Friday, August 1, 2014

Calling All Baritone Saxophone Players

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 9:00 AM


Joshua fit the battle of Jericho
Jericho, Jericho
Joshua fit the battle of Jericho
The walls come tumblin’ down, Hallelujah

The well-known spiritual is a song of freedom and deliverance—the Israelites’ deliverance into the Promised Land and the deliverance of African Americans out of slavery. And few can hear its verses without remembering the deep, booming bass of Paul Robeson.

A graduate of Rutgers University and Columbia Law, Robeson was as famous for his social activism as he was for his roles onstage and in film. After playing an active role in the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, he ascended to theatrical fame for his title role in “Othello” on Broadway and for his rendition of “Ol’ Man River” in Show Boat. But his career was compromised by his vocal criticism of racial inequalities in the US and by his support of pro-Soviet policy. In 1950, he was blacklisted.

On Thursday, August 21, sculptor and new media artist Justin Randolph Thompson will put on Fit the Battle at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art. The large scale piece is a celebration of Paul Robeson’s spirit and contributions to the American civil rights movement. It also commemorates the 65th anniversary of the Peekskill Riots—in 1949, the announcement of a Robeson concert sparked anti-communist, anti-black, anti-Semitic riots at Cortlandt Manor.

Thompson’s work will blend a sculptural installation, live performance, video, and sound. It will also involve what is hoped to be the largest ever meeting of baritone saxophonists; together, musicians from all over the world will evoke Robeson’s powerful bass and unyielding determination in the face of adversity.

If you’re a baritone saxophonist and want to contribute, send an e-mail to with “Fit the Battle” in the subject line. The event is free and will run from 6pm to 8pm at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art in Peekskill.

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