T.J. Anderson, left, with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conductor Robert Spano.
T. J. Anderson....
...was born in Coatesville, Pa. He joined a touring jazz combo when he was 13. Retired in 1990 from Tufts University, he continues an active composing career.
He has written operas, symphonies, concertos, chamber music, vocal music and pieces for band. His musical influences are many and widely varied, including composers from Purcell to Berg. He draws freely from 20th-century atonal music, jazz, and the blues.
Dr. Thomas Jefferson Anderson's music is frequently concerned with the African-American experience. His operas include Soldier Boy, Soldier, based on the writings of Leon Forrest... Walker, about black anti-slavery activist David Walker... and Slip Knot, about the execution of a slave in Massachusetts in 1768. His orchestration of Scott Joplin's Treemonisha, the first opera written by an African-American composer, led to the work's first fully staged performances by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Morehouse College, under Robert Shaw's baton.
In 2002, commissioned by the Cantata Singers of Boston, Anderson composed the oratorio "Slavery Documents 2," based on public documents of American slaves and slaveholders. The work is conceived as a companion to Donald Sur's "Slavery Documents," which the Cantata Singers premiered in 1990. Drawing material from Loren Schweininger's collection The Southern Debate Over Slavery, the composer asked himself, "Why would anyone want to write a composition about slavery at the beginning of the 21st century?" His answer: "There is now a recognition that racism in America has its foundation in slavery, and we as Americans must address the remaining issues."
In a program note for the 2002 premiere, Marilyn Richardson wrote, "The resulting libretto incorporates petitions for justice, laments keened in response to unspeakable physical and psychological violence, the defiant words of fugitives acting against all but impossible odds to claim the right to their own lives, and transcendent expressions of deliverance."
The center of the work's five movements is entitled "Runaway, Runaways."
All text courtesy program notes for 'A King Celebration' from the Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta, Ga.
From 'Runaway, Runaways'
Runaway, runaway, runaway.
I hired me a black boy named Nathan, ten or eleven years old. I took possession of him and was very much pleased. He was obedient, active, and intelligent, far beyond most boys of his age. In about two weeks he ran away. I had an iron collar made and put a large padlock on it. On the same night he eloped again.
A Negro boy named Joshua ran away from me. On that night my blacksmith shop was burned down between the hours of eleven and twelve. He returned to my neighborhood and remained concealed until the night. That night my stable was burnt down.
This application to the Supreme Court is to ask for a permit to sell.
We petition the State for the privilege of shooting and destroying all Runaway slaves who may Refuse to submit to said Authority. The remedy suggested is that authority shall be given by law to kill any slave runaways while lying out in the woods, swamps, and other secret places.