The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout

Location & Creative Team

Late Spring 2021
Apollo Theater | 253 W 125th St. | NYC
Co-presented by American Composers Orchestra & the Apollo Theater


Jonathan McCrory, National Black Theatre Artistic Director, co-curator and director

Derek Bermel, ACO Artistic Director, co-curator

The Experience

Through chamber and orchestral music, this one-night-only event will take us on a sonic quest. The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout will center the soul of Black Americans and the heart of this country’s brilliant and bitter present. Focused around the New York premiere of Seven Last Words of the Unarmed by Joel Thompson as well as around works by Tania León and Carlos Simon, this night will honor our present pulse needs for a collective space of remembrance, to enact the sacred, and engage the streets — a place where today’s civic unrest has happened and taken. Woven together through a diverse array of Black multidisciplinary artists, this event is meant to be a space to collectively grieve, to awaken JOY as a source of LIBERATION and to find LOVE as our form of resistance. See you at the gathering.​

Works & Composers

TANIA LEÓN (text by Rita Dove): Reflections for soprano and chamber ensemble
CARLOS SIMON: AMEN! (New York Premiere; orchestra version co-commissioned by ACO)
JOEL THOMPSON: Seven Last Words of the Unarmed (New York Premiere)

Joel Thompson (b.1988) is an Atlanta-based composer, conductor, pianist, and educator, best known for the choral work, Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, which was premiered November 2015 by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club and Dr. Eugene Rogers and won the 2018 American Prize for Choral Composition.

His pieces have been performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Master Chorale, Los Angeles Master Chorale, EXIGENCE, and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. His opera, The Snowy Day, based on the beloved children’s book by Ezra Jack Keats, will be premiered by The Houston Grand Opera in 2021.

Currently a doctoral student at the Yale School of Music, Thompson was also a 2017 post-graduate fellow in Arizona State University’s Ensemble Lab/Projecting All Voices Initiative and a composition fellow at the 2017 Aspen Music Festival and School, where he won the Hermitage Prize. His teachers include Hannah Lash, Christopher Theofanidis, Aaron Jay Kernis, David Lang, John Anthony Lennon, and Stephen Hartke. Thompson taught at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta 2015-2017, and also served as Director of Choral Studies and Assistant Professor of Music at Andrew College 2013-2015. Thompson is a proud Emory alum, graduating with a B.A. in Music in 2010, and an M.M. in Choral Conducting in 2013.

Tania León (b. Havana, Cuba) is a highly regarded composer, conductor, educator and advisor to arts organizations. Recent commissions include works for New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, the Grossman Ensemble and International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). Appearances as guest conductor include the Symphony Orchestra of Marseille, the Gewandhausorchester Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfonica de Guanajuato, and Orquesta Sinfonica de Cuba.

A founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, she instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series, co-founded the American Composers Orchestra “Sonidos de las Americas Festivals,” was New Music Advisor to the New York Philharmonic, and is the founder/Artistic Director of Composers Now.

Her honors include the New York Governor’s Lifetime Achievement and the ASCAP Victor Herbert Awards, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the American Academy of Arts and Science. She also received a proclamation for Composers Now by New York City Mayor, and the MadWoman Festival Award in Music (Spain).

Carlos Simon is a native of Atlanta, Georgia whose music ranges from concert music for large and small ensembles to film scores with influences of jazz, gospel, and neo-romanticism.  

Simon was named as one of the recipients for the 2021 Sphinx Medal of Excellence. The Sphinx Medal of Excellence is the highest honor bestowed by the Sphinx Organization, recognizing extraordinary classical Black and Latinx musicians. Along with a $50,000 career grant, Sphinx annually awards the Medals of Excellence to three artists who, early in their career, demonstrate artistic excellence, outstanding work ethic, a spirit of determination, and an ongoing commitment to leadership and their communities. Simon’s latest album, MY ANCESTOR’S GIFT, was released on the Navona Records label in April 2018. Described as an “overall driving force” (Review Graveyard) and featured on Apple Music’s “Albums to Watch”, MY ANCESTOR’S GIFT incorporates spoken word and historic recordings to craft a multifaceted program of musical works that are inspired as much by the past as they are the present. 


Our Mission & Vision

American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, pre-college and college education programs, and emerging composer professional development to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders.

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