Something for Thursday

“To me, Seven O’Clock Shout is a declaration of our survival. It is something that allows us our agency to take back the kindness that is in our hearts and the emotions that cause us such turmoil. … We cheer on the essential workers with a primal and fierce urgency to let them know that we stand with them and each other.”—Valerie Coleman

Valerie Coleman is a flautist and composer who grew up in Louisville, KY, before becoming an influential musician in a number of ways: a flautist who formed the Imani Winds, a prominent woodwind quintet, while following a busy solo career, and a composer of a diverse body of work for soloists and ensembles all the way up to full orchestras.

Coleman’s piece Seven O’Clock Shout was written for, and premiered by, the Philadelphia Orchestra. The work is directly inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and the early response to it. From Coleman’s website:

Seven O’Clock Shoutis an anthem inspired by the tireless frontline workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the heartwarming ritual of evening serenades that brings people together amidst isolation to celebrate life and the sacrifices of heroes.  The work begins with a distant and solitary solo between two trumpets in fanfare fashion to commemorate the isolation forced upon human kind, and the need to reach out to one another. The fanfare blossoms into a lushly dense landscape of nature, symbolizing both the caregiving acts of nurses and doctors as they try to save lives, while nature is transforming and healing herself during a time of self-isolation. 

When a composer has the rare opportunity to create for musicians they have gotten to know, the act of composing becomes an embrace tailored to the personality and capabilities of the musicians with elements of both challenge and appreciation. One such moment is dedicated to humanity and grace, as a clarinet solo written for Ricardo Morales, followed by a flute solo with both Jeffrey Khaner and Patrick Williams in mind, providing a transition into a new upbeat segment. Later, to continue tradition from the first commission the composer received from the orchestra, a piccolo solo dedicated to Erica Peel dances with joy.

The piece is lyrical and optimistic, even in the face of the horrors of the pandemic–especially the early days, when everyone was sequestered from one another, with no real sense at all for when, or even if, things might start to get back to “normal”.

Who knows how we might have responded back then if we had realized that two years would then elapse during which we couldn’t entirely return to “normal”…but that’s a discussion for another time. Seven O’Clock Shout is one musician’s response to the great difficulty of our time. And why not? Much great art is.

Here is Seven O’Clock Shout by Valerie Coleman.

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