At the Tallahassee Symphony, a new work about slain black men aims to encourage community discussions about race

Posted on: March 19, 2019

“A composer took the last words uttered by seven unarmed black men before they were killed. He wove them into a symphony,” writes Nada Hassanein in Monday’s (3/18) Tallahassee Democrat (FL). Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, set to the last words of Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Kenneth Chamberlain, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, and Eric Garner, “is coming to the capital city’s Ruby Diamond Concert Hall. The Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra will be joined by the Florida A&M Concert Choir and Atlanta-based Morehouse College Glee Club in the performance … In the second half of the performance, the orchestra will perform Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Later, Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil will facilitate a dialogue with the TSO board on art’s impact on a community…. Thompson’s composition uses Joseph Haydn’s ‘Seven Last Words of Christ’ as a text structure guideline, and incorporates ‘L’homme arme,’ a French Renaissance melody.… The piece’s several movements ebb and flow between intense staccatos and flowing refrains, anchored by silences.” Amanda Stringer, the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra’s CEO, says, “It’s a positive way to get the community talking about this issue, and how we can improve the situation and move beyond it.”

Posted March 19, 2019