THE DREAM UNFINISHED: AN ACTIVIST ORCHESTRA
New York, NY, July 17, 2015—The ambitious goal of “The Dream Unfinished: A Symphonic Benefit for Civil Rights” is for music to function as it has for centuries: as a means for people to come together in solidarity. It is a gathering of orchestral musicians, and nationally prominent artists and activists, who will join the chorus of calls for civil rights, social justice, and an end to systemic racism.
2014 and 2015 have been watershed years in America’s response to violence against civilians of color. Demonstrations swiftly mobilized across the country. Protesters have numbered in the tens of thousands, and hailed from all backgrounds, races, and creeds. Many organizers reiterated that this is “not a moment, but a movement,” and challenged activists to maintain the momentum.
As musicians, we intend to support this work. As we reach the one year anniversary of Garner’s death, tragedies in Baltimore, Charleston, and Atlanta show us we are far from a resolution. By selecting New York City as the location of our concert, we are in the position to generate national coverage for our event, and help maintain visibility of the Black Lives Matter movement in the press. Tickets are $25 general admission, and with fiscal sponsorship from arts-and-humanitarian-aid organization Beats, Rhymes & Relief, proceeds from the concert will go to the Center for Constitutional Rights; Justice League NYC; MusicKitchen-Food for the Soul; and the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice; to support their ongoing efforts towards peaceful resolutions between law enforcement and communities of color.
The diverse orchestra of “The Dream Unfinished” is comprised of professional musicians from around the New York City area, and range from Broadway musicians to members of the New York Philharmonic. Student musicians from notable programs such as Community MusicWorks, UpBeat NYC, and the Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids, will also perform. The orchestra is under the direction of conductor James Blachly, and features concertmistress Kelly Hall-Tompkins and guest conductor Grammy-award winner John McLaughlin Williams. The program includes a world premiere by Jessie Montgomery, and highlights music by Leonard Bernstein—best known for his charismatic conducting and memorable Broadway and orchestral compositions, who also championed civil rights in his personal and public life; and features the ‘Dean’ of African-American composers, William Grant Still—the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra and to have a symphony premiered by a leading orchestra, whose body of work has been left largely neglected since his passing.
The title piece of our concert is Plain-Chant for America, a poem written by Katherine Garrison Chapin Biddle and orchestrated by Grant Still. Plain-Chant for America opens with the text:
For the dream unfinished, out of which we came
We stand together...
Our title also invokes the powerful speech Martin Luther King Jr. delivered at Washington D.C. more than 50 years ago. It is for this dream that we have assembled; to raise our collective voice in support of those who have been silenced or ignored; and through music, we hope to inspire others to continue working towards a dream fulfilled.