Every nation, even the most progressive ones like Denmark, have dark chapters in their histories. The Danish dark chapters relate to the colonial past and being a slave nation. These issues still reflect on the Danish identity and current political discourse today.
Composer Peter Jensen, who is also the artistic director of Tivoli Gardens- was asked by the Royal Danish Library to the address these sore issues on the occasion of the centennial of the sale of The Danish West Indian colonies to The United States. «Stand On Your Feet and Fight – Voices of West Indies» is his short composition for the Danish Radio Big Band, with whom he has worked before, integrating three recorded testimonies by West Indian women – collected by ethnologist Mary Jane Soule and kept at the Royal Library, plus a recording of Virgin Islander Victor Cornelins, telling how he as a child was exhibited in a cage in the Tivoli Gardens.
Jensen’s composition seek to elevate the field recordings-testimonies by means of a contrasting musical energy fields. The testimonies represent the emotional core of the composition, but Jensen asks us – the listeners – not only for our obvious sympathy but also to contemplate about these painful experiences and to act, think again about our political-moral stand. In doing so, he deliberately avoided any reference to Caribbean music.
The nuance, reserved composition begins with the meditative, chamber «Bad Men In St. Croix», that already letting us know that this composition focuses on the actions of «very bad people». The first testimonies in «The Only Laugh He Could Get» is accompanied by a bluesy theme and leads to the dramatic, title-piece that sounds today as a moral testament coming from the most oppressed, the ones who really value freedom and human respect. Jensen frames the speech of the Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen at the celebration of the 100th anniversary of «Transfer Day» of the West Indies islands on 2017 as an ironic counterpoint to the testimonies of the West Indian women, lacking any moral responsibility to the horrific role of Denmark in the history of the islands, that still shapes its political climate as well of Denmark. The following «Fireburn», with a testimony that is sung more than read, and the last, melancholic lament «Triangular Lament» suggest that «Stand On Your Feet and Fight – Voices of West Indies» actually acts as as the missing monument over Denmark’s participation in the transatlantic slave trade for more than 200 years, but Denmark needs more tangible, bigger and visual monuments than this impressive composition.
Peter Jensen (concept, comp, orchestrations), Andreas Vetö (cond), Peter Fuglsang (ss, as, cl, contrabaa cl), Kasper Wagner (ss, as, afl), Hans Ulrik (ss, ts, bcl), Karl-Martin Almqvist (ts, cl), Anders Gaardmand (bs, bfl, bcl), Erik Eilertsen (tp, flh), Bjarke Nikolajsen (tp, flh), Thomas Kjærgaard (tp, flh), Tobias Wiklund (tp, flh), Gerard Presencer (tp, flh), Vincent Nilsson (tb), Anders Larson (tb), Kevin Christensen (tb), Annette Saxe (tb), Jakob Munck (tbtb, tuba, v), Per Gade (g), Henrik Gunde (p), Kaspar Vadsholdt (b), Søren Frost (dr)