NJSO musicians selected pieces that hold special meaning to them and NJSO Violinist Bryan Hernandez-Luch selected Walker’s “Molto adagio” from String Quartet No. 1.
Walker was the first Black composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for music. That musical composition, “Lilacs,” was based on the 1865 poem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” by Walt Whitman, which was written after the death of Abraham Lincoln.
This movement performed from his String Quartet No. 1 has captivated countless audiences.
“I became familiar with [the Walker piece] during my time as a member of the Catalyst Quartet, an ensemble comprised of past winners of the Sphinx Competition,” says Hernandez-Luch. “It has always struck me as an impactful work, and I felt strongly that its performance was needed now more than ever.”
Performed with NJSO violinist Fatima Aaziza, Assistant Principal Viola Elzbieta Weyman and NJSO Colton Fellow Cellist Laura Andrade, Hernandez-Luch led the process of producing the ensemble piece—creating two guide tracks for the ensemble, one conducting the piece and another with him playing the piece.
In an interview with Baristanet, Gregory Walker, the composer’s son and a renowned musician in his own right, said his father could never forget how surreal it all was.
“He was doing things in his community that no one else he was doing,” he said. “But as an artist I’m pretty sure he was just concentrating on quality and originality.”
Montclair resident Frank Schramm made this short film about George Walker:
If you missed the Montclair Orchestra performing Walker’s most performed work – Lyric for Strings – you’ll want to listen to that, too:
The Montclair Orchestra also created their own at-home performance of “Pomp and Circumstance” to honor the Class of 2020.