Lee: Destined Words for Juneteenth

James Lee III’s Destined Words premieres on June 19, 2021, as part of the live, on-stage, gala performance of the Baltimore Symphony’s “Marin Festival,” honoring Marin Alsop’s artistic leadership in her farewell concert with the orchestra. Commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony in celebration of the Juneteenth Holiday, the nine-minute work is scored for: narrator; 2 flutes; 2 oboes; 2 Bb clarinets; 2 bassoon; 2 horns; 2 trumpets; timpani and strings. Baltimore-based rapper and musician Anthony Parker – better known as “Wordsmith” – penned the texts, and also serves as the featured narrator. Lee’s work opens the concert which will be broadcast live on Maryland Public Television, and then subsequently streamed online.

Photo courtesy: @marin.alsop.conductor (FB)

Lee shares some insight into this new work. “Destined Words was commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for their gala concert in commemoration of Marin Alsop’s tenure as the music director, and in celebration of Juneteenth. The work unfolds with hopeful ascents in the strings with melodies in the solo woodwind instruments that evoke a certain longing for freedom. This is echoed especially in the trumpets earlier on in the piece. As the music progresses, there are musical depictions of various battle scenes during the Civil War. During these passages there are hints of the songs entitled ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ and ‘Dixieland’ in the brass and woodwinds. Additionally, a prominent musical quote comes from ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ in the woodwinds. As the music continues to progress toward a climax, the trumpets sing ‘FREEDOM’ on the notes F and D. This then moves the work to celebrations of jubilee and dancing until it ends with an explosive chord following the words ‘We were destined to be great.’”

More Lee news: On June 26, the Penscola Philharmonic gives the second performance of the composer’s recently premiered work Restored Images. The live, in-person, socially-distanced concert will be led by Peter Rubardt. Restored Images premiered back in April at the Mid-Atlantic Symphony (Maryland), conducted by Julien Benichou.