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Composer Damien Geter to premiere “An African American Requiem”

by Ezekiel J. Walker
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In a few short weeks, classical music composer and Portland resident Damien Geter is set to premiere his highly anticipated concert, An African American Requiem.

On May 7th at 6 p.m., Geter’s performance will examine the impact of 400 years of racial violence against Black Americans in a special concert featuring Renosance Ensemble and Oregon Symphony at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon.

The Black Wall Street Times met virtually with the modest yet brilliant composer to get his thoughts leading up to the historic requiem and how he got to this defining moment

Geter described his childhood home as full of music across all genres that molded his upbringing and offered him exposure to a world and sound beyond the radio hits, even though he still cites R&B as a major influence.

Representation in action.

As a man now, Geter stands tall, but he doesn’t stand alone. At the onset, we discussed the lack of Blacks in the classical arts, however, he was quick to point out there are plenty of Black people in the art form. There’s simply not enough representation. He’s changing that.

After earning a Bachelor’s in Music Education and a Master’s in Conducting, Geter looks to blend what he’s learned and what he’s experienced as a Black man into the requiem that he acknowledges is 100% intentional.

“This Is For Us,” says Geter.

The expert-composing Geter acknowledges andante changes after the 2020 protests but wants to see more of an accelerando of progress for all who look like him. 

Acknowledging his platform, Geter hopes to introduce classic arts to the next generation of Black musicians, saving them a seat at the admittedly high-priced table.

“I want young Black kids to be inspired” regardless of the cost or pre-conceived notions about classical music, he said.

After feeling inspired by the degradation of our political system following the 2016 election, Geter said he sprung into action writing the requiem which was to be performed in 2020 but was canceled by covid.

Two years later, he acknowledges the pressure of the mounting moment, but remains steadfast, saying, “everything that I’ve done led me to where I’m at today.”

And where he’s at is Portland, Oregon, a city that battled against police longer than most during 2020’s year of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Add to that, Geter cites the opposition “trying to ban books that tell our history” as a renewed motivation for the concert that he describes as “a calling.”

An African American Requiem

An African American Requiem is set to world premiere May 7th at 6 p.m. at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. (909 SW Washington, Portland, OR 97205)

Tickets are available here.

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