Requiem for Frankie Silver is a unique combination of a requiem mass for chorus and a musical drama about the life of Frances Stewart Silver (1804-33). The piece is adapted from Sharyn McCrumb’s 1998 award-winning novel, The Ballad of Frankie Silver, with book and lyrics by Craig Fields, music by Craig Carnahan and narration by author Sharyn McCrumb.This 90-minute requiem/music-drama, is to be presented in concert with minimal staging, and is scored for narrator, vocal soloists, MacPhail’s Sonomento choral ensemble and a thirty-five piece orchestra. It will combine elements of the requiem mass mixed with narration, folk songs, hymns and modern classical music and will tell the story of Frankie Silver, a poor eighteen-year-old mountain girl who was tried and hanged for murder in the state of North Carolina in 1833.
Capital punishment and the inherent bias of our criminal justice system against the poor and powerless are the subject matter of this first project. Based on Sharyn McCrumb’s 1998 New York Times’ bestselling historical novel, The Ballad of Frankie Silver, the book tells the tragically true story of Frances Stewart Silver, an eighteen-year-old Appalachian, mountain girl and the first white woman to be executed for murder by the state of North Carolina in 1833. McCrumb’s award-winning book reminds us that even today the poor, the uneducated and the powerless are executed in disproportionate numbers within a judicial system that is still biased against them.
Throughout the piece, the Sonomento chorus will sing selected passages from the Requiem (Mass for the Dead) in memoriam to this young woman’s tragic and brief life. Narrator and soloists will propel the complex story of Frankie’s arrest, trial, conviction and execution. After her hanging, Frankie’s body was left in a shallow, unmarked grave along a Burke County road without a proper burial ceremony. In addition to its important messages about criminal justice and class struggle, the work pays solemn tribute to Frankie Silver’s life for the very first time after 187 years.
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