WWU Choirs and Orchestras present Aaron Copland’s “The Promise of Living”

The Tender Land

Written in 1954 at the height of McCarthyism, Aaron Copland’s opera The Tender Land is at once a loving portrait of rural America and a cautionary tale about the mistrust of strangers and fear of the outside world. The choral anthem “The Promise of Living,” closes the opera’s first act. Among Copland’s most beloved music, it is a celebration of our reliance on one another to achieve prosperity in our communities.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown in March of 2020, the WWU choral and orchestral faculty chose to lead their students in a collaborative virtual performance of “The Promise of Living” as an optimistic statement that by leaning on each other, we would weather this storm. With our ability to make music together suddenly taken away, we all—students and faculty alike—felt the need for this affirmation as well. However, the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black Americans have lent the piece an entirely new level of poignancy: it has become tragically obvious that the promise of living is not a privilege granted to all Americans in equal measure.

Over 150 WWU music students contributed videos to this project, recording alone in spaces ranging from dorm rooms to cars to public parks. Their combined effort is a statement of their resiliency, artistry, and generosity of spirit.

The Promise of Living

The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving
is born of our loving our friends and our labor.

The promise of growing with faith and with knowing
is born of our sharing our love with our neighbor.

For many a year we've known these fields and known all the work that makes them yield.
Are you ready to lend a hand? We’ll bring in the harvest, the blessings of harvest.

We plant each row with seeds of grain, and Providence sends us the sun and the rain.
By lending a hand, by lending an arm, bring out from the farm,
bring out the blessings of harvest.

Give thanks there was sunshine, give thanks there was rain.
Give thanks we have hands to deliver the grain.
Come join us in thanking the Lord for his blessing.
O let us be joyful. O let us be grateful to the Lord for His blessing.

The promise of ending in right understanding
is peace in our own hearts and peace with our neighbor.

O let us sing our song, and let our song be heard.
Let’s sing our song with our hearts, and find a promise in that song.
The promise of living.
The promise of growing.
The promise of ending is labor and sharing our loving.

tiled images of orhcestra musicians on a video screenshot