Sharing Music Through the Pandemic: Augusta Read Thomas

Augusta Read Thomas Map of Form for Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity

As composer and University Professor Augusta Read Thomas has said, “Music’s eternal quality is its capacity for change, transformation, and renewal,” and while we remain distanced in our homes and even though live, in-person performances remain on hold at this time, that quality continues to shine through the ways that artists and musicians, including Thomas herself, continue to create and share their work with us all. Thomas put that capacity on full display in a new commission premiered virtually by the Utah Symphony.

Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity for Orchestra

On April 26, 2020, Utah Symphony Music director Thierry Fischer called Thomas to invite her to create a new, four-minute fanfare that could be performed by the Symphony, with the stipulation that each musician would be performing alone from their homes. Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity was composed in late April and early May 2020 and it was a mere two weeks from the initial phone call until the time that Thomas delivered a full orchestral score and set of instrumental parts. (Clearly Thomas and her engraver had very little sleep that fortnight!) Certain limitations exist simply due to the nature of how the music is being premiered. As one example, Thomas was only able to write for a very few, small percussion instruments which happened to be stored in the homes of the percussionists. The composition, which features the brass section of the Utah Symphony, is majestic, optimistic, blazing, and passionate. Yet, in the center of the piece, a robust expressive and eloquent lyrical passage unfolds a range of emotions. The composition ends as if reaching skyward – affirming and hopeful – as bells’ resonance hangs in the air like ripples of sunlight.

Read more about the project here:

Cathedral Choral Society Commission and the Choral Arts Society of Washington

Before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Thomas was set to premiere another new work for a chorus of 120 singers and orchestra for the Cathedral Choral Society’s “March of the Women” program in Washington, D.C. Though that performance was postponed due to the pandemic, Thomas had the opportunity to sit down (remotely) with the Cathedral Choral Society’s colleagues at the Choral Arts Society of Washington as part of their multi-part interview series featuring women composers. Watch the conversation with CASW’s Scott Tucker here:

Supporting Other Artists

Thomas continues her work supporting other artists through volunteer work including as Vice President for Music of The American Academy of Arts and Letters, and as a member of the Boards of Directors of The Aaron Copland Fund, The Koussevitzky Foundation, The Alice M. Ditson Fund at Columbia University, and Le Conseil Musical de la Foundation Prince Pierre de Monaco. “I’m routing for everyone to do their best work," she says, both about the current moment and generally.

Recent Releases and Upcoming Projects

In addition to new commissions from the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, the Eastman School of Music for their Centennial, a consortium of 12 Wind Ensembles, and the Indianapolis Symphony for which she composed Sun DanceThomas has very recently had her work recorded on four new albums.

In February, University of Chicago carilloneur Joey Brink released a new album titled Ripple Effects, including music by Augusta Read Thomas and four University of Chicago graduate student composers: Alison Yun-Fei Jiang, Maria Kaoutzani, Ted Moore, and Austin D. Simonds. That same month, award winning Chicago-based quintet Axiom Brass released First Impressions, featuring Thomas’ Avian Capriccio.


In March, the Miller-Porforis Duo, comprising violinist Anton Miller and violinist Rita Porforis, released recordings of Thomas’ Rumi Settings, Double Helix, and Silent Moon on its album Threaded Sky, and just this month, Nimbus Records released the complete recording of Thomas’ The Auditions, commissioned by Peak Performances at Montclair State University for the Martha Graham Dance Company, performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble.