A Longing for Freedom
The Rev. Charles Myricks Jr. feels something stirring in the water and he wants to share that feeling with everyone.
Myricks collaborated with Jesse Ayers on There’s a Stirrin’ in the Water, a work commissioned by Music Director Christopher Wilkins and which will make its world premiere with the Akron Symphony Orchestra on Nov. 18.
“My first thought when Christopher brought me and Jesse together was to construct a new spiritual,” Myricks said. “But then when I sat down to work on it, I felt inauthentic because the canon of spirituals already authenticated the experience. I realized I needed to create a new experience from the existing spirituals, Jesse enriched the work and it became a very powerful communication device.”
The 18-minute piece, which will be performed by the orchestra, Akron Symphony Chorus and singers from the Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop, tells the story of a slave longing for freedom.
The chance to share a story that is uncomfortable — but important — is what drew Myricks to co-compose the work.
“One of the highlights of this opportunity was to enter into a dialogue with people whose experience is different from mine, but who have a shared value that brings us together,” Myricks explained. “I was able to address the choir at a rehearsal and explain to them the narrative of the piece. It was then that I realized that I was asking these people to emotionally step into the life of a slave.
“It was beautiful when they sung it as there was a recognition from the chorus members that the song is about being at odds with the condition your find yourself in and that is not a comforting position.”
The younger signers from YEPAW joining the symphony chorus offers an educational side to the composition, according to Myricks.
“The song is about a longing to be elsewhere while being forced to be here, so the stirring is a desire to be free,” he said. “Seeing the students grasp that concept turned the song into an expression of something that they can embrace and understand. It also allows the chorus to feel like the older generation is giving voice to what the younger generation is feeling.”
As a pioneering participant in Gospel Meets Symphony, Myricks has seen several of his compositions performed by the Akron Symphony Orchestra. His long relationship with the organization has made it easier for him to see his musical vision translated to the concert stage.
“The trust is already in place, which means we can focus on the art and make a moment that transcends both the musicians and the audience,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better than when everyone is sharing their talents at the best of their abilities.”
Take a spiritual journey to the new world when the Akron Symphony Orchestra presents From the New World: Legacy of the Spirituals on Friday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. at E.J. Thomas Hall. Single tickets start at $20 and are available online or by calling the symphony box office at 330.535.8131.