Sebastian Ruth, CMW’s Founder & Artistic Director, was inspired to commission Anthem in November 2008 after reading an article by Bob Herbert in The New York Times in which the author framed the 2008 presidential election in the context of the civil rights movement. Sebastian felt that this historic moment needed to be celebrated in appropriate CMW fashion—through music.
Anthem was composed by CMW resident musician Jessie Montgomery, with lyrics by Fidelia “Kirby” Vasquez, a CMW cello student. In composing Anthem, Jessie combined The Star Spangled Banner with Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing (commonly known as the Black National Anthem, which, starting in the 1970s, was often sung immediately after The Star Spangled Banner when the event had a significant African-American population). The combining of two of our nation’s significant musical anthems represents, according to Kirby, “a whole step for change."