George Walker’s “Lyric for Strings,” music that speaks directly to the times

Posted on: July 22, 2020

“One of the works string players chose for Sunday’s Art Museum vigil and another this past Wednesday at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia has emerged as our new soundtrack to sorrow—with a considerable asterisk of hope,” writes Peter Dobrin in Tuesday’s (7/21) Philadelphia Inquirer. “George Walker’s Lyric for Strings … has become the perfect ode to our times…. The first few notes of the main melody start out suggesting a minor key, and then the theme takes a sunnier turn. It continues to shift back and forth between the two, countervailing forces living side by side. What could be more emblematic of our times? … Lyric for Strings was used to open the two recent Philadelphia vigils organized as a call to justice on behalf of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist and violinist whose brutalization and death at the hands of police last August in Colorado has drawn national protests…. There might be no other piece that speaks to us as directly as this one. Philadelphia Orchestra double-bassist Joseph Conyers … once put it like this: ‘There’s an arch in the piece that begins with an optimism embodied in love and compassion…. Ultimately, hope wins out.’ ”