Choral Collaborative: Seven Last Words
March 10, 2020 @ 7:30 pm
The inspiration……About Seven Last Words
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.
Dr. Eugene Rogers and the Michigan Men’s Glee Club joined forces with Joel Thompson to cultivate, premiere and record the piece. The work has received critical acclaim and has been the source of much conversation and inspiration since its premiere in 2015. A documentary highlighting the work and the Glee Club’s journey with this powerful piece and Dr. Roger’s arrangement of Glory entitled Love, Life & Loss has been aired on Detroit Public Television, shown at the Michigan Theatre and received five Michigan Emmy Awards including best composition and arrangement and best current/public/community affairs documentary. This website is intended to be a resource for students, activists, and performers alike.
About Joel Thompson
Joel Thompson (b.1988) is an Atlanta composer, pianist, conductor, and educator. His largest work, Seven Last Words of the Unarmed for TTBB chorus, strings and piano, was premiered November 2015 by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club under the direction of Dr. Eugene Rogers. Recently, Thompson was a composition fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and School where he worked with composers Stephen Hartke and Christopher Theofanidis. Thompson taught at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta 2015-2017, and also served as Director of Choral Studies and Assistant Professor of Music at Andrew College 2013-2015. Thompson is a proud Emory alum, graduating with a B.A. in Music in 2010, and an M.M. in Choral Conducting in 2013. His teachers include Eric Nelson, William Ransom, Laura Gordy, Richard Prior, John Anthony Lennon, Kevin Puts, Robert Aldridge, and Scott Stewart.
Seven Last Words online
Listen to the Michigan Men’s Glee Club perform the fully orchestrated version of The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed on YouTube
About Dr. Fox
Dr. Derrick Fox is the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He earned a BME from Arkansas State University, a MM in Choral Conducting from the University of Missouri – Columbia and a DMA in Choral Conducting from Michigan State University, where he was awarded the prestigious University Enrichment Graduate Fellowship.
Dr. Fox has conducted all state choirs, honor choirs and led professional development workshops across the United States and internationally. His professional workshops focus on assessment in the choral classroom, building classroom community, rehearsal strategies, choral conducting techniques and shape note singing in the African American community. Dr. Fox has held teaching residencies at the Latvian Academy of Music and Syracuse University, led performance tours through Lithuania and Estonia as well as conducting the 2018 Texas All State MS/JH Honor Choir and the SWACDA 7 – 10 Men’s Honor choir. His recent engagements include presentations in Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, New York, South Carolina, North Dakota; as well as conducting the Kentucky All State MS/JH Treble Choir, Hawaii All State Choir, Alabama All State Choir, New York All State MS/JH Choir, the Wisconsin Collegiate All State Choir and the National ACDA Middle School/Junior High Mixed Honor Choir. He was recently awarded the 2019 ACDA International Conductor Exchange Fellowship to South Africa and is the Artistic Director for the 2020 Perform International Madrid Choral Festival.
As a baritone soloist, Dr. Fox has collaborated with various organizations; among them are the Arkansas Symphony, Lansing Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Columbia Chorale, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Missouri, Michigan State University, Webster University and the Espaço Cultural (Brasilia, Brazil). He can be heard singing selections from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess on the compact disc In This Hid Clearing, available on the Naxos Classical Music label.
Dr. Fox serves on the National ACDA Diversity Subcommittee, the Missouri Music Educators Association Diversity Council, the Nebraska Music Educators Association Board and is the Collegiate Coordinator for Student Activities for Nebraska Choral Directors Association. As an author, he has written articles for many organizations and was a contributing author in the Hal Leonard/McGraw Hill choral textbook Voices in Concert. His compositions and arrangements are published by Hal Leonard and Brilee Music. His book, Yes You Can: A Band Director’s Guide to Teaching Choirs is published by Carl Fischer.