In 2018, during its three-year residency in Jamaica Plain, the BSO’s Education and Community Engagement team began to explore possible collaborative ideas with hip-hop artist Moe Pope and the band STL GLD. These discussions led to what was to be the BSO’s first community-curated performance in Symphony Hall in May 2020, under Pope’s artistic direction. The concert, entitled “Us: A Celebration of Community” featured performances by STL GLD, hip-hop and spoken word artists and members of the BSO, a premiere of three commissioned works written as musical reflections of Jamaica Plain, and pre-concert presentations by DJs, beat-makers, dancers and student musicians.
Then, COVID struck. Symphony Hall, along with the rest of the city, closed its doors in mid-March. The performance, which was to serve as the launch of an ongoing exploration of how artistry can transcend the notion of genre, was postponed. We decided together to begin the dialogue and learning in a different way.
The following is a series entitled “Us: Sessions”, featuring a series of conversations between BSO musicians and some of the artists who were scheduled to perform at Symphony Hall. Hosted by STL GLD member Timothy Hall, the conversations range from childhood inspirations to coping with COVID, performance practices to how different lived experiences can converge through art. Each artist shares at least one or two pieces of music that has impacted them in some way (see attached playlist), revealing an intimate and sometimes surprising look into their artistic journeys. These videos are spontaneous, personal and reflective of our current reality as “Zoomers”.
We hope that you enjoy spending time with and getting to know these remarkable artists and human beings. Special thanks to each of them and to Beth Mullins for their invaluable contributions to this project; the Bridge Sound & Stage for editing hours of content; and to Tim Hall for his brilliance as a moderator. I know that I speak for all of us when I say that we look forward to the day when we can gather together in person to celebrate the transformative power of shared experiences.
Leslie Wu Foley Helaine B. Allen Director of Education and Community Engagement Boston Symphony Orchestra
Artist Statement: Moe Pope
“Hip Hop and Classical music are considered to be on two very polarizing ends of the spectrum.
On one hand, the raw and visceral sounds of Hip Hop, traditionally represents black culture, and speaks to combatting the systems that keep them shackled to poverty, class structures, and the root of what has people screaming that all black lives do indeed matter.
On the other hand, Classical music is revered for its pristine works of compositions, which have stood the test of time for generations, historically intended as art for the educated and elite. While both genres are represented in every country and continent throughout the world, the line has started to blur as to whom can appreciate what type of music.
As long as I can remember I have dreamed of seeing Hip Hop inside the walls of Symphony Hall. Covid-19 has somewhat derailed our plans, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give people a taste of the collaboration that we have been working on. It feels especially fitting to share this now, considering how divided we are as people, in more ways than one. My hope is that this serves as an example of how two different genres can unite, and merge into something beautiful, powerful, and innovative. Times have evolved, so should music, so should people...”