I would rather die than hate you
for double-choir SATBSATB unaccompanied
- Duration 4' 45"
commissioned by University of California Berkeley Alumni Chorus
For their 2017-2018 season, Mark Sumner and the University of California Berkeley Alumni Chorus commissioned a pair of pieces from me: "This life is not righteousness" (words by Martin Luther, to mark the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation (2017)) and "I would rather die than hate you" (words by Martin Luther King, to mark the 50th anniversary of his death (2018)). I spent a long time reading through the writings and sermons of both pastors, and greatly increased my hitherto rather patchy knowledge of both of their lives. One of the noticeable features of Martin Luther King’s words is their poetic, lilting rhythm: they have a spoken-out-loud quality, and even when reading the text on the page, these words seem to enter the brain through the ear rather than through the eye. It was quite a humbling experience to set this inspiring message to music. In this double-choir setting I have tried to create a sense of pace, urgency, conviction, and joy.
and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends.
Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is
the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate,
that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe.
Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very
structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.
And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody.
Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate
and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.
and all over America and over the world, I say to you, "I love you. I would rather die than hate you."