For Black History Month, we want to start off by telling you a bit about two fantastic living composers – Omar Thomas and Kelijah Dunton – and what inspired them to write some incredible pieces of music. We are excited for our students to be performing these works this semester!
Omar Thomas’ piece “Of Our New Day Begun” was written to honor the nine people who lost their lives to an act of hate and domestic terrorism that occurred in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015. Throughout the piece, you can hear parts of the popular song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” along with other blues harmonies. The piece also features stomping, singing, and clapping to stay true to Black music traditions. Thomas doesn’t just focus on the anguish in the piece but ends with a more hopeful sound with stomping to represent Black Americans marching towards a more equitable future. Click here to hear “Of Our New Day Begun” performed by the James Madison University Wind Symphony.
Kelijah Dunton’s piece “Stillwater” was written in 2019 inspired by Stillwater, Minnesota. The town was known for a large lake located in the center of town. Dunton said, “During the winter, the very top of the lake freezes and creates this tranquil effect that could not be seen, but heard. When stepping out into your backyard, you’d see this frozen mass, stuck into place and completely unmovable, but if you listened closely, you could hear that the water underneath continued to flow. Why is this important? We as people forget sometimes that we are so much more deep and vast beneath our hard surfaces. We work, we go to school, we take care of our families, we deal with the struggles of the day-to-day routine militantly. But if we just take a moment to listen within ourselves; we discover our passions, our longings, and our sense of belongings.” This is Dunton’s first piece he wrote as a composer. Click here to hear “Stillwater” performed by the Brooklyn Wind Symphony.
You can hear both pieces performed live at TRYPO’s Spring Concert on May 28 at Heinz Hall. Save the date, and sign up below to receive email updates!