The College of New Jersey’s Wind Ensemble and Choirs will perform together for the first time since March 2020, as they present the world premiere of Philadelphia-based composer Rollo Dilworth‘s “Weather” during two evening performances on Oct. 29-30 in the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall.
TCNJ’s Department of Music and the college’s Artivism Project are leading a consortium of performing arts institutions to commission Dilworth’s new extended work for mixed chorus and chamber winds.
The composition sets to music the poem of the same title written by Claudia Rankine, acclaimed author, poet and professor of creative writing at New York University. The poem speaks to our national climate at the intersection of the pandemic and racial injustice — including the George Floyd case in Minneapolis — in June 2020.
“I am deeply moved that my poem “Weather” has been so carefully, methodically, and brilliantly scored by Rollo Dilworth,” Rankine said. “The translation of poetry into music is a natural conversation in that these mediums share origins in the communication and expression of complex emotions: we use music and poetry to say what cannot be spoken plainly.”
Dilworth, professor of choral music education and vice dean at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, conducts the Singing Owls.
“Composing ‘Weather’ is a continuation of my artistic mission to use music as a tool to amplify issues of equity and social justice,” Dilworth said. “The resulting work is both a poetic and musical commentary on a wide range of contemporary societal issues — from those that are culturally specific to those that are humanly universal.”
Watch this video of Dilworth reflecting on “Weather” and his compositional process.
Professor of music and director of choral activities John Leonard, who has performed and conducted several of Dilworth’s compositions, described his work as making a lasting impact on both the musicians and the audience.
“Dilworth’s music speaks directly to the listener in an honest, accessible, and thoughtful way,” Leonard said. “He is a master of blending compositional and textual elements, especially in the spiritual and gospel musical styles.”
Eric Laprade, assistant professor of music and director of bands at TCNJ, will conduct the world-premiere performances.
“In working with our students, Dr. Dilworth stressed the importance of ‘honoring the story, learning the story, and teaching the story,‘” Laprade said. “I am grateful to Dr. Dilworth and Professor Rankine for their important work and have much respect for our students in their commitment to bringing this project to life in a meaningful and authentic way.”
As part of the commission and TCNJ’s Artivism Project, Colleen Sears, chairperson of the Department of Music and coordinator of music education, designed a companion curriculum that is directly integrated with the composition.
The evening performances on Oct. 29 and 30 will take place at 8 p.m. and will feature additional works by Viet Cuong, Ola Gjeilo, and Melissa Dunphy.
Tickets are now available at tcnjcenterforthearts.universitytickets.com.