Kultur Stories

Louis Armstrong once said “Music is life itself”, and so the interview with Dr. Emerson Eads, composer, and Eran Eads, poet, began. 

On April 21st, Cindy Oxberry, one of the co-leaders for Kultur Stories, interviewed the two guest artists, Emerson and Eran.  We came to know them as the Eads Brothers.  They collaborated on a project setting words that Eran wrote to music that Emerson composed. Emerson, a professor of choral studies at Minot University in North Dakota, USA wanted to write a choral piece.  He thought that his brother Eran, who was living on the east coast of the USA, would be just the person who could write the lyrics.

The first question asked was, “How do you begin? Do the words come first and then the music? Or vis-a-versa?”  Laughter burst from both of the men. Eran said, “Go ahead, let my brother speak first.” Emerson said, “I like to have the words in front of me as I begin to compose. Eran?” Eran paused and said, “I like to hear the music, which inspires me to write.” They burst out in laughter again and suddenly the entire group of Kultur Stories scholars started laughing too. 

The interview continued and we all learned how these two men, who loved each other as brothers can, found some common ground as they worked together on their project. They talked to our group about their childhoods, growing up in Alaska, and how working on their farms and living in a small tight-knit community influenced them and their creative process. Emerson claimed it was the music teacher there who changed his life. Eran spoke about the quiet and the sounds of nature that inspired him to write.

The piece they created together is a choral cantata, “We Will Shine”.  It premiered on Sunday, May 2nd, and was performed by members of The Minot Chamber Chorale, Minot State University Choirs, Western Plains Children’s Choir, and Minot Symphony Orchestra, as well as tenor soloist Edward Graves and alto soloist Cheryl Nilsen.

The Eads brothers invited the Kultur Stories group to watch the cantata stream online, sharing the YouTube link on WhatsApp.

Kultur Stories college intern, Liz Morgan, gave her thoughts and comments after watching the Eads brothers video recording of the cantata’s premiere.  “The video opens on a stage. String players are focused and ready to play their instruments, and Emerson, the conductor starts them off. The song starts off softly, as a female soloist sings the first verse. Then the other female singers join. Soon after the men joined in and the zoom screen was filled with a choir of faces singing together. Harmonies are very pretty. You can hear the four-part singing so clearly, which shows off each vocal part of the choir. The instruments are a nice balance to the voices and helps support the choir. They are soft and gentle, but also very beautiful.”

Joyce Koo, another intern, said, “Although the premiere was arranged and streamed virtually, there was a special connection that captivated my attention and ‘broke’ the virtual barrier that the pandemic has brought upon us. The beginning of the cantata draws listeners in with its gentle, yet almost mysterious, first verse, introducing the alto soloist and choir. However, the atmosphere shifts from a dreary mood to a hopeful energy with the tenor soloist taking the lead. The piece comes to an end with a grand and majestic conclusion, incorporating all of the vocalists and instrumentalists for its climatic resolution.”

A Kultur Stories young scholar in South Sudan, Akuol Goi Aleer, shared the impact the Eads brothers made on her.  Her comment speaks for all of us who so enjoyed meeting these two artists. “The Eads’ presentation was perfect.  I want to know how songs are created and connect with lyrics. I admire their creativity and want to hear more.”

Emerson Eads’ story is part of The Jüdische Kulturbund Project’s Shared Story collection, which you can read here.  Learn more about Eran Eads and his poetry, here.