SMALL CHAMBER ENSEMBLE - God's Trombones (1998) Program Notes
'God's Trombones', for three trombones, percussion, and narrator (also- optionally - playing trombone), sets a musical accompaniment to the text 'Go Down Death' by James Weldon Johnson. The piece was commissioned by Jeremy van Hoy and premiered in 1998 at Merkin Hall in NYC, featuring narrator Damon Gupton, trombonists James Markey and Mark Horner, and percussionist Pablo Rieppi.
Written in 1927, Johnson's "God's Trombones" set down as poetry the inspirational sermons of old Negro preachers and so helped ensure the survival of a great oral tradition. Carl Sandburg said of it: "The cunning rhythms, the graphic language, the figures of speech join in a work that is of the realm of art."