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The Radium Girl

A new work to be composed by Michael Bussewitz-Quarm
Difficulty: 3 · Medium
Length: 5-7 mts.

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This project will include…

PDF score
9-month premiere window
Score guarantee


All members of consortium receive one Skypehearsal session with composer, Michael Bussewitz-Quarm Major Commissioners: receive one additional session with composer, Michael Bussewitz-Quarm and lyricist, Chantal Sellers All members will receive a line-listing on the “Commissioned by” page. Major Commissioners receive separate listing on top of “Commissioned by” page. If you are interested in joining as a Major Commissioner, please contact Michael to request this level at The song that I and my lyricist, author Chantal Sellers, are developing is based on the tragic story of the “Radium Girls”. These young women worked in clock factories, using radium to paint glow-in-the-dark numbers on the clocks. It was detail work, and as many painters do, they would lick their brushes every so often to keep the bristles smooth. The exposure to a highly toxic substance caused all sorts of problems. One of the worst was that the soft tissue in their mouths and gums would begin to deteriorate, sometimes to the point of losing their lips, tongues, or part of their cheeks. These conditions were associated with two things: leprosy or syphilis. Since most of the workers were young, unmarried women, their reputations maligned by the watch company. To protect their finances and reputation, “syphilis” was printed as the cause of death on these young omen’s death certificates. Even today, their families are fighting this “cause of death” because it was to cover up liability, impugning the integrity of their loved ones. One of the most incredible parts to this sad story is that when the girls walked home from the factory after dark, their bodies would literally glow. relevancy: Our intent is to give light to these women and their tragic stories through the power of song. This story is still relevant today. It’s not just women who are working under hellish conditions: children and men are, too. But women are always part of the equation when workers are exploited, and they often have fewer protections than children or men. This song shines a light on women’s rights and women’s voices, in particular, the radium girls’ voices. View Intro Video with Michael and Chantal:



I was sheltered in darkness
Now night’s overtaken by day,
And I paint it to life ‘til the
Starlight is scattered like rain.

You steal my face and settle
Down deep in my bones.
Sleeping is restless
When truth is the bed
And they unturn the stones.

Peace isn’t easy to buy
But I’m bargaining piece by piece,
Tasting the days slip away
In radiant, bitter retreat.

You steal my face and settle
Down deep in my bones.
Sleeping is restless
When truth is the bed
And they unturn the stones.

I drip from the tip of a brush
While the hours mark time on a dial,
Each one the sum of my life
With nary a lip left to smile.

You steal my face and settle
Down deep in my bones.
Sleeping is restless
When truth is the bed
And they unturn the stones.

When they unturn the stones,
When they unturn the stones.

Chantal Sellers © 2018

About Michael Bussewitz-Quarm

Michael Bussewitz-Quarm has become one of America’s most recent emerging composers, specializing in choral works commissioned by consortiums around social and environmental issues. Newly published by Peermusic Classical and recently awarded a performance in the International Society of Contemporary Music’s New Music Days 2017 in Vancouver, BC, Michael received the finalist-honorable mention distinction for The American Prize in the category of choral music composition, recognizing "My Name is Lamiya: Don’t Call Me ’Refugee’”. Michael’s most recent works include the commissioned work “So it was I”, commissioned by The Esoterics, “Nigra Sum", and The Unarmed Child, presented by Long Island Voices and Sound Symphony under her direction in 2017. She is currently under commission by the Women’s Voices Chorus of Chapel Hill, NC. for “Only Time to Love: Gaaggee Zaag’aa" and The First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh with Calvary United Methodist Church for the former’s 125th anniversary celebration, for “Awake!”. Michael has recently completed three additional consortiums, one for Women’s and Treble Choirs at the Collegiate and High School levels called "Radium Girl" Commissioning Consortium which will be written to bring attention to women’s and worker’s rights, the commissioning choirs of The Unarmed Child, to be premiered during the 2019-2020 choral season, and the commissioning choirs of Rainbow Choir Consortium, which, along with the major commissioner, the Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus, has commissioned “How Did You Feel?” in support of transgender youth. The cornerstone work of her catalog, Requiem Dies Magna, was composed with the intention of healing and to honor the first responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks. It has grown to speak to those who have survived the loss of a loved one. and the complex stages of grief and path to finding peace. Michael’s choral compositions include settings to poems as diverse as those by Eugene Field (“The Duel” of gingham dog and calico cat fame), Robert Frost (“The Pasture” and “The Road Not Taken”) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (“Daybreak” and “The Rainy Day”). The song “If They Could Speak” for soprano solo and piano marks Michael’s collaboration with contemporary designer and poet Roseanne Pellicane and honors the firefighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Center. Deeply rooted in community, Michael composed “The Silver Swan” in memory of Pfc Joseph Dwyer, a medic from Long Island who lost his battle with PTSD. Originally from Long Island, New York, Michael grew up as a baritone saxophonist and as accompanist and a tenor in the school’s chorus. She attended Ithaca College (BM ’94), for piano performance and music education, and Queen’s College (MM ’99) for music education. Michael is also active in advocating for the transgender community. “It is my fervent wish to spread knowledge and understanding of the transgender community through guest speaking and by simply being present in the lives of the talented musicians and artists surrounding me.”

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