As on Wings – Leonard Enns
commissioned by Quintessential Vocal Ensemble, Susan Quinn music director
This commission request was for…something inspired by the Newfoundland connection to 9/11… We remember it well - dozens of planes and thousands of "refugees" literally descending on Newfoundland's shores with nowhere to go, and the people took them all in. Susan's school became a shelter for hundreds of people; teachers and students all volunteered to help… (Michael Rosales, General Manager of QVE).
I was struck by the richness of the phrase “as on wings” from Gibran: while the attacks of the day came on wings, another reality was that people needing refuge also came on wings to the shelter of Newfoundland. The experience was profound for both host and stranger, whose new relationship–in yet another meaning of the phrase–was elevating “as on wings”.
In the best instances, as in this case, distinctions between giver and receiver become beautifully blurred and confused, and the poignant interplay between them is humbling and bonding. Historically we are all refugees of sorts, wherever we live; hosts have been strangers, and strangers become hosts - it is these beautiful entanglements that inspired me.
The strangers who dwell with you
shall be as your own people.
Love them as you love yourselves,
For you also were strangers in this land.
Leviticus 19:34 (adapted LE)
I … saw these huge planes coming, one at a time, through the Narrows
and I thought how after hundreds of years
people are still seeking the shelter of our harbour.
Leslie Kennedy, English teacher, Holy Heart High School, St John’s NL; excerpt from an email to Susan Quinn, director of QVE and Music teacher at Holy Heart; used by permission
life gives unto life
you, the giver,
and you, receiver,
rise together on the giftas on wings
The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran (adapted LE)