Bienen conductor directs choir concert in memory of police brutality victims


Rachel Holtzman/The Daily Northwestern

Bienen School of Music students perform in a concert honoring the Black Lives Matter movement and victims of police brutality. The concert was held Sunday at the Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall.

Rachel Holtzman, Reporter

Focusing on compositions about grief, Bienen School of Music students honored the Black Lives Matter movement and victims of police brutality through music.

Around 60 people attended Sunday’s program held at the Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall. The concert, titled “Strange Fruit” in reference to Billie Holiday’s 1930s protest song about lynchings in the South, was conducted by Bienen graduate student Tyrone Clinton, Jr. and featured Jameon Moss (Bienen ‘12) as a choir soloist.

Clinton said he came up with the theme of the concert last summer, after realizing how impacted he was by protests held by Black Lives Matter activists in Chicago last spring. He said he would see protests happening on his way home from work but did not stop to show support.

“I used to be very passive about (protests),” Clinton said. “Then I’d get home and feel super awful about it. Someone 50, 60, 70 years ago (protested) for (my rights) … to give me the opportunity to go to an institution like this.”

Black Lives Matter is a national activist movement that primarily seeks to protest the numerous incidents of police brutality against black people over the past few years.

To honor these protests, Clinton said he decided to use classical music. All of the pieces in the concert focused on the expression of grief, especially the loss of a child or personal anger at one’s situation, he said.

The 30-person choir performed Eric Whitacre’s composition of “When David Heard,” a musical representation of the biblical text in which David cries about the loss of his slain son. The concert also featured a more traditional piece, Frank Ferko’s (Bienen ‘85) “Stabat Mater,” a liturgical work in which Mary cries about Jesus being on the cross, and the last two movements of a more contemporary work, Adolphus Hailstork’s “I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes,” which combines black gospel music and traditional hymns.

The director dealt with the challenge of bringing more traditional pieces into a modern setting by choosing works that at their core hold a powerful message that appeals to people’s humanity, said Alex Nelson, a Bienen senior and chamber orchestra member.

“In my understanding, the pieces are written from the perspectives of parents who have lost children,” she said. “That’s the human experience that everyone can understand and relate to. Regardless of when they were written, the message is powerful. Everyone can somehow sympathize with losing a loved one.”

Bienen sophomore Chelsea Holmes attended the concert and said she enjoyed it for the way it represented current events in a genuine way.

“It was cool how the pieces are obviously not modern but relate so strongly to things going on today,” she said. “But still at the same time, (the musicians) created beautiful music.”

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