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Artist Spotlight | Will Liverman

"we don’t hear enough music by Black composers... I wanted to work on a project that celebrated that and told new stories about our American history..."

During the July 2020 recording session for his forthcoming album, baritone Will Liverman noted how important is is for “artists to continue to commission composers of the day and to make new works and tell new stories.” On his full-album debut with Cedille, Liverman is doing just that.

The album Dreams of a New Day not only includes works by well-known Black composers such as Margaret Bonds, but also includes a world-premiere recording of Shawn E. Okpebholo’s Two Black Churches. Commissioned by Liverman, this new work is a musical diptych of two poems that examines the impact of two tragic moments in the American Civil Rights Movement: the Birmingham church bombing in 1963 and the Charleston church shooting in 2015.

Will Liverman discusses the first movement of Two Black Churches, “Ballad of Birmingham”

Will Liverman describes how the piece came to life and the inspirations behind it:

I’ve been working with Shawn Okpebholo for about seven years, so when I ran across the poem Ballad of Birmingham, I knew that I wanted him to set this poignant poem to music because I love his writing and he knows my voice very well.

Shawn came up with the idea to make a parallel of the events that took place with the Birmingham bombing and to find a poem about the Charleston shooting in 2015. There wasn’t one we could find, so Shawn commissioned Marcus Amaker to write a poem about it. That’s how Two Black Churches came to be and I programmed the other songs around that.

I think we don’t hear enough music by Black composers in general, so I wanted to work on a project that celebrated that and told new stories about our American history and highlighted Black composers for their contributions in art song.


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