigerian lullaby that is one of five movements in my suite “Folk Lullabies from Around the World” (2022–23). This suite for choir, percussion, and piano is a co-commission for Chorus pro Musica and the Arlington-Belmont Chamber Chorus.

I was especially drawn to this lullaby because of its upbeat tempo and beautiful melody. The rhythmic pattern in this lullaby is known as Omele and belongs to the Yorube-speaking people, but it is popular with all Nigerians.
—Rebecca Sacks


At the end of her description of the quilt titled “NEARLY INSANE,” Kay McCarthy asks, “Was I nearly insane to make this quilt?” This question really resonated with me musically, but I couldn’t put the pieces together as a lyric. I asked poet Mary Moore Easter if she could work on a text, and what she created worked perfectly for me. Her phrases became pieces/patterns of the quilt that I could weave, overlap and stitch together musically. This “piece” may drive you nearly insane unless you simply listen to the whole in the way that you might first see the quilt at a distance.
—Ysaÿe Barnwell


Sacred Place is an ecological service that connects the old with the new, the sacred with the secular, and the individual with their community. The outline of the work is a Jewish service. However, rather than Jewish prayers, the text is made up of various writers and thinkers who speak of the environment as a place of safety, comfort, and beauty. Written for SATB choir, piano, violin, and cello, the six-movement piece is at times a meditation and at times an impassioned prayer for the world we inhabit and share.
—Alex Berko


Carrickfergus is a heartbreakingly beautiful traditional song from Northern Ireland whose exact origins are unclear and are disputed to this day. There are many versions, with different lyrics and sentiments, and theories abound about the different place names and identifiers. But it has captured the hearts of generations of listeners, and recordings are available of the song sung by artists as disparate as Joan Baez, Jim Morrison, Loudon Wainwright, 10,000 Maniacs, and many others.

Sean Ivory has been the vocal music instructor at Forest Hills CentralHigh School since 1992. He is the director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus and its select treble ensemble, Mandala.
—Stephanie Engel

Program Lyrics


Im Mummelsee, im dunkeln See,
Da blühn der Lilien viele,
Sie wiegen sich, sie biegen sich,
Dem losen Wind zum Spiele;
In the Mummelsee, in the dark lake,
There bloom many lilies.
They rock and bend and bow,
Toys for the capricious wind.
Doch wenn die Nacht herniedersinkt,
Der volle Mond vom Himmel blinkt,
Entsteigen sie dem Bade
Als Jungfern ans Gestade.
But when the night descends
And the full moon shines in the heavens
They climb out of the water
As maidens onto the shore.
Es braust der Wind, es saust das Rohr
Die Melodie zum Tanze.
Die Lilienmädchen schlingen sich
Von selbst zu einem Kranze
The wind roars, the reed whistles
The dance melody.
The lilymaidens entwine themselves
Into a ring like a wreath
Und schweben leis umher im Kreis,
Gesichter weiß, Gewänder weiß,
Bis ihre bleichen Wangen
In zarter Röte prangen.
And hover lightly around in a circle
Faces pale, robes pale
Until their pale cheeks
Are adorned with tender red.
Es brauset der Wind, es saust das Rohr,
Es pfeift im Tannenwalde,
Die Wolken ziehn am Monde hin,
Die Schatten auf der Halde,
The wind roars, the reed whistles,
The fir trees rustle,
The clouds pass the moon
Casting shadows on the hillside.
Und auf und ab durchs nasse Gras
Dreht sich der Reigen ohne Maß,
Und immer lauter schwellen
Ans Ufer an die Wellen.
And to and fro through the damp grass
The roundalay moves without measure,
And ever louder swell
The waves upon the shore.
Da hebt ein Arm sich aus der Flut,
Die Riesenfaust geballet,
Ein triefend Haupt dann schilfbekränzt,
Von langem Bart umwallet,
Then an arm rises from the flood
The giant fist clenched.
A dripping head, reed crowned,
Covered by a long beard,
Und eine Donnerstimme dröhnt,
Dass vom Gebirg es widertönt:
Was habt ihr mich betrogen?
Zurück in eure Wogen!
And a thunderous voice roars
So that it echoes from the mountains:
Why have you betrayed me?
Back into your waters!
Da stockt der Tanz, die Mädchen schrein
Und werden immer blässer;
Beim leisen Wehn der Morgenluft
Versinken sie ins Gewässer.
The dance halts, the maidens cry out
And turn even paler;
In the soft breeze of the morning
They sink into the water.
Die Nebel steigen aus dem Tal,
Und Lilien schwanken wieder
Im Wasser auf und nieder.
The mist climbs out of the valley,
And the lilies sway again
Up and down in the water.
—Poem by August Schnezler

Havaa’s Lullaby

She is swaddled, patient.
I pick her up. The infant eyes lock mine.
I remember that she belongs to the house of music
and I carry her there.
—Words by Suzanne Swanson

Yeke, Omo Mi

Yeke, omo mi, omo mi, yeke,
Yeke, omo mi, omo mi, yeke.
Emi ni iyare,
Oh do not cry, my little treasure,
Oh do not cry, my little treasure.
For here is your mother,
Yeke, omo mi, omo mi, yeke.
Emi ni iyare,
Yeke, omo mi, omo mi, yeke.
Oh do not cry, my little loved one.
For here is your mother,
Oh do not cry, my little treasure.
Oto, omo mi, omo mi, oto,
Oto, omo mi, omo mi, oto.
Emi ni babare.
Oh hushabye, my little treasure,
Oh hushabye, my little treasure.
For here is your father.
Oto, omo mi, omo mi, oto.
Emi ni babare.
Oto, omo mi, omo mi, oto.
Oh hushabye, my little treasure.
For here is your father.
Oh hushabye, my little treasure.
Epe bomi omo,
gege birawo
Tipe b’o supa,
Dear children yonder strewn,
around us come soon,
Like stars round the moon,
Epe bomi omo,
gege birawo
Tipe b’o supa,
Oto, omo mi, omo mi, oto.
Dear children yonder strewn,
around us come soon,
Like stars round the moon,
Oh do not cry, my little loved one.

Nearly Insane

Jumbled diamonds halved and quartered
turned and sorted, smallest angles all the same.

Does this cutting, folding, stitching,
piecing, pairing, splice of planes
drive me crazy or keep me sane?

Count the sunbursts, crosses, stars.
Count the prisms, ladders, bars. Lock their union in your eye.

Does this cutting, folding, stitching,
piecing, pairing, splice of planes
drive you crazy or keep you sane?

Thirty-two panels, thirty-two worlds
thirty-two ways to measure our days
our days, our days.

Every diamond bright and cut
every point aligned.
Peace in pattern’s harmony
the chaos of the world contained
made shining in my hands
where peace has kept me sane.
—Poem by Mary Moore Easter

Sacred Place

I. Opening Prayer
In the dusk of the river, the wind
gone, the leaves grow still—
The beautiful poise of lightness,
The heavy world pushing toward it.
—Wendell Berry, excerpt from “The Porch Over the River”

II. Amidah
“How softly these mountain rocks are adorned, and how fine and reassuring the
company they keep their brows in the sky, their feet set in groves and gay emerald
meadows, a thousand flowers leaning confidingly against their adamantine bosses,
while birds bees butterflies help the river and waterfalls to stir all the air into music-
things frail and fleeting and types of permanence meeting here and blending as if into
this glorious mountain temple Nature had gathered her choicest treasures, whether
great or small to draw her lovers into close confiding communion with her.”
—John Muir to Teddy Roosevelt on preserving Yosemite National Park

III. Shema
The earth says have a place,
be what that place requires; hear the sound the birds imply
and see as deep as ridges go behind
each other.

The earth says every summer have a ranch
that’s minimum: one tree, one well, a landscape
that proclaims a universe sermon
of the hills, hallelujah mountain,
highway guided by the way the world is tilted,
reduplication of mirage, flat evening:
a kind of ritual for the wavering.

The earth says where you live wear the kind
of color that your life is
and by listening with the same bowed head that sings
draw all things into one song, join
the sparrow on the lawn, and row that easy
way, the rage without met by the wings
within that guide you anywhere the wind blows.
Listening, I think that’s what the earth says.
— William Stafford

IV. Mi Shebeirach
May the source of strength
Who blessed the ones before us
Help us find the courage
to make our lives a blessing
And let us say Amen
Bless those in need of healing
with r’fuah sh’leimah
The renewal of body,
the renewal of spirit
And let us say Amen
—Traditional Jewish prayer

V. Kaddish
“Let my thoughts come to you, when I am gone,
like the afterglow of sunset at the margin of starry silence.”
—Rabindranath Tagore, 1861–1941

VI. Closing Prayer
In the dusk of the river, the wind
gone, the leaves grow still—
The beautiful poise of lightness,
The heavy world pushing toward it.
—Wendell Berry, excerpt from “The Porch Over the River”


I wish I was in Carrickfergus
Only for nights in Ballygrant.
I would swim over the deepest ocean
Only for nights in Ballygrant.

But the sea is wide,
And I can’t swim over;
Nor have I the wings to fly.
If I could find me a handsome boatsman
To ferry me over to my love to die.

Now in Kilkenny they have reported
Marble stones there as black as night.
With gold and silver I would transport them
To the bonny homeland that was my delight.

Though I’m here today, I’ll be gone tomorrow —
An endless rover from town to town.
Ah to be home now in Carrickfergus,
To be together, my love and I.

Read the review on The Boston Musical Intelligencer!