'Front-row seat to history': Baltimore Choral Arts Society mixes art with a call to action

Oct 27, 2023

Baltimore Choral Arts was recently featured in an article by Mary McCauley in the Baltimore Sun about our upcoming concert on November 5, Human Requiem. Click here to read the full article or preview an exerpt below:

‘Front-row seat to history’: The Baltimore Choral Arts Society mixes art with a call to action
By Mary Carole McCauley
Baltimore Sun • Published: Oct 27, 2023 at 6:00 am

Music Director Anthony Blake Clark rehearses the Baltimore Choral Arts Society at United Grace Methodist Church. They will present “Human Requiem,” a concert that weaves together Brahms’ “A German Requiem” with “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed,” a contemporary work by Joel Thompson, at Shriver Hall Nov. 5.

The Baltimore Choral Arts Society sings Amadou Diallo’s last words slowly and softly, as if they were a prayer or an invocation of a blessing.

“Mom I’m going,” the group sings, while the piano picks out a delicate melody, “Mom, I’m going to college.”

For all of the tragedy of what happened in real world after the 23-year-old said those words, there is something beautiful and almost holy in the way the choir’s voices swell in hope and triumph.

It is the message Diallo left on his mother’s answering machine in 1999, minutes before he was fatally shot 19 times by four New York City Police Officers after reaching into his pocket for what turned out to be his wallet.

And it is just one of the stories in music told by Joel Thompson’s “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed,” a work scored for a chorus, piano and string quartet, which memorializes the lives of seven Black men killed by police officers. The Choral Arts Society is launching its 58th season Nov. 5 with a program titled “The Human Requiem” which intertwines Thompson’s “Seven Last Words” with Johannes Brahms’ 1868 masterpiece, “A German Requiem.”

But the Nov. 5 concert is intended to be much more than just a performance. It also is a call to action.

The music will be accompanied by video projections created by Camilla Tassi, resulting in what music director Anthony Blake Clark describes as an immersive, audio-visual experience.

Following the concert, a panel discussion will be held on policing and excessive force from the perspectives of a Baltimore police officer, a representative of Safe Streets (a Baltimore program that aims to reduce gun violence) and choir member Darius Sanders. Sanders, a Black educator and performer, will describe unprovoked stops and interrogations by the police starting when he was in high school in Wisconsin that led to him fearing for his life.

“This is an opportunity for people to talk to and understand one another,” said Sanders, now 27 and a Baltimore resident. “If you don’t, people will remain ignorant. And that is the most dangerous thing in the world.”

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