"Enslaved" is the second movement of the Requiem for Rice performed by The Lloyd Mallory Singes and South Carolina University Chamber Ensemble. This was apart of the healing workshops held at both the Mother Emmanul AME Church where Dylan Roof tragically murdered 9 members.


Charles is a sensitive composer drawn to exotic orchestral colors and the mysticism of the African folk melodies born here in America.

Over time he has coupled traditional classical elements with an introspective idea of composition. Reading “The Black Composer Speaks” contributed greatly to a coherent molding of these introspective ideas together, and too, in the further discovering of a deep passion for AfriClassical music (classical music of the African diaspora).

Primarily self taught until his former years, he has shared experiences in performing across the country at some notable concert halls to include Jordan Hall, The Kennedy Center, Strathmore Hall, and Murphy Fine Arts Center. Having performed under the batons of David N. Baker, Roland Carter, Charles Dickerson, William Drury and Lloyd B. Mallory, Jr. There lies a great deal of his inspiration, and he is deeply grateful for the passionate teachings of these conductors.

In addition to premiering his own works, Charles holds a strong passion for premiering and performing the works of other AfriClassical and living composers. Notable mentions include Bill Banfield’s 8th symphony, Charles Dickerson’s I Have a Dream, David Amram’s Summertime and Greenwich Village Portraits as well as Roland Carter’s Hold Fast to Dreams.

Website: charlesmurrell3.com

Artist Statement:

Veneration and reverence are the crossroads that illuminate my path. My artist process, like gumbo, is a collage of my experience. It is both rooted in African sound and mysticism involving the healing modalities of sound, playing, and movement as well as European and Western “classical” approaches. Venerable artist found in my work include Florence Price, John Coltrane, J. S. Bach, W. A. Mozart, and Sergei Prokofiev. Coltrane, for example, has come to stand for “a disciplined mind-set, a desire for spiritual ecstasy, and a vision of music as ritual and of performance as a holy rite”. For example, Requiem for Rice, John Henry, A Song of the Innocent, A Prayer for the Victims of America, why the caged bird sings, all have venerable and reverent qualities to them. These icons in the black community are used in a ritual (music). “Ritual is not compatible with the rapid rhythm that industrialism has injected into life. So whenever ritual happens in a place commanded by or dominated by a machine, ritual becomes a statement against the very rhythm that feeds the needs of that machine. It makes no difference whether it is a political machine or otherwise.” In discussing the healing modalities of sound I am rooted in ancient research of cultures like the Yoruba, Dagara, Islam, Kemet (Egypt), and other indigenous ways of being in and through music. “In virtually every system of spirituality the world has ever known, sound has been considered a direct link between humanity and the divine. The ancient mystery schools all taught their students the use of sound as a creative and healing force.”

Using black folk lore as creative springboard adds an enchanting element often hiding things in plain sight. This can be heard in using negro spirituals in outdated forms such as chaconnes, ground bass, or fugues. Other expressive elements included the clave, the blues, the 2nd line of New Orleans, the rain shouts of negro spirituals, the work songs of the fields, gumboot dances from South Carolina, Americana square dances, hunting music, sea shanties, war cry’s found in gospel, cakewalks and ragtimes, and the most important call and response.

Having studied classical music at the New England Conservatory and growing up in the black church experience the term “3rd stream” I learned while studying at NEC (coined by NEC’s Gunther Schuller) didn’t seem to do the music in my heart justice. Also searching to no avail for traces of Florence Price and Coretta King at NEC didn’t sit well either. It wasn’t until Afro-brazillian dance became a study that music really clicked. “The deer said: make a string of my veins, make a carpet of my skin - but, whilst there is breath in this body, play!”

Art + Activism means having a land acknowledgement ceremony to open all rituals. It also means using the tuning in comparable with Sufi tradition using the period not only for the tuning of the instruments but the tuning of the people.

Project Description:

The Underground Railroad Project (The U.X. Project) was begun during the summer of 2021 and ran through out the entire summer and concluded at South Boston Street Art Festival. The first installment was “The Moon Cricket Songs” and incorporated live multi-media installments through the city of Boston and at other public protest and private rituals. These were donation based many being free for the public. As a teaching artist I was able to bring together community and help students learn history, the creative process, and folk lore. These were either free opportunities or paid via my involvement as Lead Creative with Youth Speak Project (youthspeakproject.org). In New Jersey even a marching band attended various workshops and created a final presentation!

For the ambitious 2022 season deliverables include three short novels, a short film, and other community engagement projects (such as performances, dances, installations, etc.). Traveling down to South Carolina again to mark the Underground Railroads trips all the way up to New Bedford, MA. I have been working with a few performing arts organizations (Anne Kelton, Natalie Zemba, Ashleigh Gordon + Anthony Green, Michael Dowling, Mawakana Onifade) to recreate and create new spaces honoring ancestors similar to the start of this project. In South Carolina, the Lloyd Mallory Singers premiered my vocal composition “Wade in the Wata” over the unmarked graves of 250 slaves. This season will include black churches, slave auction sites such as Faneuil Hall, abolition meeting spots such as The Freedom Tree in Brockon, MA and other churches or locations, bodies of water and marsh along the Chesapeake Bay, and other important locations. As is tradition, history will be shared around land acknowledgement and the combined efforts of indigenous and African/Black communities. Icons included Br’er Rabbit, High John de Conqueror, Robert Johnson, Anansi, Black Sparticus, Chessie, and Violin for Oshun. Landmarks include Times Square (NY), New Bedford (MA), Brockton (MA), Black Heritage Trail (MA), 36 Lispenard St. (NY), Plymouth Rock (NY), Combahee River (SC), Magnolia Plantation (SC), Sandy Island (SC), Mordecai Plantation (NC) and a return to Mother African Methodist Episcopal Church (SC). Along with sharing artistic talents, I will continue to record and collect stories along these important locations. Being a monodrama, the U.X. Project, stories are central to this project. When my 94 year old grandfather passed it became critical to complete this project. He told me tons of stories accounting the untold history of America and of his military service. I started thinking that the last of these urban storytelling vets held gems of wisdom and keen insight. Zora Neale Hurston has become an important inspiration in the upcoming season as modeled by her epic “Of Mules and Men”.

This Black Radical Imagination driven project started as a desire to write a fan fiction opera to Janelle Monae’s ArchAndroid album. In the writing process a vision of modern speculative fiction was had. I heard the story of Irish immigrants living in America using buckets as sacred cleansing tools. Immediately my mind correlated to the African calabash having the same place in its society being keenly important of holding sacred water and herbs to wash away spiritual problems. This connection made me realize healing can happen in America uncovering the connective tissue of these sacred places along the Underground Railroad. In Appalachian Granny Magic we see traces of old world root working and approaches to helping community heal. In Hoodoo there is a emphasis on the Psalms. Candomble and Santeria synthesized Catholic and African Yoruba and Kongo/Dagara beliefs. These mystic traditions share many things that have come to be a gumbo in my mind. The process for making gumbo, calling everyone to the pot and sharing our individual to make a collective in the pot is what I’m trying to conjure. I want to remind people that it takes the food of many to make a pot big enough to feed the community. I want to remind people our differences to hinder us from helping to make a great tasting pot of gumbo. The water transforms the raw ingredients from different places all over the globe into a comforting mixture of love and nourishment.

The archetype of the Great Mother is represented by both water and earth. When we talk of restorative justice or healing circles, BIPOC, youth, and LGBTQIA+ communities are in dire need of service. This is why every engagement of The U.X. Project from foot washing ceremonies to story telling and rain shouts all serve the inner and outer being. Art as activism is highly transformative. I can reflect on many moments where the connection of healing was revealed in the process of working on art together. Even tonight the students in my cohort of the Youth Speak Project felt comfortable enough to share very personal stories around homophobia in their families and how their own lives and friends have been impacted by this pandemic. We were working on quilt squares for our “Touched” project which under the direction of SPOKE/MWproductions addresses the many pandemics we are currently living in including homelessness, racism, classism, sexism, COVID 19, and many others. Music is not only the tone of voice, or the soothing tones playing in the background. Music is the heart beats coming together to ripple the pool of restorative waters. Music is the footsteps of resilience that it took to come to that space and to leave that space. Music are the affirmations we recited as we closed the nights activities and the sound of passing cars outside in the cities that they live in. One BIPOC youth shared her own story of queer resistance and became a beacon of resounding joy to help the others feel comfortable sharing. These spaces are in dire need before such pandemics but even more so now! These youth had a chance to talk about racist history in state testing that they are facing in the classrooms. After I connected these to the industrial model that most public schools facilitate they quickly brought up the penitentiary system. This is the only system that supports the behaviors many institutions have instilled in these youth. This was reflected in the fabric that they selected. And in the detail oriented slow moving they used to put the fabric together or in the drawings on the fabric.