Friday, November 30, 2018

Morgan Choir sings Antigone in Ferguson on University of MD - College Park campus

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

Hello everyone,

Last night, the Morgan State University Choir performed Phil Woodmore's Antigone in Ferguson at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park. This performance was under the direction of the composer with musicians and chorus members from Ferguson, MO who premiered this piece over two years ago.  Woodmore adapted Sophocles' Greek tragedy Antigone to highlight the civil turmoil after the killing of Michael Brown. The Morgan choir learned this piece at the beginning of this semester for our Performing Arts Convocation on October 4, 2018.

The group from Ferguson, MO has performed this piece all over the country since the premiere. The company just returned from a five-week run in Harlem, New York.  This performance was very different from our Morgan performance.  The composer has since decided to have the choir sing Gospel songs as the audience entered the auditorium prior to the formal start of the piece to get in a receptive spirit.  During our rehearsal, Phil asked the chorus on stage, in the best sense of the typical Greek chorus, to react to the lines spoken by the actors on stage with total abandonment.  The actors were professionals, including Baltimore native Tracie Thomas from the musical Rent, vividly brought the Sophocles’ text alive.  The soloists who at this point had scores of performances under their belts, sang all the songs from memory and with conviction. The band made up of saxophone, piano, Hammond organ, guitar, and drums was quite effective.

After the formal performance was over, topics in the tragedy were discussed in a town-hall meeting fashion.  After five panelists shared their unique perspectives on how this piece impacted their lives, the floor was open to the audience and choir members to discuss what the performance meant to them individually.   Other related topics were including pride, misogyny, responsibility, love, among others.  After an hour-long impassioned discussion with fairly riveting personal expressions of how Sophocles’ Antigone was still relevant in 2018, the choir sang “Thank you Lord," where the first line in the piece was appropriately:  “Tragedies are common place”. . .   

On so many levels, this may be one of the choir’s most fulfilling performances of the year — with a great musical as well as humanistic experience. See attached photos, program, and video from the evening.  If you get a chance, please listen to the entire performance, but especially the profound discussion and comments based around the topics at the end of the evening.  


Link to PreConcert Gospel Songs:

Link to Antigone in Ferguson Presentation:

Link to post concert discussion:

Link to entire concert:

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