Composer Joel Thompson on music prompting conversations about race and social injustice

Posted on: December 13, 2019

“Does classical music still have a voice in social issues of today? Can it speak for marginalized communities?” writes Daniel Goldberg on Wednesday (12/11) at Chicago radio station WFMT. “Joel Thompson’s 2015 work The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed brings to light an issue that hits close to home here in Chicago and countrywide: the killing of unarmed African American men. In the choral work, Thompson uses the last words of seven different men and parallels those words with Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ.… The piece is meant to prompt conversation about race and social injustice.” The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed was premiered in its orchestral version in 2017 by the Sphinx Symphony and University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club in Detroit and performed by the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra in March 2019. In the interview, Thompson speaks about why he wrote the work in a liturgical format, the importance of “people of color in classical music writing about things that are important to them,” and the new opera he is writing. Read about Thompson’s score and other orchestral works addressing social justice in Symphony magazine.

Posted December 13, 2019

In photo: The Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, led by David Morrow, performs Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed with the Florida A&M Concert Choir and the Morehouse College Glee Club.