MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Joseph C. Phillips Jr.’s The Grey Land

Recently released on New Amsterdam Records and performed by his ensemble Numinous, The Grey Land is a “mono-opera” by Joseph C. Phillips Jr. to a libretto by the composer. It tells the story of, in his words, “a Black mother trying to survive the reality in this land that doesn’t fully see her continued hope: that the great American experiment will one day become a belonging place where anyone can dream of ‘stillness and stars’ free from fear and want; a place where the beautiful promise of happiness, liberty, and life may yet manifest true to finally include her family too.”

Phillips, who started work on The Grey Land in 2011, incorporates texts from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Isaac Butler, Frederick Douglas, and Mothers of the Movement (founded to fight police and gun violence in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s murder and the acquittal of George Zimmermann).

The birth of his first child in 2014 inspired him to focus on the opera, as Phillips recalls: “I was already deep into researching and thinking about what the opera was going to be when the events of Ferguson, Missouri, happened in that beautiful summer of nesting in upstate New York. My conflicting emotions—joy of anticipation married to the anxiety about the world our future child would inhabit—moved me to want to more directly address the systemic issues long plaguing the U.S., particularly for Black and Brown people.”

Phillips uses the term “mixed music” to characterize his style: “Mixed music is an organic fusing of various elements from many different influences forming compositions that are personal, different, and new.”

TRACKLIST:
1. The People Get Tired of Dying
2. Ferguson: Summer of 2014
3. Tender Sorrow
4. One Side Losing Slowly
5. We Wear the Mask
6. Don’t
7. Agnus Bey
8. Legion of Boom
9. I Should Have Been Mother****ing Black Mamba
10. Injustice
11. Liberty Bell
12. The Sunken Place
13. Streets of Sighs

CREDITS:
THE GREY LAND
by Joseph C Phillips Jr

Soprano (Mother) – Rebecca L Hargrove
Narrator (Son) – Kenneth Browning

Numinous:
Katie Cox – Flute, Piccolo
Sammy Lesnick – Bb Clarinet, Eb Clarinet
Chris Bacas – Alto Saxophone
Sara Schoenbeck – Bassoon
Alicia Rau – Trumpet, Flügelhorn
Lis Rubard – Horn
JC Sanford – Trombone
Amanda Monaco – Electric and Acoustic Guitars
Mike Baggetta – Electric and Acoustic Guitars
Sebastian Noelle – Electric and Acoustic Guitars
Magdalena Abrego – Electric and Acoustic Guitars
Deanna Witkowski – Yamaha Electric Piano
Andrea Lodge – Rhodes Electric Piano
Kate Sloat – Harp
Aubrey Johnson – Voice
Tammy Scheffer – Voice, Bells
Sara Serpa – Voice
Bogna Kicińska – Voice, Bells
Emilie Weibel – Voice, Bells
Amy Cervini – Voice, Bells
Ana Milosavljevic – Violin, Viper/Electric Violin solo (“…Black Mamba”)
Josh Henderson – Violin
Frederika Krier – Violin
Libby Weitnauer – Violin
Hannah Levinson – Viola
Brian Lindgren – Viola
Matt Aronoff – Electric Bass
Mariel Roberts – Cello Solo (“Tender Sorrow”)
Joseph C Phillips Jr – Composer/Conductor/Bells/Co-Producer
Oded Lev-Ari – Bells/Co-Producer
Michael Hammond – Electronics/Drum Programming (“…Black Mamba”)
Joseph C Phillips Jr – Electronics/Audio Collage (“One Side Losing Slowly” & “The Sunken Place”)


Filed under: African-American musicians, new opera, new release

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