“If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can [help] make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic, common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s future, and we are all mortal.“
These words were spoken by President John. F. Kennedy as part of his commencement address at American University in 1963. And they were the inspiration for a moving choral anthem, Common Link, composed by Mark Carlson.
Mark gave us a little insight about setting this powerful text:
At first, it was an enormous challenge to set words that are not intentionally poetic—though undeniably beautiful and profound. But as the compositional process unfolded, I felt immensely honored to be setting these words. In fact, it was kind of overwhelming to set words of such depth, some 40 years after they were spoken, and I remain humbled by the experience.
And what really got me—and still gets me nine years after writing this music—is the line, “and we are all mortal.” In part, it was the realization that Kennedy was saying, “Why are we fighting each other? We’re all going to die, anyway!” But even more, it was the realization that mortality, much as we want to fight it, is a gift. No matter how young or how old we die, we all have a finite amount of time on this small planet. Why not use every moment of that finite time to do whatever we can to make this small planet a more beautiful, a more accepting place.
Common Link was commissioned by the Maine Gay Men’s Chorus (directed by Miguel Felipe) as part of their 10th anniversary celebration. It was originally composed for TTBB, violin and piano, but has recently also been voiced for SATB, violin and piano as well. (Click on the links to see a partial PDF score for each voicing.)
This recording is the premiere performance by the Maine Gay Men’s Chorus, conducted by Miguel Felipe, in June, 2002.