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“Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice”

A tribute to slaves brutalized in Lowcountry South Carolina and Georgia rice plantations.  

You have never experienced anything like this – “Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice!”

2019 marks the 400th anniversary since African captives were first brought to the United States when a Dutch ship carried the 20 shackled captives to the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia. In honor of this important anniversary, Carnegie Mellon University is showcasing a special Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, the Orchestral Debut of Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice presented bythe Colour of Music Festival (COMF). “This expressive musical composition is a new approach to teaching slavery, one that takes the humanities into a new realm,” Edda L. Fields-Black, the project’s executive producer and librettist said about “Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice,” the moving classical music piece focusing on Africans who were enslaved on Lowcountry South Carolina and Georgia rice plantations. “We are taking history off the shelf and putting it on the stage.”

The classical symphonic work to premiere at 7 p.m., Tuesday, February 13, 2019, at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland is a tribute to slaves exploited and brutalized on those rice plantations who remain unburied, unmourned and unmarked.

A true marriage between West African and European classical traditions, “Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice” is a modern and African-American inspired take on a classic requiem in the spirit of Verdi, Mozart, Faure, and Britten. It mourns the souls of the enslaved Africans who died on Lowcountry rice plantations in the U.S., their bodies unburied, their suffering unmourned, and their sacrifices unmarked for future generations.

Fields-Black, also a Carnegie Mellon University associate professor, assembled an impressive artist team for the project: three-time EMMY Award-winning composer John Wineglass, internationally renowned director and filmmaker Julia Dash, whose “Daughters of the Dust” was the first film by an African-American woman to have a major studio release, and cinematographer David Claessen. The Colour of Music Orchestra and Chorale, an elite group of top classical musicians and vocalists of African descent, based in Charleston, SC, will travel to Pittsburgh to present the work.

West African rice production technology – developed by farmers in the Upper Guinea Coast more than 500 hundred years before the trans-Atlantic slave trade – laid the foundation for South Carolina and Georgia’s commercial rice industry and made South Carolina’s rice planters the richest with the largest slave holdings in America’s Southern states.

Fields-Black has written extensively about the trans-national history of West African rice farmers. She said the floods fertilizing the inland and tidal rice fields created the deadliest living environments for enslaved laborers in the South.

Dr. Paul Gardullo’s emotions were stirred by the presentation. Gardullo, Director of the Global Slavery Center and Curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, said that it “is an incredibly powerful demonstration of the role of art and of music in bringing back into memory the lives of those people enslaved on rice plantations who should have never been forgotten.”

Seeing “Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice” will give one more than a lesson about slavery.

“By breathing life into this history and seeking a way to express not just the horror of racial slavery but the creativity and resilience people of African descent who cultivated crops and shaped the landscape while keeping their lives and culture whole, ‘Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice’ will fill a massive silence in the history that no book or archive can. This work is a transformative force for truth-telling, for healing, for reckoning and for beauty within and despite pain,” Gardullo said.

The original score was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Foundation, Benjamin Harris Memorial Fund and Nicky Horvitz Gordon Memorial Fund, the Heinz Endowments Small Arts Initiative, and the Opportunity Fund.

There are plans to take “Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked: Requiem for Rice” to other cities.

Tickets are now available on www.requiemforrice.com and www.colourofmusic.org. Tickets are $30 for adults, and $20 for students and seniors (ages 60 plus). Groups of 10 or more may purchase tickets at a discounted rate of $25 for adults and $15 for students and seniors.  Please email producer@requiemforrice.com for group ticket promo codes.

About the Artists

Dr. Edda L. Fields-Black specializes in pre-colonial and West African history and their connections to the African Diaspora. She has written two books, “Deep Roots: Rice Farmers in West Africa and The African Diaspora” and “Rice: Global Networks and New Histories,” which was awarded the Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2015. Fields-Black has served as a history consultant and adviser for the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture, the International African American Museum (scheduled to open in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2020) and the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.

John Wineglass has made his career in Hollywood composing for television, shows ranging from The Brady Bunch, All my Children, and American Idol, and film.  He has won three (two consecutive) Daytime EMMY Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition in a Drama Series and three ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards.  Also, a virtuoso violist, Wineglass has performed for every US President since Ronald Regan and alongside a long list of GRAMMY Award-winning artists, including Aretha Franklin, CeCe Winans, Yolanda Adams, Richard Smallwood, Blackstreet, Loris Holland, Bashiri Johnson, Victor and Roy Wooten, and Andrae and Sandra Crouch.  Wineglass also composes prolifically for the concert hall.  In 2018 alone, the Stockton Symphony (in Stockton, CA) premiered Wineglass’ multimedia collaboration, Sights and Sounds of Stockton, as its season opener.  And, the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra premiered Wineglass’s Voices of the West, which the orchestra commissioned in celebration of its 90th anniversary.

Julie Dash is Distinguished Professor in the Arts at Spelman College’s Department of Art and Visual Culture. In 1991, she broke through racial and gender boundaries with her Sundance award-winning film “Daughters of the Dust.” It is the only feature film by an African-American woman to be inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Dash participated in the Trailblazing Women franchise on Turner Classic Movies and later became a visiting host on TCM. She has written and directed for CBS, BET, ENCORE, STARZ, SHOWTIME, MTV Movies and HBO. Her work spans museum and theme park exhibits and design, music videos, documentaries, PSAs, industrial documentary films, and commercial spots for Fortune 500 brands.

David Claessen started working as a feature film director of photography when he received the opportunity to photograph the French film “Haute Mer.” Since settling in the United States, Claessen photographed “The Telephone,” “Getting In” and “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” among others. He worked with director Richard Sears on “An Evil Town,” which was named Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995. Claessen later won the Kodak Achievement Award for Best Cinematography for his work on Marc Chiat’s “Every Dog Has Its Day.” His most recent work has primarily focused on commercials for brands including Mercedes, Heineken, Nike and Cadillac, as well as music videos for Britney Spears, Snoop Dogg, Back Street Boys, Aaliyah, Brandy, Monica, BoyzIIMen and Jay Z. In addition, he has completed several films with director Julie Dash, including “The Rosa Parks Story.”

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