On May 23, 2020 at 6pm (PT) / 9pm (ET), All Classical Portland will present an unprecedented live, bi-coastal simulcast of the world premiere of Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem in collaboration with WQXR in New York. Following the live broadcast, the two partner stations will produce the program for distribution, to offer to stations nationwide (and potentially abroad) at no cost. The primary goals include access to and amplification of this powerful and important work.
The radio program will be produced by Sarah Zwinklis and Eileen Delahunty and hosted by Terrence McKnight and Suzanne Nance. Nance is the Executive Producer.
An African American Requiem was commissioned by Resonance Ensemble and its Founder and Artistic Director Katherine FitzGibbon. Resonance Ensemble will perform the work with the Oregon Symphony, conducted by Kazem Abdullah. Several local choirs will join Resonance Ensemble in performance including Kingdom Sound, as well as soloists Brandi Sutton, soprano; Karmesha Peake, mezzo-soprano; Bernard Holcomb, tenor; and Kenneth Overton, baritone. Poet S. Renee Mitchell will narrate the piece.
About the Composition
To highlight the atrocities of race relations in the United States, Damien has composed An African American Requiem, a major musical composition for full orchestra, symphonic choir and a quartet of African American soloists. Under the leadership of conductor Kazem Abdullah and concertmaster Katherine Fitzgibbon, this work in nineteen movements will honor the victims of past lynchings through hanging, and present-day lynchings by way of police violence.
Damien’s Requiem integrates the Latin Requiem text with contemporary texts. The Requiem Mass, the Catholic liturgy performed at funerals in remembrance of the dead, also has a history of concert performance. Many established composers like Mozart, Verdi, and Britten have set the liturgy to music, in honor of someone who has passed or a catastrophic event in history. As yet, there has not been a Requiem written in honor of African Americans who have lost their lives over the years due to racial violence; this will be a groundbreaking work that we believe can have a tremendous impact on the people of the United States of America.
An African American Requiem serves as a commentary on the war of racism whose increasing casualties are left unnumbered and counting. The Requiem will use the traditional Latin text but will also incorporate spirituals (There’s A Man Goin’ Round, and Kumbaya), and texts from civil rights activists Ida B. Wells (Lynching is Color-Line Murder) and Jamilia Land (We are living in communities that are like war zones.)
One movement is dedicated solely to Eric Garner’s famous last words, “I can’t breathe,” and uses no wind instruments but rather a tenor soloist who sings over the roar of percussion instruments to be heard. The heart of the piece, the Agnus Dei, a piece for solo a cappella choir, fuses elements of jazz, gospel, spirituals, and renaissance styles. The Recordare recognizes children who have been killed and uses a line from a poem by Antwon Rose, “I am confused and afraid.” The Lacrimosa infuses the Star-Spangled Banner with minor harmonies, orchestrated to feel like a funeral march. The very last movement the In paradisum infuses the spiritual Walk Together Children.