June 19th is Juneteenth, the holiday that celebrates the emancipation of enslaved people in the US. While Lincoln released the Emancipation Proclamation January 1, 1863, it was up to Union soldiers to enforce and there was not a lot of incentive for them to move quickly. Texas was the last holdout to have enslaved people, and one of the most remote slave-holding states at the time, so that when Union Army general Gordon Granger proclaimed freedom from slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865, it is seen as the date when the remaining enslaved people were really truly freed.
CMCB spoke with faculty member Daniel Orsen and CMCB string student Samuel Muzac to learn more about Juneteenth at CMCB and how this particular concert was put together. Because the ensembles concert was scheduled for June 19 which is Juneteenth, CMCB ensembles faculty decided to create a program featuring music by Black composers.
Celebrating [Juneteenth] with music composed by Black artists is a great way for CMCB to acknowledge the special daySamuel Muzac
What are some of the pieces selected for this concert and why were they selected?
CMCB faculty Daniel Orsen: I researched and found repertoire for my ensembles to choose from, and from there picking the repertoire was a collaborative process.
There is some really fine stuff! A movement of a string quartet by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de St. George is on the program. Bologne was born in the French colony of Guadeloupe to a wealthy farmer and his wife’s African slave. Bologne was taken by his father to be educated in France. He became an exceptional violinist, composer, and fencer.
Another interesting piece is “What Have You Done? (Who Are You?)” for violin and viola duo by the young Detroit-based composer Jordyn Davis. It has some difficult and intricate rhythms, but when done right it’s very groovy.
Samuel will be performing Davis’ piece at the concert. CMCB asked him what it was like preparing for an online concert.
SM: I look forward to hearing the different pieces of music performed by other students. It was difficult preparing all this remotely, because we had to send recordings back and forth to play with each other, and we only had one in-person rehearsal. “What Have You Done? (Who Are You?)” is great to play and listen to, but I would’ve enjoyed it more if there weren’t so many COVID restrictions.
The ensembles concert will feature music by Adolphus Hailstork, John W. Work, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
Why is it important that CMCB celebrate Juneteenth with music?
SM: For me, it’s important that CMCB celebrates Juneteenth with music because it reminds those working on the music and listening, that music composition goes beyond the past common composers we usually play/hear. Juneteenth is an important day in African American history and celebrating it with music composed by Black/African American artists is a great way for CMCB to acknowledge the special day.
Join CMCB for our Juneteenth Ensembles Concert on June 19 on YouTube.