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The Black Wall Street Times spoke to Scott Showalter, President and CEO of Oregon Symphony about the responsibility of the arts to reflect the world our artists live in.
Art imitates life on the biggest stage.
As Oregon’s premier arts organization and the oldest orchestra west of the Mississippi, it’s the perfect venue to host a first-ever requiem memorializing Black lives lost to racial violence.
The performance will examine the impact of 400 years of racial violence against Black Americans in a special concert featuring Resonance Ensemble and Oregon Symphony.
A performance well worth the wait.
Originally set to premiere 48 hours before George Floyd’s murder and postponed twice since the pandemic, Showalter affirms Geter’s poignant performance is not only long overdue but absolutely vital.
Showalter explains, “Art at its best is when it makes people think” and “Oregon Symphony is eager in this particular instance to bring Damien’s art to the stage.”
Showalter affirms classical music “is deep within us, when you’re seeking solace or healing, or in the wake of a death, or even happy occasions such as school graduations, that’s most often the kind of music that’s performed.”
Showalter knows the truth comes at a price.
Showlater admits performing inherently uncomfortable works of art comes with its own challenges like risking donor relationships or receiving angry messages and tweets, however, the chance to confront the uncomfortable is worth the risk.
Showalter mentioned a prior show focused on unhoused individuals was criticized by his colleagues for tackling such a real-world issue on the classical stage, but Showalter contends that’s exactly where it belongs.
“We’re working on programs around Geter’s production so there’s a continual dialogue and conversations,” says Showalter. “We want to introduce people to like-minded nonprofits that are doing important work; we want people to continue the conversation beyond the concert hall.”
Showalter expounds, “We don’t want people to hear it and forget about it or hear about and remember it and not do anything – we want people to be informed, think differently and moreover, take action.
Showalter cites donations, volunteer work, and establishing relationships and partnerships with community members as a few ways Oregon Symphony and everyone can address urgent social needs while also “moving music forward” at the same time.
Portland’s own David Geter will premiere An African American Requiem on May 7th at 6 p.m. at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. (909 SW Washington, Portland, OR 97205)
Tickets are available here.