With all the crazy politics and a stubborn pandemic dragging on, it's easy to be pessimistic about America this Fourth of July. But this Tiny Desk performance — happily back in our NPR Music office — will help turn dark skies to blue and remind us of the best and brightest version of our country.
This video marks the world premiere performance of excerpts of Washington Women, uplifting songs built on speeches and writings by amazing women — First Ladies, Secretaries of State, Senators and Supreme Court Justices — who had strong visions of what America should be.
The project is the brainchild of intrepid choral conductor and composer Judith Clurman, who directs the meticulously fine-tuned Essential Voices USA, a New York-based choir. While the songs have their own musical personalities, they also contain iconic political personalities. Hillary Rodham Clinton states, "Human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights once and for all," while Shirley Chisholm, the first Black congresswoman, declares that laws can be used to compel "the insensitive majority to reexamine its unconscious attitudes." Betty Ford speaks of "the search for human freedom," and Vice President Kamala Harris talks about the importance of dreaming big.
Clurman says she wrote the piece (along with Broadway arranger David Chase) not just for professional choruses to sing. She hopes that high school choirs will pick it up as well so that young people across the country will know how influential these women were and are, in making America a brighter, better place.
Essential Voices USA Choir:
TINY DESK TEAM