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Back Lot Music: "HARRIET" music by Terence Blanchard

Back Lot Music has released the original motion picture soundtrack to Focus Features’ HARRIET today. The soundtrack to the film features new score by Academy Award® nominated and multi-GRAMMY® winning composer Terence Blanchard. It ends with a song written by Joshuah Brian Campbell and lead actress as well as GRAMMY®, Tony® and Emmy® winner Cynthia Erivo entitled “Stand Up”, which serves as the anthem to the story of one of America’s greatest heroes. The film is in theaters today and soundtrack is available both digitally and on CD.

Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, HARRIET tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman's escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

Director Kasi Lemmons said, “To me, HARRIET is a story of tenacity and human courage and strength and purpose and drive. Harriet had this incredible integrity. People that wrote about her contemporaneously talked about her humanity and her warmth. To get all that in this woman, to see what’s behind her magnificent face, this wonderful scowl that she has—in so many pictures she’s got a seriousness of a life lived—we get to show how she got to be this person and witness this transformation of this woman into a real hero.”

To help showcase that transformation through music, Lemmons turned to creative collaborator Blanchard, the six-time Grammy Award®-winning trumpeter and Oscar®-nominated composer who wrote the score for HARRIET. Their professional relationship dates to Lemmons’ acclaimed feature film debut Eve’s Bayou.“Kasi wanted music that would have beauty, harmony, strength and gentleness,” Blanchard says. “She also knew there had to be a fine balance of everything, nothing could be too sweet or too masculine.My approach was to first think about how powerful Harriet Tubman must have been and at the same time, remind myself of how petite she was. I wanted to create a theme that would have strong harmonic content with a beautiful melody. Both things would exemplify the duality of her existence, the strength of her character and the grace by which she conducted herself.”

Lemmons flew to New Orleans to sit with Blanchard in his studio as he wrote music for the score; Blanchard wanted the music for the film to transcend time and place, though the period in which the story takes place did have some bearing on the artistic choices he made. “I spent time finding the balance between the ethnic sound of the drums, matched with the vast colors of a full orchestra,” the composer says, adding that he was careful to underscore the story’s triumphant tone. “This isn’t a slave story. It’s the story of a heroine whose heart and bravery went well beyond the boundaries of oppression, the story of a person moved and called to action.”

In regard to his work on HARRIET, Blanchard said, “Working on a film about a such an important figure in American history was truly a blessing and an honor. To work with Lemmons, a brilliant filmmaker, was once again an incredible experience that allowed us to tell Harriet’s story in a powerful and poignant way.”

In regard to writing Harriet Tubman’s anthem “Stand Up”, Erivo said, “Having played Harriet, there was a deeper knowledge of what she had been through, so I was able to use that knowledge and emotion in creating the song.”

Songwriter and musician Campbell came to the attention of the filmmakers after a 2018 performance of his song “Sing Out/March On” at the Harvard University commencement ceremony went viral. Currently a second-year Master of Divinity student at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, Campbell composed “Sing Out/March On” in response to the Black Lives Matter movement after participating in several of the group’s political actions. The performance at Harvard, which he attended as an undergraduate, was in honor of Congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis.

When the call came to work on HARRIET, Campbell was excited to help pay tribute to Tubman as he shares a special connection to the activist: Like Tubman, he belongs to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. “There was a lot of what I understand as divine order,” Campbell says of being invited to contribute to telling the icon’s story.

Erivo describes “Stand Up” as “a song full of emotion and a story of tenacity,” adding, “I loved performing it; it has a piece of my heart in it. That’s the only way I know how to sing. To be honest, it was really important to me to be able to be part of the creation of the song because it feels like another way to pay tribute to Harriet and to thank her.”
Jeremy [Six Strings]

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