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New Dreams (2021)

for SSA choir | 00:05:00

by Melissa Dunphy | text by Melissa Dunphy

Commissioned by La Caccina for their program "The Matriarchy."

Composer's Notes

"I only started learning about the life and work of trailblazing activist and human being Grace Lee Boggs after she died in 2015, shortly after her 100th birthday. Like me, she was a second-generation immigrant whose parents came to the West from Guangdong, China, but the clear-sighted bravery with which she faced the hurdles of gender and race in the first half of the 20th century astonishes me. After getting her Ph.D. in 1940, she devoted most of her life to the question of how to create a better society and a better world, with a focus on the Black American struggle, and her writings and actions inspire and challenge me to dig deeper and go further in my own political views and work. When I sat down to write “New Dreams,” I kept getting "Amazing Grace" stuck in my head because of her name, and for a long time I resisted incorporating it into the music—until I watched the documentary American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs. In a chance street scene, Boggs pauses under a wall with a graffiti tag that reads "Amazing Grace" and roars with laughter; it felt as though she were giving me permission from beyond the grave to follow my impulse to quote the hymn! Grace Lee Boggs's work is continued by the Boggs Center in Detroit."

New Dreams
Inspired by the work of Grace Lee Boggs

New dreams are born in questions.
How do we transform ourselves?
How do we transform our world?
What do we need?
What do we want?
What is the difference?
How do we reconnect with the rhythms of nature?
Should we do something just because we can?
What is the purpose of education?
What does it mean to care?
How do we create community?
Why is community a revolutionary idea?
How can we re-civilize society?
How do we grow our souls?
How do we take heart of grace?

This work was commissioned thanks to the generous support of:
Mimi Burkland
Judy Corbelle
In honor of Alana Grossman
Adele Davidson
Michael and Angela FitzSimmons
In honor of Owen Kennedy
Susan Goldenberg
Matthew Harris
Jane Horowitz
Ellen Lawson
Linda and Fred Mast
In honor of Fanny E. Mast
In honor of Barbara Goldsmith
Luba Romantseva
Enanna Sheena
Marlene Tack and Jim Kennedy
Amanda M. Thomas

Artwork by Abigail Markov.


  • 18 May, 2024: Lexington High School Chamber Singers at Lexington High School, Lexington, MA
  • 20 Apr, 2024: Mount Holyoke Chorale at Abbey Memorial Chapel, South Hadley, MA
  • 13 Apr, 2024: Inversion da Capo at Austin Central Public Library, Austin, TX
  • 16 Mar, 2024: Boston Choral Ensemble at Multicultural Arts Center, East Cambridge, MA
  • 03 Mar, 2024: Voices of the Earth (Goshen College) at Goshen College, Goshen, IN
  • 02 Mar, 2024: PhilHarmonia at ACDA Eastern, Providence, RI
  • 01 Mar, 2024: Voices of the Earth (Goshen College) at University Church, Chicago, IL
  • 27 Feb, 2024: Voices of the Earth (Goshen College) at Zion Mennonite Church, Archbold, OH
  • 26 Feb, 2024: Voices of the Earth (Goshen College) at Central Christian School, Kidron, OH
  • 26 Feb, 2024: Voices of the Earth (Goshen College) at Berlin Mennonite Church, Millersburg, OH
  • 25 Feb, 2024: Voices of the Earth (Goshen College) at Friendship Mennonite Church, Bedford Heights, OH
  • 25 Feb, 2024: Voices of the Earth (Goshen College) at Lee Heights Mennonite Church, Cleveland, OH
  • 06 Apr, 2023: NH All State Festival Treble Choir at Capitol Center for the Arts, Concord, NH
  • 28 Mar, 2023: Webster Thomas High School Select Vocal Ensemble at Webster Thomas High School, Webster, NY
  • 10 Mar, 2023: Seattle University Choirs at Seattle First Baptist Church, Seattle, WA
  • 05 Mar, 2023: Aurora Chorus at First Congregational UCC, Portland, OR
  • 07 May, 2022: William & Mary: Barksdale Treble Chorus at Williamsburg Presbyterian Church, Williamsburg, VA
  • 07 May, 2022: BK Treble at First Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Brooklyn Heights, NY
  • 09 Apr, 2022: William & Mary: Barksdale Treble Chorus at Bruton Parish Church, Williamsburg, VA
  • 02 Apr, 2022: William & Mary: Barksdale Treble Chorus at Southminster Presbyterian Church, Richmond, VA
  • 04 Mar, 2022: Women in Music Festival at Nazareth College, Wilmot Recital Hall, Pittsford, NY
  • 21 Nov, 2021: La Caccina at Second Unitarian Church, Chicago, IL
  • 20 Nov, 2021: La Caccina at Wicker Park Lutheran Church, Chicago, IL