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MSU Chorale To Premiere Piece Sunday About 1906 Springfield Lynchings

Jennifer Moore

  The MSU Chorale will perform a 16-movement composition Sunday that's never been performed in public before. 

It tells the story of the 1906 lynching of three black men on Springfield's Park Central Square. 

The piece, titled Easter, 1906, was written by guest composer William Averitt, a professor emeritus of composition at Shenandoah University in Virginia.

The lynchings happened after two African American men were accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Springfield.  Even though the men had an alibi, a mob dragged the men from the jail and hanged them, along with another African American man who had also been in the jail.

Averitt said the piece is supposed to be a lesson about the dangers of white privilege.

“I suppose it relates the tragedy of feeling that because, in this case, you were a white person you could actually murder a black person with no repercussions,” Averitt said. “That sense of white privilege is an incredible danger, it remains an incredible danger in our own time, I think.”

The composition is a mix of singing and spoken word, as well as four hands on the piano and two percussionists.

Averitt said MSU Chorale director Dr. Cameron LaBarr has brought the choir to an excellent place.

“It is a long piece, and long in the sense of nearly an hour’s duration.  It has 16 movements.  It's a lot of different kinds of kinds of things that happen,” Averitt said. “But they just sound like a miracle on it. It’s really extraordinary singing, and the playing I know is going to be equally compelling because it is such terrific players.”

Averitt’s piece is based off of historical documents and a collection of poems written by Robert Bode recounting the tragic event, according to the MSU Music Department website.

Springfield’s 1906 lynchings led to a mass exodus of the black community.  In the past year, the city has unveiled a historical marker on the downtown square, memorializing the three who were murdered there.

The MSU Chorale will perform the premiere of this unique composition Sunday at Ellis Hall at 5:30 P.M.