Catlin Community Joins in World Premiere of “An African American Requiem”

Damien Geter at Catlin Gabel in 2019

Composer Damien Geter, a former music teacher at Catlin, included teachers, a student, and a parent in the inaugural performance of his long-awaited opus at the Schnitzer Concert Hall

An African American Requiem, a pivotal work by Damien Geter that memorializes the lives of African Americans lost to racist violence in the United States, premiered May 7 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and the Catlin Gabel community was able to share in the success. Among the performers on stage for the world premiere were Catlin Gabel teachers and a student, and a Catlin parent wrote the introductory essay.

The long-awaited premiere of Damien’s work–delayed for over a year by the pandemic–was presented by Resonance Ensemble in partnership with the Oregon Symphony, and featured vocalists from Kingdom Sound Gospel Ensemble and other regional choirs.

While the realization of the Requiem put its creator in the spotlight, Damien chose to share the experience with artist friends, including Catlin community members he had met and worked with years earlier. Performing on stage at the world premiere were Beginning and Middle School Drama teacher Deirdre Atkinson, Upper School Math Teacher Traci Kiyama, Upper School Science Teacher Marguerite McKean, Upper School Music Teacher Judy Rose, and senior Issa Okamoto. Writer Aminata (Mimi) Sei, who currently serves as the school’s PFA President, wrote a foreward for the piece. 

The world premiere performance was broadcast live by Portland’s All Classical radio and New York’s WQXR Radio. An archive recording is available here.

In her essay, Mimi writes, “Damien Geter presents a powerful and eclectic arrangement that reassures us of the courage of the likes of Ida B Wells. He shines a light on the truth that is the revolution of each movement. History bears witness to Beethoven’s monumental influence on symphony; the impact of emotions on classical music, and this Requiem illuminates the fire on that torch; it heightens all of ours.” Read the full essay.

In addition to his work as a composer, Damien is an acclaimed vocalist who has performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Portland Opera, Reno Symphony, Chicago Opera Theatre, and the Richmond Symphony. Read more about Damien Geter.

An African American Requiem was commissioned by Resonance Ensemble, who received support for the work with a $100,000 grant from The Oregon Community Foundation Creative Heights Initiative. Damien composed the piece during the years when he was an Upper School Music Teacher and Choir Director at Catlin Gabel (2017-19).