WUOMFM

Jazz great captures rage, silence and hope of Detroit uprising in new DSO piece

Mar 9, 2017

Last Friday evening, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra presented the world premiere of a new work titled, “Detroit '67 for Choir and Orchestra.”

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Credit DETROIT SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

The piece marks the 50th anniversary of those five days in July 1967 when 43 people died and nearly 1,200 were injured – the civil unrest that changed Detroit in ways that we are still facing today. 

“We sat down and we initially talked about trying to capture what happened in the aftermath of that event,” said Terence Blanchard, composer of the piece. “While it went on for five days, there had to be a point of reflection for a lot of people to sit down and review what happened, because, you know, a lot of people even today are still in disbelief about it.”

Blanchard is a Grammy-winning trumpeter, composer, bandleader and arranger. He’s also the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb creative chair at the DSO.

The first step he took in composing the piece, he said, was to compile information. He talked to historians and to people who were there, who experienced the uprising.

“The thing I started to draw from my conversations, from people, is the interesting thing of, you know, the two separate views of it – whether it was a riot or whether it was a police action,” he said. “It’s interesting how people can experience the same event and look at it in totally different ways.”

In setting out to write his piece, Blanchard “kept thinking of the silence that occurs in the aftermath of something like this, when the dust settles.”

That’s why the piece “starts off with just a few strings…”

Take a listen:

For the full interview, and more of the music, listen above.

(Subscribe to the Stateside podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or with this RSS link)