“Montgomery’s Banner was commissioned in 2014 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner which became America’s national anthem. As an African American, Montgomery felt that the anthem didn’t apply to her, and she wrote a piece to represent today’s multi-cultural society.
Banner is composed from elements of 12 different songs, many drawn from neighbouring countries and including work songs, freedom songs and anthems, particularly the Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice by James Weldon Johnson, which is characterised by a prominent bass line weaving through the composition.
Scored for string quartet and ensemble, Banner begins with a dramatic flourish and there are dissonant passages, abrupt changes of key and tempo, and competing lines as the elements of the chosen songs are heard. The string quartet stands out as the central voice.
The work requires the use of extended techniques, for example to create the sound of the wind blowing. There are programmatic passages where orchestra members stamp their feet, and the bass players slap their instruments rhythmically. Overall, Banner represents the often tumultuous co-existence of disparate communities and cultures. As well as being a powerful metaphor for our times, Montgomery’s work is a thoroughly engaging piece of orchestral writing.”Online Version