“Portrait of a Peaceful Warrior” is a tribute to the vast and diverse voices of humanity coming together to stand up for justice, equality, inclusion and human rights. Our common ground of progress through Peace!” ~ Kathryn Bostic
Chicago Tribune, October 18, 2020
“Chicago Sinfonietta review: A message of hope and honoring the heroes sent via cyberspace”
by Howard Reich
The Chicago Sinfonietta opened its 33rd season in a new location: cyberspace. But that wasn’t the only way the performance – prerecorded at North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville – broke ground. The concert, posted Saturday evening on the Sinfonietta’s website, also featured a world premiere by the orchestra’s new artist-in-residence, composer Kathryn Bostic.
Like Bostic’s work, “Portrait of a Peaceful Warrior,” the entire program seemed designed to offer hope and resilience in difficult times. “Tonight, in our opening concert titled ‘Common Ground: Collective Stories,’ we honor those heroes who have helped us during the pandemic,” said Sinfonietta music director Mei-Ann Chen in her online commentary. “In this unique time in our country’s history and in the world, we continue to seek a path to equity and justice through common ground. That which connects us and brings us together can help to unite us in a time where the world is being challenged.”
Bostic’s commissioned work built on those sentiments, her thoughts expressed first in an onscreen letter that preceded the premiere.
The composition, wrote Bostic, “is a tribute to the vast and diverse voices of humanity coming together to stand up for justice, equality, inclusion and human rights; core values of the Chicago Sinfonietta….A global pandemic, racial injustice, climate change, economic and political imbalance (and more) are a clarion call for us all to make choices in our beliefs and actions for purposeful authentic service to humanity and our own self-awareness.”
Even if you didn’t read this text, there was no mistaking the life-affirming qualities of Bostic’s tone poem, which ran a little over three minutes. Penned for brass and percussion, “Portrait of a Peaceful Warrior” was built on surging rhythm, Copland-like syncopation and a conservative harmonic vocabulary. Though fashioned to be accessible to a wide audience, the work also showed considerable craft in voicing and melodic phrase. It’s easy to imaging this piece having a future life with other ensembles.