Premiere of Poem for Emmett Till

A work for solo cello, by William Roper.

On May 16, 2001,

Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick
of the California E.A.R. Unit premiered a new work for solo cello by Los Angeles based composer William Roper. Poem for Emmett Till calls not only upon Ms. Duke-Kirkpatrick's renowned virtuosity, but also requires her to sing, play the high-hat cymbal and improvise.

New Order the new recording of Erika Duke Kirkpatrick performing the Poem for Emmett Till from CD Baby

Emmett Till, born in 1941, was an African American from Chicago. Often, in the summers, he would visit his uncle in Money, Mississippi. In 1955, Emmett supposedly flirted with a white woman. On August 28, 1955 he was beaten and killed by J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, the woman's husband and his half-brother. They were his confessed killers. The jury's verdict was not guilty.

"...written for the ever-flexible cellist Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick,...Roper's apt musical language is alternately impressionistic, raging and, finally, rueful." -- Josef Woodward, Los Angeles Times, May 18, 2001

Links relating to the Emmett Till story:

  • Photo documentation of the trial
  • A PBS documentary
  • Poem for Emmett Till was composed by


    while he was the Gerald Oshita Fellow at the Djerassi Artists Residency Program. The work uses narrative as its structural basis. It starts with Emmett's birth, moves through his blooming adolescence in Chicago, play with his cousins in Mississippi, the flirtation, the beating and murder and finally Emmett's ascension. The work makes extraordinary demands upon the performer. Mainly these demands are conceptual and a matter of courage. However, performing has never been for timid souls.

    The California E.A.R. Unit's 2000/01 Ensemble Residency Series takes place at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036. (323) 857-6000. 8 pm. Tickets are $15; $10 for museum members, music programs contributors, and seniors (62+); and $5 for students with valid ID (on the night of the concert only).

    Other works on the May 16 program included the Los Angeles premiere of Mauricio Kagel's "Exotica", a rarely performed, fantastically bizarre symphony for more than sixty non-Western instruments. "Road Works", by Amnon Wollman , a piece for Solo Horizontal Accordionist and Electronics will transport you. Canadian John Rea's, "Les Blues d'Orphee" re-tells the story of Orpheus.

    Erika performs Poem for Emmett Till on Sunday, April 9, 2006, as part of the Luckman Fine Arts Complex Interactive Jazz Series as a special of Purple Gums. Click here for more information.

    Poem For Emmett Till is now available at Poem for Emmett Till - If I Ran the Circus

    See the video of Fanfares and Arhoolies on youtube

    Don't miss William Roper's new work Land Ob Cotton - A Tragic Slapstick

    Related links: