“James Lee’s new piece Thurgood’s Rhapsody is wonderful!” Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony, introduces us to the composer’s new work Thurgood’s Rhapsody, which premieres on June 9. Commissioned by Classical Movements, Inc. for Alsop and the orchestra, Lee was one of ten American composers asked to create short celebratory works in honor of the Baltimore Symphony’s centennial season. Subsequent performances follow on June 10 and 11.
Alsop continues. “Having commissioned two other works by James, the BSO and I felt we absolutely had to engage him to be a part of our Centennial Celebration Commissions project. James is a skillful composer with important things to say. We’re gearing up for the premiere this week for our Baltimore and DC audiences and for the special guests here for the League of American Orchestras Conference. I am confident that James’ new piece will be a hit!”
“Thurgood’s Rhapsody is designed to be a concert opener or an encore piece,” the composer explains. “It is a celebratory and adventurous piece on the life of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. I chose to use an idea of opening the piece with the oboe since it is this instrument that tunes the orchestra before starting to play a concert. The oboe represents the ‘tuning in’ to unity and justice as one remembers the famous landmark decision of Brown v. The Board of Education. The work then proceeds to present a kaleidoscopic scene of events in the life of Justice Marshall including his work as a lawyer in the South, his work at the NAACP, various social interactions and ultimately his success and the many milestones in his life.”