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Perspectives Music

Shawn E. Okpebholo: “four martins – a dirge” from Songs in Flight

Jan 12, 2023 5 MINUTES

Music by Shawn E. Okpebholo (b. 1981)
Text by Tsitsi Ella Jaji (b. 1976)

Karen Slack, sopranoReginald Mobley, countertenor
Will Liverman, baritone
Howard Watkins, piano

Conceived and commissioned by Sparks & Wiry Cries

In 2019, Cornell University started “Freedom on the Move,” a database of “runaway ads” from the United States’s early newspapers—names, dates, descriptions, rewards. These ads, placed by enslavers, preserve snapshots of more than 30,000 enslaved individuals who took their fates into their own hands, liberating themselves from a cruel, ugly cycle whose effects ripple to this day.

With “Freedom on the Move" as a starting point, composer Shawn Okpebholo and Duke University professor Dr. Tsitsi Ella Jaji bring these individual stories to life through song. This groundbreaking work promises to question the notions of liberty and freedom that our country holds so dear. 

For more information and a complete list of artists, view the performance program.

“Songs in Flight” was made possible by the Frank & Lydia Bergen Foundation, the Adrienne Arsht Fund for Resilience through Art, Douglas Dockery Thomas, and an anonymous foundation. 

Recorded at the World Premiere on Thursday, January 12, 2023 in The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, The Met Fifth Avenue

© 2023 The Metropolitan Museum of Art