Giver Should Be Grateful, The

Composed by Stephen Hatfield
Voicing: SSA
Instrumentation: piano
Catalog number: AMP 0773
Price: $1.80

The Giver Should Be Grateful

When performing “The Giver Should Be Grateful,” the singers should always be aware that they are telling a story, a story which eventually includes the audience. Everything in the performance should be at the service of telling the story. I emphasize this because singers often tell me that they find themselves concentrating so much on singing correctly that they lose touch with what the text is about.

The piano introduction, which combines deadpan dissonances in the right hand with an easy-going doo-wop bass line, sets the stage for the dry humour of the storyteller. The pianist both puts the audience at ease and prepares it for some twists in the tale it is about to hear.

Vocal articulations, such as the scoops in the entries for both alto and soprano (see m. 5 and 9), are meant to imitate the inflections of the storyteller, and as such are more understated than the kind of note-bending appropriate to a deep blues style. The scoops are not so much intended to convey deep emotion as they are to slightly emphasize the same words a storyteller would emphasize while setting up a tale. Here's a little rhyme: Once upon a time...

“The Giver Should Be Grateful” was inspired by the zen story of Umezu Seibei, a merchant from Edo who gave master Seisetsu five hundred golden ryo to build a school at a time when three ryo was a year's salary. When the merchant asked Seisetsu why he did not thank him for such a generous gesture, the master replied, “Why should I? The giver should be thankful.”

My piece reflects the concerns of Podium, the national conference for Canadian choral directors: the spiritual and cultural importance of singing, the effort required of those who support and enable the tradition, how thankless their efforts often are, and how the best thanks and praise come from within, from our own realization that we have fought the good fight. We can never solve all the conflicts and dichotomies in our work, only learn to approach them with an attitude that spurs us on rather than shutting us down. My text offers a certain peace, but no cozy conclusion. The text suggests that “a grateful heart” knows what it is to be rubbed sore: to be “full of gratings”.

These themes go beyond the travails of the choral conductor, for anyone who has tried to be a good parent, sibling, friend or co-worker knows the toll it can take to make things work, and how bitter we become if we gauge our success by the recognition we receive or don't receive. The unavoidable role of money in the realization of our best endeavours will be understood by anyone whose efforts are constrained by their budget, as is certainly the case with conductors and educators everywhere, much less a free-lance composer such as myself, for whom creativity and survival are linked both literally and metaphorically. In my score the word “money” is pronounced with an emphasis that is partly cheeky, but which also acknowledges its power. Which reminds me: thank you for buying this music.

Stephen Hatfield

Here's a little rhyme: once upon a time.
Tell you something that's been on my mind:
A little story I was glad to find.

Once on a distant night, a temple in Japan
Caught fire (it burned so bright).
No place to pray 'til a rich businessman
Came forward with a trunk so full of money,
Rebuilding right away could start.
But not a “thank-you“ from the temple came.
It couldn't help but grate his heart.

He saw the new roof shine,
Heard all the priests in song
Inside their fine new shrine.
He said to himself, “Am I so wrong
To want to hear the master tell me, thank you'?
I gave so much, I wonder, was it smart?
But then he heard the master, calm and clear.
“The giver has a grateful heart.“

He couldn't quite lose his frown,
For why, why must life be so unfair?
And then the bell sounded over the town.
The sun, it went down,
But the singing filled the air. There.

Singing even now: we can show you how.
Tell you something that's been on my mind:
Fate may be fickle but she's not quite blind.

So all you pilgrims here,
What are you marching for?
What makes you, year by year,
Give what you can, and then give some more?
Is there a temple burning deep inside you?
Rebuilding every time it falls apart?
Well, our creator was the first to know
The giver has a grateful heart.
You know the giver has a grateful heart.
And now you know the giver
Has a grateful heart, a grateful heart.

Click here to see a sample.

Click here to listen to a recording (MP3).



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