Arts District

BSO Premieres Work Based On Baltimore

Symphonic piece changed direction after Freddie Gray’s death.

By Gabriella Souza | April 14, 2016, 10:53 am

A photograph that appears in a film by James Bartolomeo that accompanies Kevin Puts' piece The City. -Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Arts District

BSO Premieres Work Based On Baltimore

Symphonic piece changed direction after Freddie Gray’s death.

By Gabriella Souza | April 14, 2016, 10:53 am

A photograph that appears in a film by James Bartolomeo that accompanies Kevin Puts' piece The City. -Courtesy of the Library of Congress

At first, Kevin Puts had a clear idea of what his piece would encompass.

His marching orders from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and music director Marin Alsop were to create a work about Baltimore, but also about the American city. Puts—a Pulitzer-Prize winning composer who is on the faculty at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University—envisioned tribal rhythms to illustrate the physical nature of a downtown metropolis with bustling streets weaving around towering buildings.

He’d written the first section of The City, but soon after, Freddie Gray died and the city was thrown into turmoil. Puts realized the entire direction of his work had to change. The events of last April had “deepened the potential for the piece to be an agent for healing,” he said.

Baltimore will get to hear Puts' finished product this week, before the BSO performs the piece Saturday at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Accompanying the music is a film of Baltimore created by filmmaker, documentarian, and Baltimore native James Bartolemeo. He and Puts shared similar sentiments about changing their work, and Bartolomeo said he realized he needed “to be more courageous with the images and allow more of the city’s history to be represented in the film.” He and a team of editors gathered home movies, YouTube clips, and news footage to add to the content.

Bartolomeo said he also wanted to connect last year’s unrest to the riots that occurred in April 1968. “There’s a passage in the film where we inter cut footage and images from both events, and the similarity is astonishing.”

The work now includes an illustration of the tumult that resulted from Gray’s death, and ends with a musical resolution that Puts hopes will promote transcendence—though he worries that his ideal audience may not get to experience it.

“The people who are at every orchestra concert are not the people I really want to hear this piece,” Puts said. “It’s the people who feel victimized, who are viewed with distrust or mistrust.”

The BSO performs The City, along with a program featuring Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and Processional, another commissioned work by Baltimore native Christopher Rouse, at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall Friday. Click here for ticket info.




You May Also Like


MaxSpace

Movie Review: Knives Out

Finally, something the entire family will agree on this Thanksgiving!

Arts District

The Voxel Opening as Home for DIY Theatre in 2020

Historic Old Goucher space gets a second life backed by Figure 53 software company.

MaxSpace

Movie Review: Dark Waters

Anti-corporate film is serious, righteous, and urgent but could've dialed up the entertainment factor just a little bit.


MaxSpace

Movie Review: The Irishman

Yes, you need a three and a half hour film about the life and times of Jimmy Hoffa.

Arts District

Center Stage's 'Thoughts of a Colored Man' Explores Nuances of Black Masculine Identity

Playwright Keenan Scott II shares his inspiration for the piece running through November 10.

Arts District

Maryland Native Maggie Rogers Receives First Grammy Nomination

The singer-songwriter was nominated for “Best New Artist” alongside big-name acts.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Boys' Latin Honors Military History with In-School Museum: At the Roland Park private school, wartime memorabilia forges lasting personal connections.

What to Know About the Maryland Cycling Classic Coming September 2020: For starters, Baltimore's pro cycling event will be more than 100 miles long.

Maryland Native Maggie Rogers Receives First Grammy Nomination: The singer-songwriter was nominated for “Best New Artist” alongside big-name acts.

Four Key Updates on the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: Here’s what the BSO has been up to since performances resumed in September.

Kirby Lane Park Brings New Energy to West Baltimore Neighborhood: Formerly dilapidated site has become a hub for community engagement in Franklin Square.