As we gathered on this evening, protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis-St. Paul were in full force across the country. Emphasizing that the point of art is to make change — to escape being caught in our more prehistoric brain — Ming, Julia, and Paul led us through music written to address social and political upheaval, issues of justice, inequality, and violence.
Ming emphasized that classical music an not and should not be seen as separate from the issues that we face in these times. He played for us Shostakovich’s 2nd Piano Concerto, and presented Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, both in the context of their times.
Julia introduced us to a profound and challenging composition: Seven Last Words of the Unarmed by Joel Thompson, based on the #Last Words project created by Shirin Barghi. The premier performance was by the Michigan Men’s Glee Club.
Ming requested the sing-a-long piece for the evening: Lift Every Voice and Sing, by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, often called “the Black National Anthem.”
We also had the good fortune to have mezzo Megan Berti “visit” us from her home in Houston, where she sings with th Houston Opera and other organizations. Megan, daughter of long-time BCCO alto Linda Berti, has sung multiple works with us, including the Dvorak Requiem and Mendelssohn’s Elijah. Megan and her partner, violist René Salazar, performed several duets for us, highlighting pieces written especially for them by composer Mark Buller and composer/trumpet player Justin Langham (who is Megan’s roommate and happened to be in the room listening.) Thank you, Megan, René, and Justin!
Lift Every Voice and Sing
Music by: J. Rosamond Johnson Words by: James Weldon Johnson Lift ev'ry voice and sing 'Til earth and heaven ring Ring with the harmonies of Liberty Let our rejoicing rise High as the list'ning skies Let it resound loud as the rolling sea Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us Facing the rising sun of our new day begun Let us march on 'til victory is won Stony the road we trod Bitter the chastening rod Felt in the days when hope unborn had died Yet with a steady beat Have not our weary feet Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? We have come over a way that with tears has been watered We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered Out from the gloomy past 'Til now we stand at last Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast God of our weary years God of our silent tears Thou who has brought us thus far on the way Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light Keep us forever in the path, we pray Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee Shadowed beneath Thy hand May we forever stand True to our God True to our native land