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Ruby by Valerie Capers

Ruby by Valerie Capers

  • Ruby (2014) by Valerie Capers, for soprano, violin, violoncello, piano, and Mardi Gras Band: clarinet, trumpet, trombone, percussion, and bass, and taped crowd sounds.  Ruby is a musical telling of the experiences of Ruby Bridges, who in 1960 at the age of six became the first child to integrate the public schools of New Orleans, Commissioned in 2013 by the African American Composer Initiative. 26 pages, score and parts. An Mp-3 audio file of the taped crowd sounds for Tableau III is available for $.99. Please inquire.

    Live concert video:

    The work is recorded on Cambria CD 1238: Where Freedom Rings

    Notes by the composer:  The story of Ruby Bridges could be told in a full-length musical drama. I realize that I wanted to make it a special piece, but would need to consider the time factor for the scheduling of this piece on our program without sacrificing the impact of Ruby’s experience. I decided to take four incidents that were very pertinent and significant to Ruby’s experience that year in her life, and to “freeze frame” them into four movements that I call Tableaux.

               The soprano soloist takes on the role of three characters: Ruby’s mother, Ruby herself, and Ruby’s teacher, Mrs. Henry. In the first Tableau, Lullaby, for soprano and piano, Ruby’s mother sings to her daughter on the eve of her first day of school. The irony is that in a lullaby a mother usually tells her child to sleep peacefully, that angels will be watching over her; but in this lullaby, Ruby’s mother tells her young daughter what awaits her the next day - there will be crowds and police everywhere, but not to worry, because she will be with her and God will be watching over her.

    Tableau II depicts the scene at the William Frantz School on Ruby’s first day—the noise and crowds interpreted by the innocent Ruby as Mardi Gras. Ruby’s response gave me the idea of reproducing the sound of a New Orleans Mardi Gras Street Band, which eventually becomes overpowered by the chanting, shouting, and jeering of the crowd.

    In Tableau III  Where Are All The Children? for soprano, violin, and piano Ruby wonders why she is alone in the classroom, why there are no children to play with her, and be her friend.

    In Tableau IV, a duet for soprano and cello, Mrs. Henry, a remarkable teacher from Boston, who spent the entire year alone in the classroom with Ruby, sings about what it meant to her to spend time with Ruby, to teach her. At the conclusion of this Tableau, Mrs. Henry speaks about the privilege it was to be Ruby’s teacher. Concluding the piece is a cello solo (postlude) Change in the style of a spiritual.

    I call this composition a Docu-Cycle because it is based on historic events, and that gave me the inspiration to expand this musical form by adding multi media.

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