How Can I Cry

by Moira Smiley

Notes from the score:

This is written to honor the cultures and individuals who have defied oppression, inspired and changed lives through raising their voices in song.

I feel lucky to have learned – early on in my singing life – laments and protests of various cultures. These (mostly folk) songs powerfully expressed grief, or protested against oppression – either personal or political. I wrote ‘How Can I Cry’ at age 19 to challenge myself to know why I sing these songs, even though I may not have experienced the suffering they express. “Tomorrow and justice” refers to South African freedom songs, while “sisters singing songs of their pain” refers to Balkan folk laments. These vocal repertoires had enormous potency in their own cultures, and I have been deeply influenced by their plaintive voices raised in harmony. “How Can I Cry” is about singing for those who cannot sing, or who have been told to be quiet.

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