Seven Last Words of the Unarmed
Cornerstone Arts Center
825 N Cascade Av
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Event Dates and Times
(UTC-07:00) Mountain Time (US & Canada)
“Now more than ever do we need art to create sincere dialogue between disparate groups.”
- Joel Thompson
This haunting 7-movement work sets to music the final words of seven black men and boys: Kenneth Chamberlain, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, John Crawford, and Eric Garner.
For composer Joel Thompson, this project began simply, as a private expression of his grief and a prayer for empathy. Since its premiere in 2015 it has been the source of much conversation and inspiration, demonstrating how music and art can help us move forward as we tackle important and painful problems in our society.
About Seven Last Words of the Unarmed
Michael Brown. Trayvon Martin. Oscar Grant. Eric Garner. Kenneth Chamberlain. Amadou Diallo. John Crawford.
These African-American men–each killed by police or by authority figures–are the subject of a powerful multi-movement choral work by Atlanta-based composer Joel Thompson titled Seven Last Words of the Unarmed. The piece was recently premiered by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club under the direction of Dr. Eugene Rogers, associate director of choirs and professor of conducting at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
Though over one hundred black men have been murdered in the last decade, this piece of music only focuses on seven whose last words are featured in the composition.
After being troubled by the onslaught of killings of unarmed black men and finding Shirin Barghi’s #lastwords project, Joel Thompson began his journey in writing his most important composition today, The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed. Using the text structure of the Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ, Joel chose seven last words from Shirin’s artwork that formed the structure of the work.
The last words and/or correspondences of each victim spoke to Joel deeply, and he chose seven that most easily aligned with the text structure of Hadyn’s work. Each victim’s last words are set in a different musical style and Thompson incorporates the L’homme armé (The armed man) Renaissance french secular tune throughout the composition. Originally scored for male chorus, string quintet and piano, the work has also been scored for full orchestra.