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World Premiere of Joel Thompson Work by Project Inclusion String Quartet at Grant Park Music Festival

The Grant Park Music Festival's Project Inclusion string quartet will world premiere a commissioned chamber work by composer Joel Thompson.


In conjunction with Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar’s 20th Anniversary, the Grant Park Music Festival is launching a new multiyear initiative, Festival Next, in 2019. This ambitious undertaking heralds the next stage in the Festival’s evolution by deepening GPMF’s interactions with audiences, partner organizations, and the greater Chicago community; promoting the endeavors of diverse, emerging, and aspiring artists in the field; and reimagining the concertgoing experience for the 21st century.

As part of Festival Next, the Festival will world premiere four new commissions, specifically chosen to highlight the artistic excellence of the Festival’s Orchestra, Chorus, and artistic development initiatives. The commissions also celebrate and advance the efforts of diverse composers, and include a yet-to-be named work by Joel Thompson for string quartet, which will be performed by the Festival’s Project Inclusion string fellows.

The performances will be part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks program. Begun as part of a larger cultural initiative spearheaded by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Night Out in the Parks brings classical music performances directly into Chicago’s neighborhoods, reaching populations that do not or cannot regularly attend the Festival’s Millennium Park concerts.

In the days preceding the world premiere, Thompson will take part in a variety of public activities designed to provide general audiences with unique opportunities to deepen their understanding and appreciation of contemporary classical music. Programs will include open rehearsals and master classes; pre-concert lectures; and presentations at adult-learning organizations. Thompson may also lead rehearsal coachings for student ensembles performing his works in the Festival’s Young Artists Showcase.

Project Inclusion is a professional development program which guides young musicians from diverse backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the symphonic orchestral and choral field towards successful careers in music, with a goal of increasing diversity among orchestral ensembles. Project Inclusion, a partnership with the Chicago Sinfonietta, includes a program for four vocal fellows, and the Project Inclusion String Fellowship program, composed of four string players who rehearse and perform with the Grant Park Orchestra, perform as a chamber ensemble, receive mentoring from Carlos Kalmar, guest artists and other members of the orchestra, and serve as teaching artists for the Festival’s Classical Campers program.

Project Media

The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed

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Features: Joel Thompson

February 12, 2017
The Sphynx Symphony Orchestra and featured guest University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club, lead by conductor Eugene Rogers, premiered a newly commissioned fully orchestrated version of “The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed” by composer Joel Thompson, made possible in part with the support of Linda and Stuart Nelson. This is a multi-movement work honoring the lives of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Kenneth Chamberlain, Amadou Diallo, and John Crawford.

Hold Fast to Dreams
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Features: Joel Thompson

Published April 2, 2018
For SATB Chorus (divisi) and Piano
Words by Langston Hughes
Music by Joel Thompson
This music was written in response to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech. The text dialogues between two Langston Hughes poems, “Harlem,” and “Dreams.” One poem summarizes the pain of broken promises and the other encourages faith that things will get better, because the alternative is absolute despair. Both contain essential truths still evident in today’s turbulent times.

Songs from Prison
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Features: Joel Thompson

March 2018
Challenge the Stats Atlanta Launch Artists Tyrone Webb (Tenor) and Angelica Hairston (Harp) perform the world-premiere of Songs from Prison for Harp and Tenor by Joel Thompson. This work honors the words of Amber Wilson, an anonymous poet, and Charles Brooks, Sr., all of whom are incarcerated individuals in United States.

Start and End Dates



Chicago, Illinois

Project Created By

Chicago, Illinois
Established 86 years ago to serve as “the people’s orchestra” of Chicago, the Grant Park Music Festival (GPMF) was conceived by then-Mayor A. J. Cermak as a series of free, city-sponsored concerts to lift the spirits of Chicagoans during the Great Depression. Today, GPMF is the nation’s longest-running free outdoor summer classical music series, making…

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