Sanctuary Song, featuring Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno
“Sanctuary Song” was written in memory of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his almost two-year old daughter, Valeria, who drowned in 2019 in the Rio Grande River near El Paso, while trying to cross from Mexico into Texas. For more information about their journey, read  Daniella Silva’s NBC News article “Family of Salvadoran migrant dad, child who drowned say he ‘loved his daughter so much.’
The recording, featuring Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno, is available for download at All proceeds from the video and recording will go to Annunciation House, a volunteer organization that provides care, comfort, and advocacy to migrants, immigrants, and refugees in the border region of El Paso, Texas.
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Performed by Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno (; organ by Sam Kassirer
Recorded and filmed by Riley Calcagno and Vivian Leva
Co-Produced by Riley Calcagno, Vivian Leva, Jeff Claus, and Judy Hyman
Mixing Engineer: Sam Kassirer (
Mastering Engineer: Mike Monseur – Axis Audio (
Video Editing: Russell Yaffe and Riley Calcagno
Words and Music by Richard Fortmann © 2020 Richard Fortmann and Jeff Thomas
Publishing: BMI – Pym and Rosie Publishing
Recording and video completed and released – 2021
Special thanks to Free Dirt Records and Service Co. for all their help –
Read Credits


Performed by Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno (; organ by Sam Kassirer

Recorded and filmed by Riley Calcagno and Vivian Leva

Co-Produced by Riley Calcagno, Vivian Leva, Jeff Claus, and Judy Hyman

Mixing Engineer: Sam Kassirer (

Mastering Engineer: Mike Monseur – Axis Audio(

Video Editing: Russell Yaffe and Riley Calcagno

Words and Music by Richard Fortmann © 2020 Richard Fortmann and Jeff Thomas

Publishing: BMI – Pym and Rosie Publishing

Recording and video completed and released 2021

To download the song –

Special thanks to Free Dirt Records and Service Co. for all their help –

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In the opening to the video “Hamilton Mixtape: Immigrants – We Get the Job Done,” J.Period says “It’s really astonishing that in a country founded by immigrants, ‘immigrant’ has somehow become a bad word.” 

It really shouldn’t be astonishing.  It certainly isn’t new. From the beginning, we have been a country filled with fear, prejudice and discrimination towards “the other.” The colonization of indigenous peoples in North America was brutal and cruel.  The 1619 Project traces how slavery, introduced to the British colony of Virginia in 1619, required the racism, fear and hatred that continue to plague our nation.  Fear, prejudice, and discrimination have been visited on each new wave of immigrants – Benjamin Franklin was quite open about his prejudice against Germans, Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes – in an unbroken narrative through to the present day.

So, notwithstanding our national mythology of America as a welcoming “melting pot,” there is a lot of work to be done. 

From The New York Times: The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative. Read more about The 1619 Project.

Jenna Moynihan’s “Across the Western Ocean( is a hauntingly beautiful version of a traditional ballad about the arduous and sometimes deadly trans-Atlantic journey undertaken by one and a half million Irish immigrants between 1846 and 1850 in the wake of the potato famine. The journey took at least six weeks on the overcrowded packet ships. Famine, disease, and shipwreck caused an estimated one of every five immigrants to die at sea.

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released September 1, 2020
JENNA MOYNIHAN: vocal, fiddle
SAM KASSIRER: piano, vibraphone
SEAN TRISCHKA: percussion, acoustic guitar
DIETRICH STRAUSE: trumpet, mellophone
Produced, Engineered & Mixed by SAM KASSIRER
at THE GREAT NORTH SOUND SOCIETY, Parsonsfield, Maine.
Recorded August 22, 2017 / August 1-3, 2018 / January 16-18, 2019 / January 22-24, 2020
Mastered by D. JAMES GOODWIN at THE ISOKON, Woodstock, New York

“Immigrants” opens with J.Period laying out the contentious issue of border security and noting, “It’s really astonishing that in a country founded by immigrants, ‘immigrant’ has somehow become a bad word.” The song was written during the 2016 presidential campaign, which was largely fueled by Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall between the US and Mexico.

In an email to BuzzFeed News, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, who produced the video, echoed the opening lines of the song. “‘Immigrant’ is becoming a bad word,” he wrote. “This helps reclaim it and put back in perspective that this is a land of immigrants. It should be celebrated.”

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While the video takes a somewhat metaphorical approach to the immigrant story, Whitmore and his collaborators wanted to make sure to infuse it with a bit of reality as well. That’s why, over the credits, former Hamilton star Daveed Diggs is joined by a group of kids from Get Lit, an organization that promotes poetry and literacy for young people, many of whom Whitmore said “are either directly affected or have family members affected by immigration issues.” Excerpt from “The Story Behind the ‘Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)’ Video From ‘The Hamilton Mixtape’

“The refugees seeking haven in America were poor and disease-ridden. They threatened to take jobs away from Americans and strain welfare budgets. They practiced an alien religion and pledged allegiance to a foreign leader. They were bringing with them crime. They were accused of being rapists. And, worst of all, these undesirables were Irish. From “When America Despised the Irish: The 19th Century’s Refugee Crisis.”

It was in this context that the ballad “No Irish Need Apply was written in 1862.  It tells the story of an Irish immigrant who faces overt discrimination in his search for a job because he is Irish. The immigrant is confronted with a sign reading “No Irish Need Apply.”

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Peter Seeger (May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014) was an American folk singer and social activist.  From Wikipedia:

A fixture on nationwide radio in the 1940s, Seeger also had a string of hit records during the early 1950s as a member of the Weavers, most notably their recording of Lead Belly‘s “Goodnight, Irene“, which topped the charts for 13 weeks in 1950. Members of the Weavers were blacklisted during the McCarthy Era. In the 1960s, Seeger re-emerged on the public scene as a prominent singer of protest music in support of international disarmamentcivil rightscountercultureworkers’ rights, and environmental causes.

A prolific songwriter, his best-known songs include “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” (with additional lyrics by Joe Hickerson), “If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)” (with Lee Hays of the Weavers), “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” (also with Hays), and “Turn! Turn! Turn!“, which have been recorded by many artists both in and outside the folk revival movement. “Flowers” was a hit recording for the Kingston Trio (1962); Marlene Dietrich, who recorded it in English, German and French (1962); and Johnny Rivers (1965). “If I Had a Hammer” was a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary (1962) and Trini Lopez (1963) while the Byrds had a number one hit with “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in 1965.

Seeger was one of the folk singers responsible for popularizing the spiritual “We Shall Overcome” (also recorded by Joan Baez and many other singer-activists), which became the acknowledged anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, soon after folk singer and activist Guy Carawan introduced it at the founding meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. In the PBS American Masters episode “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song“, Seeger said it was he who changed the lyric from the traditional “We will overcome” to the more singable “We shall overcome”.

From TED Details: In 1882, the United States Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first federal law that restricted immigration based explicitly on nationality. In practice, the Act banned entry to all ethnically Chinese immigrants besides diplomats, and prohibited existing immigrants from obtaining citizenship. Robert Chang details the lasting impact the Act had on immigrant rights and freedoms. [Directed by Mohammad Babakoohi & Yijia Cao, narrated by Jack Cutmore-Scott, music by Jian Nanyin].

“Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” is a song with lyrics by Woody Guthrie and music by Martin Hoffman detailing the January 28, 1948 crash of a plane near Los Gatos Canyon, in Fresno County, California. The crash resulted in the deaths of 32 people, 4 Americans and 28 migrant farm workers who were being deported from California back to Mexico.

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Jimmy LaFave (July 12, 1955 – May 21, 2017) was an American singer-songwriter and folk musician. After moving to Stillwater, Oklahoma, LaFave became a supporter of Woody Guthrie and later became an Advisory Board member and regular performer at the annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival.

In this powerful, personal talk, author and academic Juan Enriquez shares stories from inside the immigration crisis at the US-Mexico border, bringing this often-abstract debate back down to earth — and showing what you can do every day to create a sense of belonging for immigrants. “This isn’t about kids and borders,” he says. “It’s about us. This is about who we are, who we the people are, as a nation and as individuals.” (Details from TED).

From TED Details: After seeing the conditions in which children were held at a detention center on the US-Mexico border, Sister Norma Pimentel established a humanitarian respite center in Texas where people can get clean clothing, a warm shower and a hot meal. In this powerful talk, Sister Pimentel discusses her lifelong work restoring human dignity at the border — and calls on us all to put aside prejudice and lead with compassion.

From Joe Troop: “I wrote this piece after visiting the borderlands in 2019 with my band, Che Apalache. My friend and UCC pastor, Randy J. Mayer took us on a walk in the Southern Arizona desert to better understand what migrants go through. At one point we came upon a little white cross with sunglasses on it placed where the remains of an unknown 16 year old boy were found. That moment shook me to the core. 

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This past April, I recorded “Mercy for Migrants” with Béla Fleck, Abigail Washburn and Trey Boudreaux. In June I was able to return to the borderlands with my dear friends and co-conspirators Rode Díaz and Emily Rhyne of Iximche Media. We filmed this video in the AZ desert, along both sides of the border wall, and at a migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, where we spent several weeks.

Do you want to help migrants? Please consider donating to Cruzando Fronteras (Crossing Borders): All donations go directly to La Casa de la Divina Misericordia y Todas las Naciones migrant shelter featured in this video. For more information on how your contributions will help, please visit

From Project Adelante: Immigration policy from 2016 to 2020 caused tens of thousands of asylum seekers to wait for their court proceedings under horrific conditions in Mexico. More recently, while most policies from that era have been rolled back, factors causing migration from Central America continue, thousands of migrants still arrive at the US/Mexico border, and unaccompanied minors are filling detention centers in the US.

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Project Adelante aims to gather information, raise awareness, and contribute to solutions to this crisis on the border, especially impacts on children. To this end, it focuses on witness and storytelling, human rights and legal support, and solutions for children to thrive.

This polka-beat song rose in visibility through the now classic Arhoolie Records album ‘Corridos de la Frontera’ (now found in the Smithsonian Folkways catalog) by Los Pingüinos del Norte and its subsequent performance by Los Lobos. Josh Baca explains, “It’s a beautiful song because it identifies who we are. My grandparents on my mother’s side were born and raised in Mexico and moved over here to America to better their lives…that side of my family taught me that there’s more to life than just playing the accordion…values in life, morals. And the record represents that.”

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Watch the official music video for “Mexico Americano” performed by Los Texmaniacs from ‘Cruzando Borders,’ the band’s latest album for Smithsonian Folkways.

‘Cruzando Borders’ available on CD and Digital.

Smithsonian Folkways:…

Los Texmaniacs:

Smithsonian Folkways:

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This version and arrangement of “Sanctuary Song” was written and composed to be performed by choirs or small groups. If you’d like to obtain a copy of the score for a performance of Sanctuary Song, please contact us.   

Performed by Philadelphia Sanctuary Choir: Alto – Katy Avery, Bass – Thann Scoggin, Soprano – Becky Siler, Tenor – Dan Taylor.  Accompanied by Cello – Ezgi Yargici, Viola – Alex Kruchoski, Piano – Jeff Thomas. 

In early October 2019, Argentinian-American string band Che Apalache toured the US/Mexico borderlands of Arizona, performing in both Sahuarita, AZ and Nogales, Mexico. The trip was a harrowing look at the effect the border wall and the border’s effect on the lives of those that live around it.

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Guided by the Rev. Randy J. Mayer (Pastor of the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ), Che Apalache were able to tour the border wall and the facilities that go along with it, and hiked to water drops in the desert. They performed for migrants and locals in Mexico, and sang their a cappella song ‘The Wall’ in front of the actual wall. The documentary video “Borderlands” explores their trip.

“Running (Refugee Song)” was released in June, 2016, in honor of World Refugee Day. It was the first composition from Compositions for a Cause, a collaboration of musicians Keyon Harrold and Andrea Pizziconi. Harrold, an acclaimed trumpeter, composed the song with Pizziconi. Common contributed to the lyrics.

The song and music video for “Follow Me” by Moxie Raia and Wyclef Jean was made in partnership with Global Citizen, a social action platform that aims to inform and produce action regarding a number of major global issues. In this case, the major global issue Global Citizen chose to focus on was the refugee crisis, which is why the song was produced and shared just in time for World Refugee Day (June 20th, 2016).

Anaïs Mitchell is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and playwright. Mitchell has released seven albums, including Hadestown (2010), Young Man in America (2012), and Child Ballads (2013).

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She developed her album Hadestown into a stage musical (together with director Rachel Chavkin), which received its US debut at New York Theatre Workshop in summer 2016, and its Canadian debut at the Citadel Theatre, Edmonton the following year. The show opened at London’s National Theatre in November 2018 and then on Broadway on April 17, 2019, at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The Broadway production of Hadestown won eight Tony Awards in 2019 including the Tony Award for Best Musical. Mitchell received the Tony Award for Best Original Score; she was also nominated for Best Book of a Musical. The Broadway cast album of the show took home the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album in 2020.

Mitchell’s first book, Working on a Song: The Lyrics of Hadestown, was published by Plume Books on October 6, 2020.

Mitchell is included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020.