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Magdalene
Categories: Oratorio/Cantata

Magdalene

Synopsis (Full text below)

Twenty-eight years ago, a community was formed. Known as Magdalene, the community is made up of women with a criminal history of prostitution and drug abuse. The women live together in houses for two years, free of charge, with no resident staff. After two years in the Magdalene community, the women graduate—not to leave, but to become sisters who are committed to one another for life.

The Magdalene community starts every day by gathering in a circle, where they read the Bible, pray, and make sure everyone is all right. They share stories and wisdom. They tell the truth.

This cantata presents some of their harrowing, uplifting words and stories in a musical setting—orchestra, chorus, soloists, and narrator—by American composer Anthony Plog. The music of Anthony Plog has been performed in over 30 countries around the world and featured on hundreds of recordings worldwide. Plog is the recipient of numerous grants and commissions, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Utah Symphony, the Malmo Symphony, the Summit Brass, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the GECA Brass Ensemble in France, the University of Texas at Austin, and the St. Louis Brass Quintet.

In this cantata, the Magdalene women open their circle and invite us in, seeking to share their truth that in whatever brokenness we know, the seeds of healing are sown.

Click here for more about Magdalene

Instrumentation: 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets in Bb, 2 Bassoons, 4 Horns in F, 2 Trumpets in C, 2 Trombones, 2 Percussion, Strings, Narrator, 2 Female Soloists, Chorus (SATB)


Complete Text

Prologue

Mixed Chorus:
Home is a woman I know well. Her presence comforts me.
Her windows, like eyes, allow me to look out without fear. I am safe with her.
Her clothes carry the scent of homemade soap and fruit from the orchard. A soft, delicate, melodic voice.
I am here. I am here. Just call my name. I am here.

Score Sample of Prologue


-1-

Narrator:
I am from chaos and confusion. I am from my father’s lap, crawling down after he’s passed out. I am from a pony bottle of Miller Genuine Draft. I am from a closet where I hid from my father. I am from a bathroom watching the blood from the needle shoot to the ceiling. I am from a highway to hell on an early Saturday morning. I am from dark alleys and early days. I am from addiction. I am from scorched Hamburger Helper that my babies had to eat. I am from a life of one to a life of many.

I was homeless. I was sickly skinny, and my hair was falling out. I was filthy. I had lost my front teeth, and my clothes were dirty. I hadn’t seen my family in twelve years. I will never forget just standing at the edge of Dickerson Road with tears streaming down my face. Somebody help me.

I saw fear on people’s faces when they saw me coming. I had no faith, and my spirit was broken.

I used to get high under the walking bridge near downtown. I would get high and pray and listen to the birds. I really think the birds kept me going.

Score Sample of Movement I


-2-

Soloist 1:
Who are you to tell me I have done wrong? I’m asking, who are you to say that you will pray for me and that help is just around the bend? Just who are you to say that you are sorry that stuff happens and that I should stop whining? The only way I can know you is if you tell me you have been in the ditch, too.

Drugs taught me how to be who I am. Drugs taught me how to love my brother and lie to his face. I could look you in the eye, and you would never know I was lying. That is what drugs taught me, so I am in need of some better teachers.

Women’s Chorus:
I’m sick of my own suggestions and tired of my own thinking. So give me a new idea, and maybe something good will come.

Score Sample of Movement II


-3-

Narrator:
I remember the first day I came home. There were four beautiful women walking out onto the porch to say hello. I looked at the gated yard and had the strange feeling that it seemed familiar. When I walked in, there were plants everywhere, and I was crying because of the nice furniture. This was the home I’d almost forgotten about.

Soloist 2:
I sat in our circle and didn’t feel anything. Then the director got up and walked over to a woman sitting near me and started braiding her hair.

Women’s Chorus:
That is when I felt something growing in me, and I wanted to sing.

Soloist 2:
When I came into Magdalene they gave me a key to the house. I kissed the floor because I knew that someone believed in me. I felt love for the first time in my life and wondered what kind of people were in this place.

Women’s Chorus:
It made me tingle all over, from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.

Score Sample of Movement III


-4-

Narrator:
I remember the day I went to church and my grandmother sent me with her blessing, saying, “You must praise the Lord.” I am praising the little pink dress and white shoes I wore that Sunday. I am praising how big the church doors were and how small I was.

Sometimes I ask, “Why can’t I forgive myself for the hurt and the pain I’ve caused?” Then I hear my grandmother’s whisper in my ear, “Sissie, I have always been so proud to have you to love.”

Women’s Chorus:
My past is a land of unwanted, unloved, hard-knock living. My past tastes like a rotten apple that I have to eat because that is all there is, but in this community I am standing on new ground with God. I am not lost. I have found my path.

Score Sample of Movement IV


-5-

Soloist 3:
I am trying to be grateful for my past. I am trying to be grateful for the memory of my feet hurting and the blisters and how I kept walking until I found a place to rest.

I have forgiven the man who abused me when I was a child. I can pray for him and hope for wholeness. I love that even in that pain there were gifts that I have used in my life.

Women’s Chorus:
There were no weeds in Eden. Even the thistle was loved by God.

Score Sample of Movement V


-6-

Narrator:
I will be leaving in three months. The idea of leaving frightens me. I realize leaving will not be the end of my relationship with Magdalene. I will be a sister for life.

It is not a problem to be lost. It is only a problem if you think it is impossible to find your way home.

Score Sample of Movement VI


Epilogue

Mixed Chorus:
Home is a woman I know well. Her presence comforts me.
Her windows, like eyes, allow me to look out without fear. I am safe with her.
Her clothes carry the scent of homemade soap and fruit from the orchard. A soft, delicate, melodic voice.
I am here. I am here. Just call my name. I am here.

Score Sample of Epilogue


Blessing

Soloist 1:

Prayers answered Blessings accepted

Soloist 2:

Love given freely Gifts unspoken

Soloist 3:

Joy for friends Tears for joy Now it’s my turn

Women’s Chorus:

Show gratitude Give thanks

Show blessings For every day Thereafter

Score Sample of Blessing


* Excerpts used in the Cantata are from the literary work titled Find Your Way Home: Words From the Street, Wisdom From the Heart by the Women of Magdalene, Copyright 2008 by Abingdon Press, www.abingdonpress.com.