If We Must Die (2017)

For full orchestra

Written for the NY Philharmonic Young People’s Concert in 2018.

Premiere

Premiered at David Geffen Hall by New York Philharmonic on January 31, 2018

Duration

4 minutes

Program Note

If We Must Die comes from Claude McKay’s poem If We Must Die. Claude McKay was a Jamaican poet who was one of the first black Harlem Renaissance poets. This poem was his reaction to the “Red Summer of 1919” which was a time where 940 deaths took place because of racial tension against blacks and whites all over the country. The historical background played a huge part in structuring the piece. The beginning captures this disturbed and horrifying images of lynchings and killings. It changes into something more heroic and hopeful because the poem represents resistance. Claude McKay is saying if we must die, we must not die like cowards.