A More Convenient Season

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"A More Convenient Season" is a contemporary musical score written by New York-based Israeli-American composer Yotam Haber, commissioned by Tom Blount, UAB and the Alys Stephens Center in observance of the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham Campaign and the tragic bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church.

The 3-movement, 75-minute long work takes its name from a phrase used by Martin Luther King, Jr in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail", chastising "well-meaning" community leaders for the notion that they can set a timetable for other mens' freedom. The first movement opens with electronic sounds playing as the audience takes their seats . The choir progresses from wordless sounds to chants, evoking an inability to talk about painful history. The second movement, "Questions" incorporates transcripts of FBI interrogations of Ku Klux Klan members and voting registrar's questions to prospective African-American voters. It concludes with a phrase from Psalm 133 quoted by Rabbi Milton Grafman after the church bombing: "Behold how good, how pleasant for brothers to dwell together in unity." The third movement, "Negative Piece, Positive Piece" focuses on King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and includes a recording of Pete Seeger singing "We Shall Overcome" with a period choir.

The premiere performance of the piece took place in the Alys Stephens Center's Jemison Concert Hall on September 21, 2013 with Michael Morgan conducting the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. David and Quint Harris convened a chorus featuring soloists Karen Krekelberg, Marie Brewer, Lillian Davis, Eliza Warden and Raquel Williams along with members of the UAB Gospel Choir and several church choirs. The work also includes newly-produced and archival film footage directed by David Petersen and an electronic composition by Philip White.

In January 2014, the piece was performed by the CalArts Orchestra at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theatre near Los Angeles.

References

  • "World premiere of Birmingham’s 'A More Convenient Season' Sept. 21." (August 12, 2013) UAB Media Relations press release
  • Huebner, Michael (August 15, 2013) "Yotam Haber's monumental 'A More Convenient Season' remembers events of 1960s Birmingham." The Birmingham News