we have come from far away
a great journey made in silence
In the early years of the 20th century emigrants flooded to New York from Europe, from China, from the Deep South. They dreamt of a land of opportunity, & for some of them it was; for most of them it was more a matter of substituting one kind of hardship for another. They learnt English by listening to the radio, & by mimicking actors on stage. When the matinee idol Wayne Burnett dropped dead on stage, a Sicilian butcher took over, knowing his lines and his blocking meticulously, and money did not have to be refunded. Many took jobs building skyscrapers & excavating subway tunnels, creating the infra-structure, in fact, of modern New York – dangerous, debilitating work but not without a certain kind of exhilaration.
Suddenly the jib line moves & he is swinging in the air, in nothingness. He adores this feeling. Alone, on steel, above the city. Nothing on his mind but this swing through the air.
Tall Stories is a series of songs, each of which tells a story of these immigrants. The songs are extremely diverse in mood & texture, some involving the whole choir, some just a few singers, some extremely serious & emotional, some very light & humorous. The centrepiece is the wonderful song Tall Stories by Richard Chew, the first song he ever wrote for the choir. The mysterious Underworld, and the beautiful In The Palm Of His Hand, about Fay Wray in King Kong, are also by him. The show closes with the monolithic lament Silence, followed by a strange coda, He Walks Unseen, a setting of a Taoist poem.