As a young teacher and choir director, I was fortunate to have the Houston composer Joan C. Varner as a colleague and mentor. One of her most memorable compositions is a piece about the Holocaust which features a haunting melody and poignant lyrics. In her own words, she explains how the song idea was born.
“In the fall of 1994, while on a tour of Eastern Europe, I spent a day at the site of the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland. I was unprepared for the strong feelings I experienced there and was especially moved by the pictures lining the walls of one of the former “dormitories,” pictures of young women and teenage boys and girls who died there. The pictures looked like my students, young people with their lives still in front of them. I was haunted by the picture of one especially beautiful young girl, and in the days which followed, as I thought about the things she might have enjoyed and the life which was cruelly taken from her, the words and music for “When I Am Silent” evolved. The song is dedicated to this girl and all young people everywhere whose lives are taken unjustly.”
Who will sing my song when I am silent?
Who will count the colors of the dawn?
Who will follow the lark’s flight,
who will hear its song?
When I am silent
who will sing for me?
Who will scent the fragrance of a flower?
Who will laugh at snowflakes on the tongue?
Who will dance barefoot in the grass,
spinning and twirling and
spinning and twirling
to welcome the warmth of May?
Who will dance?
When I dance no more,
when I sing no more,
when I am silent,
Who will cry for me?
who will cry?