‘An African American Requiem’ – On Demand
Hear our encore broadcast of Damien Geter’s powerful An African American Requiem on demand until Thursday, March 2, 2023.
The program is hosted by All Classical Portland’s Suzanne Nance and WQXR’s Terrance McKnight, and produced by Sarah Zwinklis and Eileen Delahunty. The world premiere broadcast has also been made available for syndication to public radio stations throughout the U.S.A, at no cost to carrying stations, ensuring broad access to and amplification of Geter’s important work.
An African American Requiem was first premiered on All Classical Portland in a groundbreaking live, bi-coastal broadcast in collaboration with WQXR in New York. Commissioned by Resonance Ensemble, this historic work had its premiere performance in May 2022 (postponed from its original 2020 premiere due to the pandemic).The Oregon Symphony performed with the African American Requiem Choir, made up of singers from Resonance Ensemble, Kingdom Sound Gospel Choir, and other Portland-based choirs. William Eddins conducted, and Resonance Ensemble’s Artistic Director Dr. Katherine FitzGibbon prepared the chorus. The concert also featured a quartet of renowned African American opera singers: Brandie Sutton, soprano; Karmesha Peake, mezzo-soprano; Bernard Holcomb, tenor; and Kenneth Overton, baritone. Learn more about these brilliant musicians on the All Classical Portland Arts Blog.
The long-awaited, highly anticipated performance and live broadcast took place at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon, on May 7, 2022.
ABOUT AN AFRICAN AMERICAN REQUIEM
Damien Geter composed An African American Requiem to highlight the atrocities of race relations in the United States. Commissioned by Portland’s Resonance Ensemble, Geter’s work is a major musical composition for full orchestra, symphonic choir, and a quartet of African American vocal soloists. This requiem 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, and 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, In paradisum, infuses the spiritual Walk Together Children.
All Classical Portland and WQXR have syndicated the program to radio stations across the country. The syndicated presentation gives stations the opportunity to broadcast An African American Requiem at no charge.
Learn more about the syndication of this program at prx.org.
DAMIEN GETER, Composer
Damien Geter is a diverse artist whose credits include performances ranging from the operatic stage to the television screen. Damien’s 2019-2020 season includes appearances with the Metropolitan Opera (Undertaker in Porgy and Bess), Seattle Opera (Colonel in The Rising and the Falling), Eugene Opera (Angelotti in Tosca), Resonance Ensemble, and Third Angle New Music (Sanctuaries.) Damien’s 2018-2019 included appearances with Seattle Opera in the role of the Undertaker and covering the role of Jake in Porgy and Bess; and a debut with Vashon Opera in the role of Colline in La Boheme. Damien returned to Portland Opera in the fall of 2018 in the role of Dr. Grenville in Verdi’s La Traviata.
(Photo, composition information, and biography: Damien Geter, damiengeter.com)
TERRANCE McKNIGHT, Host
Terrance McKnight is the evening host on WQXR. Terrance is an Artistic Advisor for the Harlem Chamber Players and serves on the board of the Bagby Foundation and the MacDowell Colony. He’s frequently sought out by major cultural organizations for his insight into the cultivation of diverse perspectives and voices in the cultural sphere. He regularly curates concerts and talks at Merkin Concert Hall, the Billie Holiday Theatre, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Museum of Modern Art.
SUZANNE NANCE, Host
Suzanne Nance was recognized as a “2022 Woman of Influence” by Portland Business Journal for her work as the President and CEO of All Classical Portland and the International Children’s Arts Network, and named one of Portland’s “best radio personalities” for her work as host of Sunday Brunch. She is the creator of the Emmy® Award winning TV program MaineArts! and has served as the voice of the internationally syndicated Lyric Opera of Chicago radio series; the Grant Park Music Festival, Milwaukee Symphony, and Bravo! Vail Music Festival radio series.
Resonance Ensemble (commissioners of An African American Requiem) is a professional vocal ensemble based in Portland, Oregon, creating powerful programs that promote meaningful social change. The ensemble works to amplify voices that have long been silenced, and does so through moving, thematic concerts that highlight solo and choral voices, new and underrepresented composers, visual, and other performing artists. Under Artistic Director Dr. Katherine FitzGibbon, Resonance Ensemble performs challenging and diverse music, always with an eye toward unusual collaborations with artistic partners such as poets, jazz musicians, singer-songwriters, painters, and dancers from around Portland.
Learn more at resonancechoral.org.
Oregon Symphony, led by Music Director David Danzmayr, is multi-Grammy Award-nominated and ranks as one of America’s major orchestras. It produces several hundred concerts and award-winning education and community programs each year, while innovating on stage through multimedia series such as SoundSights, Sounds of Home and SoundStories. Celebrating its 125th anniversary in the 2021/22 season, Oregon Symphony is committed to building the audiences of tomorrow through breakthrough artistic programs with a wide-ranging coalition of cultural thought-leaders and musical innovators.
For more information, visit orsymphony.org.
Hear a special encore broadcast of Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem on All Classical Portland on Thursday, February 16, 2023, at 7:00 PM PT at 89.9 FM in Portland or from anywhere in the world via our mobile app or the live player on our website.