Saturday, June 5, 2021

Amsterdam News: Classical composer creates concert commemorating Tulsa Massacre [streaming on Juneteenth at 7 PM]

Adolphus Hailstork
(Provided by Rose Grace)

June 3, 2021

Nadine Mathews

I don’t know how you ignore tragedy, I don’t know how you ignore three-hundred years of slavery. I don’t know how you just turn your head. I’m not that kind of person,” classical composer Adolphus Hailstork tells the Amsterdam News in an interview to promote th“e upcoming streaming concert “Tulsa 1921 (Pity These Ashes, Pity This Dust.” This was the response of the multi-award winner and Fulbright recipient when asked about some of the things that inspire and compel him when he sits down to compose.

Hailstork was commissioned by the Harlem Chamber Players to create a piece commemorating the upcoming centennial of the Tulsa Massacre, in which a mob of whites attacked the prosperous Black community of in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood district, or Black Wall Street. Hundreds I of Black people were killed, and the buildings burned to the ground. Many of the survivors left. Those who stayed and tried to rebuild, encountered strong opposition by Tulsa government officials. The piece, which shares its name with the concert itself, will be performed virtually on Juneteenth at 7 p.m.

The operatic retelling of the Tulsa Race Massacre will feature mezzo-soprano , and is part of a larger program of works by Black composers, including , and . The concert will be presented in partnership with , , and the .

Hailstork describes the piece as “a concert aria created for mezzo soprano, string, harp and percussion.” Its libretto was written by Hailstork’s longtime collaborator Dr. Herbert Martin. “He took the approach of a grief-stricken woman who has just held her dying mother in her arms,” Hailstork explains.

After the character’s mother dies, she walks through a charred Tulsa, lamenting the injustice. “At the end,” says Hailstork, “she asks that the people who have died be honored,” and that the survivors “strive to go on. That’s what he wrote and that’s what I was glad to set.”

Among some of Hailstork’s most critically acclaimed works are those that salute historical figures such as the opera “Rise For Freedom” for abolitionist John Parker, who helped slaves escape to Ohio, the song cycle “Three Dunbar Hymns” in honor of poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar, “Hercules,” a tone poem for George Washington’s famed chef, the opera “Joshua’s Boots,” about Black cowboys, and the funeral piece “Epitaph for a Man who Dreamed” for Martin Luther King Jr. The Howard University graduate, who also trained with the legendary composition teacher Nadia Boulanger, has also created works in honor of Paul Robeson and novelist Zora Neale Hurston.


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