Dave and Iola Brubeck on The Gates of Justice


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SS: It's great to hear you talk about the message in some of these works. And, I'd like to name a few others and get your input on the message that you tried to put into the work. And we'll go on to the one that you just referenced, which is the Gates of Justice. How did the Gates of Justice come about, and what's the inherent message in the Gates of Justice?

DB: Well, Martin Luther King is kind of the center of that, and I think "We must live together as brothers, or die together as fools." It's obvious that we're not paying attention.

IB: You ask how it came about. In Cincinnati, when The Light in the Wilderness was done, it was once a year in that city they have an ecumenical concert. And, on the ecumenical board was a rabbi by the name of Charles Mintz. So, he came today shortly after "The Light in the Wilderness" was performed and said, "I'd like for you to do something that is based on the Jewish testament." And, so that's how that began. It was first performed by a dedication of a temple in Cincinnati.

DB: And, three rabbis came to our house, and we talked for hours to find what direction they wished us to go because there was going to be a world meeting of rabbis here in Florida.

And, at that time there was kind of some conflict within the Jewish religion with the younger rabbis and followers, and the older ones. And, although there have been many young student-like people picketing the various meetings, there were many meetings.

And, the only one that wasn't picketed was ours when we did the Gates of Justice. And, it was so wonderful for us to see when a certain segment of the piece would be started: you'd see everybody looking down at their notes or program notes, and then they'd lift up their heads and they'd never look again. And, you could see them mouthing what the choir was singing. What a great congregation this was!

IB: (laughter) Knew all the words... Another reason for wanting this piece was it was a period when blacks in America and the Jews in America that had always been allies fighting for civil rights had come to a sort of split. And, they wanted to show the similarities of their histories, and what they had in common. And so, you should speak about it. When you started going into it, you found there were similarities in the music as well as in their histories.

DB: Yeah, I could find relationships between the blues and Jewish themes that you could almost think they were part and parcel, kind of, basically very much the same.

And, the cantor was to sing from the Jewish prayer book -- was it called?

IB: Mm-hmm.

DB: And the Old Testament. And, the black baritone would sing for Martin Luther King or other things we'd written. There was one blues that Iola wrote that really always got to the audience. You want me to say the words?

IB: Mm-hmm.

DB: Lord, Lord, what will tomorrow bring? Today, I felt an arrow stinging in a wound so deep, my eyes refuse to weep. What will tomorrow bring? And, one section that really I was afraid of -- but I wrote it because I felt it was time that we face the situation.

Lord, Lord, what will tomorrow bring? Today I walked the city streets with a sense of peace. They speak, and the whole chorus shouts, "Nigger, Whitey, Jew." "Bam!" with a big drum beat. And, I thought, "Wow, this is going to get me in some trouble, and you." (laughter)

But it's always been accepted because you can hardly pick up the paper that you aren't going to see some kind of reference today to that kind of thing. And, I don't want to name you all the things that have happened that justify that. What will tomorrow bring? You know, when are we going to get away from this kind of condemnation of each other?

To me, that's so important in that piece. And, when the black baritone that was on the original recording and performance had gone to school with Martin Luther King and his wife --

IB: Coretta.

DB: Coretta in Boston. And, he would tell me how Martin would have said this and, get this, flow into the rhythm of what you're saying. So, it was wonderful to have him imitate his friend. And, it just works so great.

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