Michael Morgan and the Oakland Symphony will be joined by cellist Matthew Linaman for the world premiere of a concerto commemorating the Ghost Ship Fire. That fire, in a warehouse that served as both living and performance space for artists, claimed 36 people in December of 2016. The work, by composer Richard Marriott, will be on a program that also includes the Oakland Symphony Chorus joining the orchestra for Brahms’ German Requiem.
There’s more information about Friday night’s concert at the Oakland Symphony website.
Marriott says he was on the other side of the world, in Bali, when he heard the news of the fire, but as an artist who’s lived in the Bay Area much of his life, he felt kinship with those who lost their lives. “I have certainly lived in situations just like the Ghost Ship. Of course it’s a function of economics, a function of the housing crisis, but then there’s also a certain culture that thrives in it, and there’s a certain kind of artist who relishes the living on the edge, and that’s why they call it the Ghost Ship.” The movements of the concerto try to express the before, during, and after of the fire. “The first movement is about the Ghost Ship itself, which I subtitle ‘exhiliration, freedom, and discovery.’ It starts out with a big theme, full of optimism, full of daring.” There was a dance party happening the night of the fire, and the orchestra imitates some of the sounds that might have been heard. “We have the strings doing glissandos, kind of mimicking a slewing oscillator that you would have in electronic dance music. Second movement is the night of the fire. Very exuberant music, but at a certain point, it becomes incendiary. It’s like the music itself catches on fire.” The aftermath, in the third movement, tries to capture both the anger and loss. “There are times when it is somewhat nostalgic, remembering back to the lives and the dreams of those who are no longer here.”