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The Immigrant experience

Immigration Repertoire

The following is a compilation of the responses I received to my request
for repertoire about Immigration. Thanks to all who submitted their

-David Ryan Moberg
Artistic Director
Saint Paul Vocal Forum
Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA


Not sure if it is SATB, but WELL WORTH a look is a song called "Isle of
Hope, Isle of Tears" - representing the Irish Immigration to America....I
did it TTB with my 9th grade Men's Chorus and it was their favorite. We
even added some a cappella.


John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A 24061-0240

>1) pieces by immigrants (immigrants to America or to any country);
Irving Berlin
Victor Herbert
Igor Stravinsky
Paul Hindemith
Bela Bartok
>2) pieces about immigration or the movement of peoples;
"Coming To America" (rec. Neil Diamond)
"Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor"

>3) pieces by or about exiles, slaves (where people are displaced by
>slavery), displacements due to fear of political repercussions,
>genocide, or due to cultural traditions;
"Nobody Knows the Troubles I've Seen"
Many slave songs now understood to have had secret meanings.

>4) pieces about longing for home (i.e. the old country) or
>anticipation of the new land;
"My Old Kentucky Home'
"Back Home Again in Indiana"
"Carrry Me Back to Old Virginia"

>5) historical immigrations/migrations/exiles (e.g.. Israelites
>to/from Egypt or Babylon)
"Let My People Go"

Those are just what comes to mind immediately. I think there's
probably a ton of good music on these subjects. Some may require
special arrangements.


Margaret Bossi, artistic director, Chatham Chorale

Wonderful piece by Ronald Perera called "The Golden Door" which uses
texts from Ellis Island, and has a very moving conclusion where
individuals in the chorus name out loud their own immigrant parents,
grandparents, friends. If you should want to contact him directly, e-mail
at rperera(a)

Scott Gillam
Music Librarian
New Amsterdam Singers

Though it is not a cappella, Ronald Perera's The Golden Door, a 23-minute
work for SATB plus chamber orchestra, definitely fits your theme.

It is a setting of oral reminiscences by immigrants themselves, taken
the Ellis Island oral history archives. It tells the story of individual
early 20th century immigrants to America, from the time they decided to
leave the Old Country until their arrival in New York Harbor.

The Golden Door includes a section in which the names of any of the
performing chorus's ancestors who passed through Ellis Island can be
inserted as part of a spoken text. The work concludes with a moving
of the concluding verse from the famous poem by Emma Lazarus that appears
the base of the Statue of Liberty. This concluding section could also be
performed a cappella as a stand-alone selection.

The Golden Door was commissioned by New Amsterdam Singers for its 30th
anniversary and has been recorded on the Albany label. Vocal scores and a
set of 11 orchestral parts are available for rental from the NAS Choral
Music Rental Library. See our web site,, for details.

Vito Primozic [Mr.]
Director of Music Publications
ASTRUM Music Publications

Dear Mr. Moberg,
reading your post about immigration choral repertoire, here is one of
ours octavos:

NB: >From our Slovene standpoint: they were firstly emigrants, from US
standpoint immigrants.
Emigrant component more stronger here, as they were leaving something
behind them: land, children, love .... going to USA, here Johnstown, PA
to work in the mines, factories ... where even hills are grey, not green
as in the old country ...

-Scott Lounsbury
The Suncook Valley Chorale
Concord, NH


I am guessing that you've already thought of it, but if not, here goes:
I DO hope you're planning to feature Gershwin's "Give Me Your Tired, Your
Poor" prominently in your immigrant music program.

The musical Ragtime has a song about arriving at Ellis Island, but I
don't think it'd translate all that well to choral singing... but give
the soundtrack a listen, as the title song might well have some merit in
that program.

The many settings of the old Psalm: By The Rivers of Babylon-- about
Hebrew slaves in captivity.

The Irish group Planxty had a song "Thousands are Sailing" (not to be
confused with The Pogues song of the same title that is not the same
text) that is about those left behind. Again, not choral, but worth a
look to see if anyone has arranged it.

This sounds like a really cool idea, and I will ak that if you do a
compilation that you send me a copy. Thanks!

Stephen A. Stomps, Director of Choirs
Auburn High School Choirs
250 Lake Avenue Extension
Auburn New York 13021
email: steve_stomps(a)

First to come to mind is Stephen Hatfield's All too Soon published by
Boosey. Explains the whole immigrant/assimilant story. You may hear a clip
at Hatfield's website but one only hears the introduction the rousing
canonic body is wonderful.

Adam Cole

Hi, David,

I've written an unpublished setting of Psalm 137, "By the Waters of

Robert A.M. Ross
Artistic Director
Voces Novae et Antiquae

Three things come to mind:

William Billings' *Lamentation Over Boston* which sets his own paraphrase
of Psalm 137 "By the waters of Babylon"

Elie Sigmeister: *The New Colossus* (Presser) SATB, S solo, pno. A
magnificent Copland-esque setting of the *entire* Emma Lazarus poem about
the statue of Liberty

My own *Song of Exile* (Med solo, SATB a capp) which juxtaposes the
spiritual *Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child* against 2 excerpts
from the real Psalm 137 and a passage from Isaiah.

David Stephenson

"Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears" arr. Leavitt, published by Hal Leonard