Seven Last Words of the Unarmed

To watch the performance that occurred on March 31, 2019, click here.

Opening Hearts and Creating Dialogue

Presented by Leon County Government, the “Ode to Understanding” project brought together the forces of the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, The Village Square, the Florida A&M Concert Choir, and the Morehouse College Glee Club to create a profound community event that will open hearts and inspire civil discourse. 

The Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Leon County Government and The Village Square, presented a stunning concert that featured a powerful new musical composition by Joel Thompson titled Seven Last Words of the Unarmed. Written for male chorus and orchestra, the work’s seven movements quote utterances from unarmed black men before they were killed. The movements are as follows:

  • “Why do you have your guns out?” – Kenneth Chamberlain, 66
  • “What are you following me for?” – Trayvon Martin, 16
  • “Mom, I’m going to college.” – Amadou Diallo, 23
  • “I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting.” – Michael Brown, 18
  • “You shot me! You shot me!” – Oscar Grant, 22
  • “It’s not real.” – John Crawford, 22
  • “I can’t breathe.” – Eric Garner, 43

The concert’s second half presented Beethoven’s beloved 9th Symphony, the ultimate expression of humanity, brotherhood, bonding, and equality. Beethoven’s 9th is a life-affirming masterpiece whose joyful message has inspired millions of people worldwide since its premiere in 1824.

The TSO partnered with the Atlanta-based Morehouse College Glee Club and the Concert Choir of Florida A&M University for the performance. The TSO also enlisted community singers to participate in the performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, underscoring the power of community to transcend division.

Community Conversation

Following the first half of the concert, Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil led a conversation with composer Joel Thompson and TSO Board Members Byron Greene and Patrick Slevin. Sheriff McNeil to interview these stakeholders about Thompson’s piece of music, the TSO’s decision to program it, and how shared artistic experiences impact the community as a whole. 

At the conclusion of the concert, the audience and the performers were invited to break bread and talk with each other in order to seek to understand the complex issues raised by these human tragedies.