In 2004, the MCE began its commissioning project, New Music for New York. Through this project, the MCE has commissioned more than 20 works for choir from aspiring and established composers, focusing on local New York City composers. This extraordinary commitment to fostering new choral music has given the MCE the opportunity to work with some of the leading living New York composers, including George Andoniadis, George Steel, Patrick Castillo, Charles Griffen, and Nico Muhly. Part of this project is an effort to allow chorus members and audiences into the compositional process though intimate dinners with the composers, the exploration of early drafts as the works are created, recorded interviews by Director Thomas Cunningham with the composers, and opportunities for audience members to meet and talk with composers after the premieres. Additionally, the largest commission for each season is given to a composer selected democratically by the members of the choir, giving the membership a voice in the direction of the project.
Mary Ann Joyce-Walters writes: The first two sections of In Anguish and Hope are based on verses from two terrifying Psalms; the third section is a setting of a passage from Micah. I chose to use these texts after listening to a friend of mine speak about the death of her son.
I became keenly aware of her personal and genuine feelings of rage against God, which were so similar to David’s “Why do You hide Your face and forget our persecution and our oppression?” Christ’s “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” and Elie Wiesel’s “Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.” I realized that a far more difficult question (and perhaps more deeply personal) than that of asking God to forgive us is “Can we forgive God”?