From the early days of America's colonies, thousands of enslaved African laborers helped launch and sustain South Carolina's commercial rice industry. Despite their ingenuity, and their role in helping Southern planters become rich, they have remained largely forgotten.
But inspired by traditional African music and African-American folk music, Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked
— a work for string orchestra — honors those exploited and brutalized on rice plantations in lowcountry South Carolina and Georgia. The piece will eventually become Requiem for Rice,
a full-length dramatic work for voices and full orchestra that is a modern African/African-American take on Verdi's Requiem
Tonight's free preview staging of Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked
arrives one month before it premieres at the Colour of Music Festival in Charleston, S.C. Afterward, audience members are encouraged to participate in a discussion of the developing score with composer, Trevor Weston, and librettist, Edda L. Fields-Black.
Weston (pictured at lower right) is an associate professor of music at Drew University in Madison, N.J. Fields-Black (lower left) is faculty advisor for Carnegie Mellon's African and African American Studies program and teaches African history from the early pre-colonial to neo-colonial period, and slavery and freedom in Africa and the New World.
The program will be moderated by playwright and author Tameka Cage Conley (upper left), and local performer Vanessa German (upper right) will read from the libretto.
The piece was first selected as the final project in Carnegie Mellon University's Center for the Arts in Society
's Performance Initiative in 2015.
The performance starts at 7 p.m. The venue is CMU's School of Music, Mellon Institute Auditorium, 4400 Fifth Ave., in Oakland. Enter on Bellefield Avenue.
The event is free. For more information, visit www.requiemforrice.com