Seven O'Clock Shout

Printer Friendly VersionSend by email

            Coleman is one of America’s young composers whose appealing works have garnered high praise for their imagination, accessibility, and innate musical integrity.   A native of Kentucky, she is a graduate of Louisville Male High School, Boston University, and the Mannes College of Music.  She is an accomplished flautist as well as a composer, and early on in her career in composition focused on woodwind chamber music.  Branching out into other genres, she has written works for major orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Her work quickly earned her widespread recognition and awards, and is characterized by the incorporation of a diverse array of musical elements, including Afro-Cuban, jazz, and what might be recognized as “mid-century American” styles.  All of that, plus a healthy mastery of the nuanced color of traditional French orchestral textures.  Personally, she has a warm, genial demeanor, and that and her sense of humanity is palpable in her work.

            Seven O’Clock Shout was commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra, for whom she had previously written the well-received Umoja:  Anthem of Unity.  She was given the commission for Seven O’Clock Shout in Summer of 2020 only two weeks before the première, and obviously worked quickly (one recalls Mozart and Rossini in this regard).

            In essence, Seven O’Clock Shout is a sincere reflection about and a cheerful salute to the legions of those in the helping professions who personally sacrificed themselves and labored so diligently to save the rest of us during the worst of the Covid-19.  One will remember that for a while during the darkest of that time it became a kind of New York City daily ritual at seven o’clock for folks to shout out the window and beat on pots and pans to recognize their civic heroes.

            This short work falls into several discernable sections, opening with what the composer calls a trumpet fanfare.  If so, it is a melancholy, or at least, meditative, one that invokes the isolation of the individual in the viral challenge.  A second trumpet soon answers, symbolic of the need to contact with others, and soon leads to a “lushly dense landscape of nature” invoking the army of caregivers.  The opening idea is heard in the English horn, with the rest of the orchestra gradually joining in.  Clarinet and flute solos invoke the “humanity and grace” essential in meeting humanity’s challenge.   A soft, insistent marimba kicks off a spirited, rhythmic response of optimism that includes a vivacious piccolo solo.  Soon, the low strings lay out an ostinato figure that leads to the exuberant “seven o’clock” moment in which the orchestra whoops, cheers, and in general creates a joyful din of affirmation and gratitude.  Trumpets and percussion drive the spirited ostinato forward, leading to an orchestral version of the traditional African “call and response.”  In this case, the solo trombone issues the “call,” and the orchestra enthusiastically replies with “shouts” of response.  A happy time, indeed. The peroration is a warm anthem of affirmation of humankind’s triumph over monumental existential challenge, and its resilience in “surviving yet another day.”


--Wm. E. Runyan

©2020 William E. Runyan