Acclaim
Making music of abusers' words
I have made mistakes / Some things you don't know about me / I believe in myself. I believe in change, but it takes time. -- Excerpt from "The Turning'' by Maura Bosch

She bested the competition and won the commission to write the composition.

The goal? Write a song or songs, in collaboration with the Minneapolis-based Tubman Family Alliance, with a domestic violence theme.

So Maura Bosch, a mother of two and a local songwriter and composer, sat down last spring and extensively interviewed battered women at the alliance's shelter and residence complex.

But the creative process often takes the artist on a different path and journey than one expected or imagined.

The songs, which will be performed for the first time today by the men's choral group Cantus at the alliance center, and presented publicly Saturday at the Ted Mann Concert Hall, are a compilation of perspectives from male abusers, not victims.

"It just made sense to tell the story this time from the men themselves,'' said Bosch, who also sat down with a group of abusers undergoing court-directed counseling offered by the alliance.

"None of them could have imagined their stories being told tonight on this stage in a caring and sensitive performance by these beautiful singers,'' Bosch writes in a program sheet that will be distributed at Saturday's concert. "Please listen to these songs with the understanding that these men are not asking for sympathy or forgiveness. They are only asking to be heard.''

I have been homeless.
I have been to China.
I am a quiet person.
I like to work outdoors.

The St. Paul-based American Composers Forum commissioned the work. The 33-year-old forum, described as the nation's premier composing service organization, calls the alliance collaboration "one of its most ambitious, emotionally gripping and socially conscious projects to date.''

While abusers need to be held accountable for their actions, "we do think everyone can make positive changes in their lives if they are given the proper support and guidance,'' says Beverly Dusso, the alliance's executive director. "To fully live up to this mission, we feel it is essential to give former abusers a voice through this piece, and an equal chance at healing.''

Bosch, who has composed three chamber operas and music for solo piano, was selected from a group of composing candidates. She met with nine abusers, coincidentally the same number of men who sing for Cantus.

She stitched compelling remarks or thoughts into three songs. The first, from two men, describes details about their personal lives that others in the group don't know. The second part chronicles the past year in their lives. The third is made from reflections from one abuser about a person he lost and what he would say to that person.

The songs constitute part of the concert, which will also feature noted Minnesota poet Robert Bly.

And then, I would say: look, I'm grown
Look, you have two grandsons now.
And then I would say, look there is the tree
You planted so long ago, it shades the whole house now

"We have never performed anything like this before,'' Eric Lichte, Cantus' artistic director, informed me last week. The 11-year-old, critically acclaimed vocal ensemble has released eight CDs and performed more than 300 national and international concerts.

"This is an incredibly important thing that we do sing about and an emotionally humbling experience,'' Lichte adds. "Classical music doesn't get terribly topical. We mostly sing pieces by dead white guys. You don't get this honest and direct about a real-life problem that affects society. I hope people will be touched and moved.''
Rubén Rosario, St. Paul Pionner Press
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