The music of Chattanooga composer Roland Carter has been performed to tens of thousands of listeners, including audiences from National Public Radio and US Presidents. His latest composition, a nationally commissioned work in honor of the late Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, will have its world premiere Friday at Second Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga.
Choirs from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will make their debut with “Make Some Noise, Get in Trouble (Good Trouble, Necessary Trouble)”, in a concert devoted entirely to works by African-American composers. Kevin Ford, director of choral activities at UTC, called Carter’s piece a “main tableau”.
Carter, 79, is most often associated with new arrangements of traditional spirituals, but for this piece, “I couldn’t find a spiritual that could do what I wanted it to do,” he said. stated during a telephone conversation. “So I said, ‘I’m going to write an article in the style of a spiritual.'”
He says he landed on the topic quite easily, drawing on the words and activism of the Democratic lawmaker, who died on July 17, 2020. The Chorus America commission, which he received in January 2021, was to “examine the problems facing our society and inspire hope for better days to come.” A commission has also been awarded to Chicago composer Augusta Read Thomas, whose work pays homage to the legacy of Rosa Parks.
If you are going to
What: UTC Choral Concert, with Chamber Singers, Chattanooga Singers and Littleton Mason Singers
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Or: Second Presbyterian Church, 700 Pine St.
Carter said he wrote the first section of “Make Some Noise” in May.
“And that’s all I had [for months]”, Carter said. “It changed several times in the process, and I didn’t fill it out until November, and then I knew where I was going with it. The last two or three months have been a busy time, putting the pieces together.”
[READ MORE: Wisdom for the ages from Roland Carter, others]
In an email, Ford said his first impression was that “this is one of the most dramatic works I’ve heard from Roland. We’ve recorded a two-CD set of his choral works, and the one -this stands out as being both dramatic and passionate. It breaks stylistically into a section.”
It also includes audience participation, which Carter says helps Lewis’s words resonate more fully: “Defend the soul of the nation. Answer the highest call. Be silent no longer.”
Don’t get lost in a sea of despair. Have hope, be optimistic. Our fight is not the fight of a day, a week, a month or a year, it is the fight of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make noise and get into good, necessary trouble.
— Tweet by US Representative John Lewis from June 2018
The chorus comes “almost like a rap,” he said. “Well, I can’t write rap, but that’s hip-hop that I never got to.”
This spring and summer, another 20 choirs are scheduled to perform the work as part of the commissioning project, including two more in the Chattanooga area. Dates have not been announced for performances by the Choral Society for the Preservation of African American Song and I Cantori from Southern Adventist University in Collegedale.
Ford will lead the UTC Chamber Singers in Friday’s performance. They will be joined by the UTC Chattanooga Singers and the Littleton Mason Singers, led by Dee Thomas and Delali Gadzekpo respectively.
The program also includes pieces by R. Nathaniel Dett, Andre J. Thomas, Mitchell Southall, O’Landa Draper, Shirley Caesar and “Gospel Mass” by Robert Ray. The Chamber Singers alumni will join in singing Carter’s widely performed arrangement of the spiritual traditional “In Bright Mansions Above.”
Contact Lisa Denton at [email protected] or 423-757-6281.