A work for children’s chorus for the Young People’s Chorus of NYC and the New Have Festival of Arts and Ideas, 2018
By Paola Prestini and Royce Vavrek
“It is the fatal power of the imagination working through unmitigated terror.”
- Walter Cannon
“The Apathetic Children” is a concert work in four parts which follows the illness of a young Serbian refugee in Sweden who falls into a coma-like sleep when his family is slated for deportation, a syndrome known as uppgivenhetssyndrom, or “resignation syndrome.” Known only to occur in Sweden, the victims, called “de apatiska” (the apathetic) withdraw from the world, their minds and bodies giving up on life. The only cure is the reversal of the government’s immigration decision.
In the first part, “Swedish,” the experience is viewed from the perspective of Pavle, a thirteen-year-old boy whose parents request for asylum is twice denied. Pavle, whose identity is entrenched in the Swedish culture stops speaking, eating, moving, finally resting in his bed like an invalid, his body unresponsive to any external stimuli.
In the second part, “Dreamless,” the sensory experience of the sleeping children is explored. A wall of children in their beds in a deep sleep paint an almost hallucinogenic portrait of the illness’s haunting effects.
In the third part, “Awake,” Pavle slowly comes out of his coma when news that his family has been granted permanent residence, due to the fact that his condition meant that he shouldn’t be moved. He recovers slowly through his mother’s care.
In the final part, “The Apathetic Children,” the chorus sings a lullaby to the subconscious of the sleeping children.