Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Music and Dance Professor Has Full Circle Moment Hearing His Suite Performed

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra premiered Associate Professor Richard Thompson’s “The Mask in the Mirror” suite.

Music and Dance Professor Has Full Circle Moment Hearing His Suite Performed

Richard Thompson The Mask in the Mirror

by By Aleah Jarin

July 8, 2021

Music and Dance Associate Professor Richard Thompson never thought the orchestra he grew up attending, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), would one day perform a piece written by him.

“When I was a schoolboy in Aberdeen, Scotland, I used to go once a month to hear them play … of course, I never imagined that one day they would play a piece written by me,” Thompson said.

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra gave the world premiere of Thompson’s “The Mask in the Mirror” suite on Jan. 29, 2021, as part of their online concert series.

“The Mask in the Mirror a Chamber Opera: The tragic romance of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the First Black Poet, & Alice Ruth Moore” follows the life of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, one of the most prominent Black poets of the early 20th Century.

The performance, inspired by the hundreds of letters exchanged between Dunbar and his wife, Alice Ruth Moore, removes the masks of fame and social identity to investigate the psychological realities of the people underneath.

The chamber opera follows the arc of Paul and Alice’s relationship, from their courtship through letters, secret engagement, and marriage, to their final estrangement and Paul’s death from alcoholism and tuberculosis at age 33.

Thompson said he knew in fall 2020 that the RSNO was going to premiere his suite, which was a particular honor for him.

“I was looking forward to the performance a lot and I really wanted to hear the piece played by a fairly large ensemble,” Thompson said.

Due to the pandemic, Thompson was unable to hear the performance live. “I watched the concert with my daughter, Khalayla, and had a glass of wine! The orchestra played very well and I was very pleased,” he said.

Thompson is originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, and is a performer and composer whose work resists a single stylistic category. His compositions combine European and African-American styles.

He is retiring into the Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP) this summer. Learn more about Thompson on his website.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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