Premiere Night: The Upshot

Last week, Onyx Brass premiered a very personal piece of mine called, “Music for My Stolen Breath”. It was written at a traumatic time for me so hearing it anywhere other than inside my brain was always going to be a big deal for me.

It took me a while to digest that evening; eventually, I managed to put some sentences together about it all. Here are those sentences.

I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe how much this meant to me.
I was subject to a public racist attack from within my teaching institution. The institution failed to protect me, finally militarising against me as I refused to remain silent. After sustained gaslighting & ostracisation, I began suffering trauma symptoms. One of these was shallow, uneven, audible breathing. This was all occurring around the same time as I was due to fulfil my commission for Onyx Brass.
Finding it very difficult to be creative, I ended up transcribing the rhythms of my trauma breathing as a means to break my creative block. In the end, these cells of captured live experience ended up growing into my piece “Music for My Stolen Breath”.
On Thursday, the world-renowned Onyx Brass performed my piece in their 30th Anniversary Concert. It was introduced with unapologetic love, rage & sincerity by Amos Miller, and then performed with precision & fire to an audience who listened so, so carefully. To have this piece, borne of my silencing and isolation, receive so much public attention, airspace, acknowledgement and applause was entirely overwhelming in every direction.
If this whole sequence of events wasn’t enough, drinking too many pints until too late at night with 5 of the warmest, fun-est folk you’d ever care to meet was the perfect end to my day. Amos Miller – so many deep and drunky conversations to be continued I hope.
Thank you, Onyx Brass, for having me and my sounds, for your love, integrity and immense talent. This bruised little brown girl feels heard and held.
I couldn’t have trusted my piece to a more talented, more kind group of people. It was wonderful having my old friend Amos in the group – as well as the musician he is and the excellent company he is, he was always gently making sure I’ve felt comfortable and safe through every step of the process from commissioning to performance. What an amazing end to an awful story.

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