Sunday, May 8, 2022

Composer Carlos Simon to release 'Requiem for the Enslaved' June 17 on Decca

"What does it mean if your body was never free?
What happens to the soul of the slave if the shackles release?"– Marco Pavé

New work commissioned by Georgetown University for spoken word, ensemble, and piano honors those who suffered during the slave trade years

Requiem for the Enslaved will be released June 17 as a physical and digital album on Decca Label Group

Requiem for the Enslaved Story

Decca is proud to announce the signing of US composer Carlos Simon and the release of his new album Requiem for the Enslaved. The title work sees Simon infuse the traditional Catholic requiem with music from African American spirituals to create a haunting piece for chamber ensemble and spoken word.

The album’s central piece, Requiem for the Enslaved, with text by Marco Pavé, was commissioned by Georgetown University, where Simon is currently Assistant Professor of Composition, following a decision by its student body in 2020. A majority voted to establish a reparations fund to be paid to descendants of 272 enslaved people who were sold for $115,000 by the Maryland Jesuits, the founders of Georgetown, in 1838 to rescue the university from bankruptcy. This work honours the passing of those people purchased and sold by the founders. Upon receiving the commission, Simon visited the Louisiana cotton plantation that purchased the enslaved people and delved through the Georgetown archives for historical research as he began work on the piece. The album’s cover is inspired by this location.
Carlos Simon says of the work, “I’m so grateful to be joining the Decca family and to be finally releasing this project. It is my hope that I not only honour the men, women and children sold into slavery, but also recognize that systemic racism is still ever present in our society.”

Alongside the full 50-minute performance of Requiem for the Enslaved, the album features three reflective bonus tracks reworking musical material from the piece. Simon, an esteemed pianist, performs himself, along with trumpeter MK Zulu.

Simon, the son of a New Orleans preacher, draws on both his gospel music heritage and his training in Western composition. Requiem for the Enslaved adapts the ten-movement requiem form, featuring spoken word by spoken word and hip-hop artist Marco Pavé, which draws from the West African griot and jali legacy of storytelling. Echoes of Gregorian chant blend into Simon’s distinctive neoromantic compositional voice, performed by the pioneering Boston-based ensemble Hub New Music (violin, flute, cello and clarinet) and trumpeter MK Zulu. Overlapping, multi-cultural meaning is packed into the work. Melodic cells from the spiritual “Oh When The Saints Go Marching In”, a hymn tune often heard played by a second line funeral procession in New Orleans, are woven into the requiem. In a powerful nod to both the bell that rings to direct academic life at Georgetown, and the bells that rang to summon the enslaved people to work on the Louisiana cotton plant, an evocative bell ring reoccurs throughout Simon’s Requiem.

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