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With stories of sadness, anger and strength from Battle Creek artists, James Lee composed a new work. The Battle Creek Symphony will give the premiere on Saturday.

Courtesy photo
James Lee’s new work will receive its world premiere Saturday.

History will be made when the Battle Creek Symphony premieres a new work with deep roots in the community at 7:30 pm on Saturday, March 5, in a program that also features the Symphony No. 9, "New World" by Antonin Dvorak.

In an interview with Cara Lieurance, music director Anne Harrigan says that the country's anguished response to the murder of George Floyd in 2020 served as a wake-up call for her and the organization, and she was determined to do something about it.

Dr. Gerald Case-Blanchard, a longtime colleague, conductor and singer, describes how at that time he was unable to process his reaction to the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others until he opened up about his own experiences with racism in a video on social media. Upon seeing the video, Harrigan's idea was to commission a new piece of music that drew from Case-Blanchard's and others' stories.

She asked Altamiece Carolyn Cooper, Carolyn Ballard, Robert McFletcher Jones, and Sean Washington - who, like Case-Blanchard, are all world-class artists from Battle Creek - if they would also contribute stories. It was then the job of composer James Lee III to put them to music.

Hold On America, Hold On! - the title taken from Gerald Case-Blanchard's video - will receive its world premiere with the composer in the audience. He will talk about the work in a pre-concert talk.