Houston composer Mary Carol Warwick has a skill unique within the world of classical music: She's worked out how to compose music to accompany the word nigga.
Composer Mary Carol Warwick
Warwick has set the words of 17 poems by incarcerated youth to a song cycle with classical, gospel and Latin influences. In a number of the poems, the youth used the controversial word to describe themselves or their friends.
"I'm white and Anthony Turner is African American. I said to him, 'I don't know if I can do this. I can't even say that word.' He said, 'I chose you to work with me on this because I thought you had the balls to do it. Do you?'"
New York baritone Anthony Turner had long been an admirer of Warwick's opera, choral and musical compositions and felt this was the perfect collaboration for them. The poems had first appeared in a 2007 book called The Gathering: City Prayers, City Hopes, curated by artist and educator Jeannine Otis.
The world premiere of Turner and Warwick's collaboration -- "The Gathering / Who Am I?" song cycle -- will be on Saturday, March 30, at 7.30 p .m. at the Hobby Center's Zilkha Hall. It will feature Turner, Paul Boyd (piano), Luke Hubley (percussion), Elise Wagner (bassoon) and others. A second performance is planned for New York City later in the year.