Here is the Program Note I wrote for my composition, Good Fred:
Good Fred, by Andre Myers
Scored for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Bassoon, French Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, Drum Kit, Two Sopranos, High School Choir, Hip-Hop MCs, Piano, Two Violins, Viola, ‘Cello, and Double Bass/Electric Bass
Commissioned by the Dogs of Desire, David Alan Miller, conductor
Duration: about 20 minutes
- Lamp Post
- Permission to Rise
- He Sang for Me
The first movement of Good Fred introduces the premise of the composition: that the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, whose instagram handle I imagined to be “Good Fred,” was the most adroit social media influencer of his time, utilizing print media, photography, autobiography, religious exhortation & public oratory, voluminous written correspondence, and coalition building to further his political agenda and moral imagination. The second movement features a quartet of young MCs who outline a narrative of his life. His struggle was a fundamentally American one, and it is important we draw courage from it in our time. The third movement features the Dogs of Desire, and reflects on how Douglass recognized the rights and liberties of women and African Americans to be deeply connected. “Permission to Rise” asserts that intersectional thinking about the struggle of blacks, women, and LGBTQ+ persons is as important today as it was during Douglass’s days of coalition building with the suffragette movement during Reconstruction. The fourth and final movement features the Albany High School Choir, and asserts the legacy of Frederick Douglass to be for everyone. As our world gets more connected, and the challenges of our time grow increasingly intense, Frederick Douglass’s call to community action is as prescient as ever.
I moved to Rochester New York when I was 18, and taught myself very little about Douglass’s life, work, or local significance during my six years living downtown. I do not remember once visiting his grave, or reading any of his works. Perhaps if I had, I would have felt less alone and less afraid on my own. I composed Good Fred thinking about young people today who may not be familiar with his extraordinary life and legacy. I hope the piece illustrates how History is not static, but dynamic and fluid as water; how one life lived in community can inspire, edify, and bring solace to a generation of folks that too often feel isolated from their past, and lonely in their present. I believe Frederick Douglass can be a friend to us all.