Powerful orchestral concert blends last words with music – the Daily Aztec
“Truth and Reconciliation” engaged the community in discussions about discrimination, loss and healing with the help of the San Diego State Symphony Orchestra.
The event was held on October 19 at College Avenue Baptist Church in conjunction with the San Diego Master Chorale.
At 6:30 p.m., conductor Michael Gerdes, conductor John K. Russel, composer Joel Thompson and African Studies speaker Bonnie Reddick participated in a pre-concert discussion. The concert started at 7:30 p.m.
The program opened with Thompson’s “Seven last words of the disarmed», Putting the last words of seven unarmed black men killed by the police to orchestral music accompanied by the choir.
Thompson was inspired by journalist Shirin Barghi’s #LastWords project in which Barghi drew illustrations to accompany the last words of several black men killed by police.
“Seven Last Words of the Unarmed was not written to be heard,” said Thompson. “It was basically a sound diary entry expressing my fear, anger and grief over this tragedy.”
Thompson said he was motivated to tell this story in classical music form to reach a different demographic than he might have with any other genre.
The play features the final words of Kenneth Chamberlain, 66, Trayvon Martin, 16, Amadou Diallo, 23, Michael Brown, 18, Oscar Grant III, 22, John Crawford III, 43, and Eric Garner , 43 years.
In the first movement, the choir sang Chamberlain’s last words: “Officers, why did you draw your weapons? As the dark orchestral tunes flowed throughout the church.
The second movement began with orchestral music mimicking the panic and anxiety of Martin’s last words, “Why are you following me?”
Diallo’s last words, “Mom, I’m going to college,” appear in the third movement. The choir angelically sang his words, welcoming a soloist to start and end the movement.
In the fourth movement, the orchestra exploded with apprehension as the choir sang Brown’s last words: “I don’t have a gun, STOP! The chorus repeated “stop” louder and louder before moving smoothly to the next movement.
Grant III’s last words, “You shot me,” opened the fifth movement. The first violinist played short notes, mimicking a lifeline, and the choir members banged their chests, mimicking a gunshot. The choir sang the last words in sets, still hitting their chests and screaming in pain, until the whole group joined in a whisper.
Angelic themes returned in the sixth movement, featuring Crawford III’s last words, “It’s Not Real.” The lifeline remained prominent throughout, ultimately slowing down at the end.
The play ended with Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe.” The chorus started out as a whisper and grew louder, holding each line until the singers lost their breath.
“The way (the phrases) worked with the music was really powerful,” said second year history student Jake Frautnick. “My jaw dropped. It was really impressive, the way they put it in place.
Frautnick said he didn’t know what to expect, but was glad he went.
“Hearing their last words in a song was like, wow,” he said. “These people and their families have had someone very important to them taken too soon.”
The concert quickly moved on to “Glory” from the movie “Selma”, arranged by Eugene Rogers. The triumphant tones offered a respite from the tragic themes of the opening.
Choirmaster John K. Russel then officially presented the next section of the concert.
“It means a lot to us that you are here to support live music,” he said. “This program was developed by myself and my colleague and is intended to help you think, come to terms with some rather difficult truths that you heard in the first track.”
The next track, “Abendlied” or “Evening Song”, by Joseph Rheinberger asked the audience to persist for the remainder of the concert. It was sung in German with an English translation in the program.
Then the conductor of the SDSU Symphony Orchestra, Michael Gerdes, spoke for “Mother of the Man” by John Adams.
After the intermission, Russel spoke again for “Son to Mother”, a poem by Maya Angelou. The choir sang its verses in enchanting harmony with the orchestra.
“The ‘Seven Last Words of the Unarmed’ showed us that not all human relationships are loving and fulfilling,” said Dayne Sakazaki, violist, orchestra member and sophomore music education student. those tracks, ‘Mother of the Man’ and ‘Son to Mother’, really accentuated that lack of love and compassion. ”
They moved on to “Visions of Peace” by Jean Berger, compiled from “Isaiah” excerpts from the Bible.
The next piece, “Litanies to the Black Virgin”, or “Litanie to the Black Virgin”, was sung in French with an English translation on the program.
The concert ended with a blessing in the form of “Benedictus”, by Jocelyn Hagen from his “amass” collection.
“I am very honored to have been able to be a part of something like this,” said Sakazaki.
Sakazaki said he hopes the audience will think not only of himself, but also his relationship to the world and how he acts in the future.
“This whole program was about starting a conversation about this topic of violence and discrimination and then providing a space for all of us… to think about it,” he said.