Monday, April 11, 2022
The Choral Arts Society of Washington Presents the East Coast Premiere of Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Choral Arts Society of Washington Presents the East Coast Premiere of
Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem
Geter’s Homecoming performance is an ode to the many Black lives lost to racial violence
Washington, D.C. — The Choral Arts Society of Washington is honored to announce the East Coast premiere and recording of composer Damien Geter’s An African American Requiem with Oregon’s Resonance Ensemble. The concert will take place on Monday, May 23, 2022 at The Kennedy Center. The piece, which takes inspiration from traditional Latin requiem texts, has been in the works for the last several years and is a bold and thought-provoking musical response to racial violence against African Americans in the United States.
“As a Black composer in today’s America, I feel like I’ve been writing this my entire life,” says Geter. “I was hoping there would be a time we wouldn’t need this piece, but I think we always will. I hope An African American Requiem leads to important action that effects change.”
Geter grew up in the South Chesterfield, Virginia area where his artistic style was molded and influenced as a Black male growing up in the rural South. He sees this performance at The Kennedy Center, in the nation’s capital a few hours north of his hometown, as a marked and important occasion, a homecoming for him to showcase classical music to the Black community, a segment of the population that has long been excluded from the genre.
The work is a 20-movement piece that memorializes Black American victims of lynching, hanging, and other racial violence perpetuated throughout our country’s history. The infusion of Black vernacular, spirituals, and modern declarations enhances the traditional Latin requiem used for the body of work. Listeners will experience a setting of Ida B. Wells’s speech “Lynching is Color-Line Murder”; the famous last words of Eric Garner, “I can’t breathe”; and spirituals like “There’s A Man Goin’ Round” and “Kumbaya.”
“It has been an honor and privilege to work with Damien Geter and Resonance Ensemble,” says Choral Arts Artistic Director Scott Tucker. “An African American Requiem has been in the works for a long time and we cannot wait to share it. Music has the power to awe, transform opinions, and evoke change. As we honor the lives of Black women, children, and men who have been killed senselessly in this country, we hope the audience is moved to start conversations about the disparities Black Americans continue to face.”
An African American Requiem was commissioned by Resonance Ensemble in 2017 and was originally set to premiere in April of 2020. Because of the pandemic shut downs, the world premiere is now rescheduled for May 7, 2022 in Portland, OR at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
“When we commissioned An African American Requiem, we had no idea the path we were about to embark on,” explains Resonance’s Artistic Director Dr. Katherine FitzGibbon. “Damien’s work is extraordinary and moving, and it’s exciting to see how audiences, community partners, and arts organizations across the country are coming together to watch his vision come to life. After the world premiere on May 7 in Portland, Oregon, it’s exciting to be able to perform it again so soon in the East Coast premiere. We are grateful for this incredible collaboration with Choral Arts as we perform and record Damien’s work at the Kennedy Center together.”
The East Coast premiere will feature the Choral Arts Symphonic Chorus with Artistic Director Scott Tucker, Resonance Ensemble with Artistic Director FitzGibbon, and NEWorks Voices of America and NEWorks Philharmonic Orchestra with Nolan Williams, Jr.
The program will open with excerpts from Spirituals Suite for Choir and Orchestra written and conducted by DC composer Nolan Williams, Jr.
AN AFRICAN AMERICAN REQUIEM
WHEN: Monday, May 23, 2022 | 7pm
WHERE: The Kennedy Center Concert Hall
COST: Tickets start at $15
ABOUT CHORAL ARTS
At Choral Arts, we sing the music we love as a balm to frenzied days, an antidote to solitude, a union in an often-fractured world. We sing for a city with little time and high expectations, which compels us to transform a night out into a lifelong memory. Founded in 1965 by Norman Scribner (1936-2015), Choral Arts has a rich history of bringing the power of the human voice to audiences large and small, advancing the story of choral music by partnering with a myriad of musicians, composers, and ensembles. To stay up to date with the latest news from Choral Arts, follow @ChoralArtsDC on Instagram and Facebook, YouTube, or visit choralarts.org.
ABOUT DAMIEN GETER
A celebrated composer, Damien infuses classical music with various styles from the Black diaspora. His growing body of work includes chamber, vocal, orchestral, and full operatic works. Recent highlights include commissions Cantata for a Hopeful Tomorrow for The Washington Chorus, Invisible for Opera Theater Oregon, The Justice Symphony for the University of Michigan, Buh-roke for the Portland Baroque Orchestra, and String Quartet No. 1, Neo-Soul for All Classical Portland and On-Site Opera. His piece 1619 appeared with On Site Opera recently as part of their presentation “What Lies Beneath.” Damien made his Metropolitan Opera debut as the Undertaker in the Grammy award-winning production of Porgy and Bess. Other credits include: Angelotti in Tosca with Portland Opera, Sam in Trouble in Tahiti with the Reno Symphony, the title role in Errollyn Wallen’s Quamino’s Map with Chicago Opera Theatre, bass soloist in Darrell Grant’s Sanctuaries, and the bass soloist in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony for the Richmond Symphony. Composition premieres in 2022 include his large work, An African American Requiem, with Resonance Ensemble and the Oregon Symphony and I Said What I Said for Imani Winds. Damien looks forward to his second opera, Holy Ground, premiering this summer at the Glimmerglass Festival. More about An African American Requiem damiengetermusic.com
ABOUT RESONANCE ENSEMBLE
Resonance Ensemble, a professional vocal ensemble based in Portland, Oregon, creates powerful programs that promote meaningful social change. Resonance 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, and community partners. Under Artistic Director Katherine FitzGibbon, Resonance Ensemble has performed challenging and diverse music, always with an eye toward unusual collaborations with artistic partners from around Portland: poets, jazz musicians, singer-songwriters, painters, and dancers. The Resonance singers are “one of the Northwest’s finest choirs” (I), with gorgeous vocal tone, and they also make music with heart.” As Oregon Arts Watch recently wrote, “They do social justice music justice: their concerts are part social commentary, part group therapy, and part best damn choir show in town.” For more information, visit resonancechoral.org
ABOUT CHORAL ARTS
At Choral Arts, we sing the music we love as a balm to frenzied days, an antidote to solitude, a union in an often-fractured world. We sing for a city with little time and high expectations, which compels us to transform a night out into a lifelong memory. Founded in 1965 by Norman Scribner (1936-2015), Choral Arts has a rich history of bringing the power of the human voice to audiences large and small, advancing the story of choral music by partnering with a myriad of musicians, composers, and ensembles.
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