Well, as I continue gathering my thoughts and notes on the absolutely fantastic and enlightening trip to Havana, Cuba that took place a few weeks ago, I did want to share some very good news.
In February of this year, I wrote an essay titled "Seven Last Words": Artistic Responses to Current Events, in which I shared information about four works that I heard between February 2016 and February 2017 that dealt with the issue of "brutality - whether at the hands of policemen, self-proclaimed vigilantes, or 'terrorists'." While we still grapple with the profound horror of these events - the most recent being the murder of commissioned Army officer and Bowie State University senior Richard Collins III by white supremacist Sean Urbanski - it is simultaneously heartening to know that musical groups throughout the United States are ensuring that the works mentioned in the February essay are not disappearing from the concert stage.
On June 18, 2017, the PRIZM Chamber Orchestra will present Joel Thompson's Seven Last Words of the Unarmed at First Baptist Church Broad Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee. More information on the PRIZM Chamber Orchestra and the numerous concert, educational and community engagement activities undertaken by the PRIZM Ensemble (including the annual PRIZM Chamber Music Festival) can be found on the organization website, and PRIZM Ensemble founder Dr. Lecolion Washington has written a beautiful statement on his Facebook page.
Later this year, Ahmed Al-Abaca's Across the Calm Waters: A Piece for Peace will receive its west coast premiere in a concert by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. This concert takes place on
Sunday, October 8, 2017, and the concert also features the premieres of short works by Craig Bohmler, Jeremy Cohen, Vivian Fung, Mony Lyn Reese and Michael Touchi.
As we all know from the events of November 2016 until today, it is very easy to either become distracted or so overwhelmed by the "news" that we turn it off and try to live as best we can. That's the easy way out. Just as we have to use discernment yet still pay attention to what is happening in the political arena, it is vital that the issue of brutality - "whether at the hands of the police, self-proclaimed vigilantes, or 'terrorists' " - remain in the consciousness of all citizens. We should all be grateful to both Lecolion Washington and Barbara Day Turner (founders of the PRIZM Ensemble and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra, respectively) for "taking up the mantle".