BOULDER, Colorado (CBS4) – The Colorado Music Festival at Chautauqua Auditorium on Thursday will present a composition by Joel Thompson inspired by the words of James Baldwin, echoing the author’s sentiment influencing the nation’s progress and the work that remains to be done.
“Considering the kind of race-related troubles in our society, Baldwin’s writings were kind of a beacon for me, a source of comfort and a way for me to focus my craft,” Thompson told CBS4 on Wednesday. Boulder. “In the world of classical music where my identity is historically marginalized, having a space here where I can speak and be heard is very important, and Baldwin has faced similar obstacles.”
Thompson was asked to compose a piece by the Music Director of the Festival, Peter Oundjian. A visiting professor at the Yale School of Music, Oundjian was familiar with Thompson’s work in college, where he was a graduate student. Thompson joined the conductor for a rehearsal Wednesday with the Festival musicians.
“There is a legacy of composers who look at the society around them, testify and comment on the society,” said Thompson. “So I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch that I’m in a classical music space doing the same thing Bethoven probably did in his day. “
He thinks it is no coincidence that his piece will be performed the same evening the Festival will also perform Bethoven’s “Eroica” inside the Auditorium Chautauqua. The Festival tasked Thompson to address the events of the past year and help showcase classical music as a vehicle for social change. Baldwin’s words will be performed by a narrator as part of the composition, Dr Eddie Glaude, Jr. Thompson says Glaude reminds him of the work Baldwin did in the last century and believes the Princeton professor wore the mantle of legendary black activist. . Glaude has also written a book on Baldwin and attended Wednesday’s rehearsal.
“He had to kind of hold society to account, while also expressing his love for what the American may be and not yet achieve,” Thompson said of Baldwin. “Take inspiration from his words to kind of ask us to look in the mirror and see who we really are, and figure out who we can move forward. “
Thompson said Baldwin wanted to highlight the experience of black people in the country and as a composer who has focused his work on subjects in America, he attempts to do so as well. As the Festival’s guest artist, he is grateful for the chance to expand his reach to audiences beyond the East Coast, including a new crowd in Colorado.
“I think you will find a lot of these mixed emotions in the play, there is a little bit of hope for the future but also an honest look at where we are now,” said Thompson. “I really want people to start thinking about interpersonal relationships and how that plays a role and how we develop this continuing fabric of America.”