"A Charleston pianist and Charleston poet are prominently featured on a Grammy Award-nominated classical album featuring all Black composers.
Charleston Poet Laureate Marcus Amaker’s poem “The Rain” was put to music by Wheaton College music professor and composer Shawn E. Okpebholo and performed by College of Charleston Director of Piano Studies Paul Sanchez and Julliard graduate and baritone vocalist Will Liverman. . .
“Dreams of a New Day” was nominated for best classical solo vocal album . . .
Amaker’s poem, which is about the Emanuel AME Church shooting and lasting racism in Charleston, is one of two poems that feature the stories of violence in Black churches. Okpebholo also composed “Ballad of Birmingham,” a poem by Dudley Randall in response to the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four Black girls in their Sunday school class.
That’s the first movement of the “Two Black Churches” piece on the album. “The Rain” is the second movement.
“When gunshots make waves, we closed our eyes, held our breath and went under,” wrote Amaker in “The Rain.” “And we are still trying not to taste the salt of our surrounding blues or face the rising tide of Black pain.”
Amaker said he was a little hesitant to dive back into the trauma of the Emanuel AME massacre, but “The Rain” beckoned to be written for this project.
“When the muse speaks to me that way, I listen,” he said. “The poem talks about how Charleston is an eternal flame for racism.”
He used the metaphor of rain and flooding, another global issue manifested in Charleston — climate change — to convey the message.
Okpebholo then created the composition, based on nine chords. Each represented one of the people who died that June day in 2015. . ."