“Voices of Timbuctoo: An Abolition Oratorio”
by Glenn McClure
This new musical work will draw upon primary historical documents of a 19th century “scheme of justice and benevolence” intended to give free black New Yorkers access to the ballot box by fulfilling a requirement that they own $250 worth of property in order to vote. It led to the distribution of 120,000 acres of Adirondack land to 3,000 New Yorkers. Many documents survive of this innovative experiment in the history of abolition, including letters, essays, speeches, and census records, survive and have been brought to light in the “Dreaming of Timbuctoo” exhibition produced by the freedom education project, John Brown Lives! This new musical work (SATB choir, piano, and percussion/estimated 20 minutes in length) will breath new life into this unique initiative with a combination of modern compositional techniques and 19th century African/European gestures.
The work will be premiered at “John Brown Days” in early May 2013 as part of a national consortium of choirs celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation (1863-2013). Choirs from Penn State University, Virginia Wesleyan University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, have joined the Rochester Oratorio Society, the Genesee Valley Children’s Choir and growing list of high school, university and community choirs in the celebration of this pivotal moment in the history of freedom.
The premiere of this work in May 2013 as part of a distinguished program of speakers and historical exhibits, also marks the launch of a new choral ensemble, “The Northern Lights Choir” under the direction of Helen Demong.