Nathan Howard ’25
To mark the occasion of President Vincent Rougeau’s inauguration, trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, featuring the E-Collective and Turtle Island Quartet, performed at Worcester’s Mechanics Hall on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. Terence Blanchard is well known for his emotional musical statements relating to American tragedies. For his work and inspiration to many, Blanchard has received six Grammy Awards, an Oscar nomination, as well as a USA Fellowship Award in 2018.
Blanchard has used his musical talent to create melodies that convey impactful messages throughout many Spike Lee films, including “When the Levees Broke,” which documented the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina to Blanchard’s hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. Blanchard also received his Oscar nomination, as well as a BAFTA nomination, for his original score from Spike Lee’s crime/drama film, “BlacKkKlansman.” Furthermore, the track “Blut Und Boden” (Blood and Soil), from this film, won Blanchard a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition. In explaining his specific musical style, Blanchard famously stated, “You feel the level of intolerance that exists for people who ignore other people’s pain. Musically, I can’t ignore that. I can’t add to that intolerance. Instead, I have to help people heal from it.”
Blanchard has also recently composed his second opera, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.” This work is a tribute to writer and columnist at “The New York Times,” Charles Blow. On Sept. 27, 2021, The Metropolitan Opera premiered “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” making it the first opera written by an African American composer to open at the Met. Prior to this composition, Blanchard wrote the opera, “Champion,” which also received tremendous praise following its premier in 2013.
At Worcester’s Mechanics Hall, Blanchard performed with his current quintet, The E-Collective. The quintet includes Terence Blanchard on the trumpet, Charles Altura on the guitar, Taylor Eigsti on the piano, and Oscar Seaton on the drums. During an intermission of his performance, Blanchard explained his profound gratitude to the other members of his quintet. He stated, “Each one of them is so talented and so very special to me.”
After the intermission, Blanchard introduced the Turtle Island String Quartet by explaining, “They have revolutionized string music and redefined the string quartet performance.” Their performance at Mechanics Hall included the violinists David Balakrishnan and Gabriel Terracciano, the violist Benjamin von Gutzeit, and the cellist Naseem Alatrash.
Since its formation in 1985, the Turtle Island Quartet has combined classical string music with inspiration from modern-day composers to become one of the driving forces behind a new trend of chamber music. Because of their inventive and creative work, the Turtle Island Quartet won the 2006 and 2008 Grammy Awards for Best Classical Crossover Album. During the event, Blanchard explained his initial reaction to hearing the Turtle Island Quartet’s performance and being “amazed by what they could do”.
Terence Blanchard’s performance was truly impressive in its harmonic inclusion of every instrument throughout both the E-Collective Quintet and the Turtle Island Quartet. At the end of his performance, Blanchard thanked the audience members as well as the community of Worcester for hosting his performance at Mechanics Hall.