‘The Hill We Climb’: A new music film of Amanda Gorman’s poem
The Hill We Climb.

BALTIMORE— Amit Peled and the Mount Vernon Virtuosi have released a new performance film set to the world premiere of composer John Clayton’s The Hill We Climb. The piece is inspired by and is set to the poem of the same name by American poet and activist Amanda Gorman, which she powerfully recited at the presidential inauguration in January 2021. Peled and the Mount Vernon Virtuosi filmed the piece at The Station Foundation in Bozeman, Mont., where they participated in a week-long “bubble” of intensive study inspired by the NBA Bubble and performed for the Station Foundation residents, Special Operations Forces navigating the rough terrain of transition and reintegration back to civilian life.

Describing the impetus behind creating the film, Peled says, “After such a turbulent time around the world due to Covid coupled with the continuous struggle for more equality in our country, the making of this film has been a torch of hope and strength for all of us who were involved in its creation. We hope viewers will find the music and words as inspiring and healing as we have.”

Composer John Clayton says, “I imagined a scenario that would highlight the strength and the beauty of that poem, but also allow for a conversation between the cello ensemble and the maestro playing the solo parts…as if it were a concerto grosso.”

The featured cellists include Amit Peled, Natalia Vilchis, Nick Pascucci, Lindsey Choung, Mairéad Flory, Kyle Victor, Jiaoyang Sunny Xu, and Álvaro Vázquez Osa. The film was recorded in June 2021 by audio and video producer Matt Carr.

Clayton’s composition lasts just under 20 minutes and combines some advanced techniques for the cello in a highly accessible, fresh-sounding work that summons up the classic cello ensemble compositions by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos while communicating an American idiom resonant with blues, jazz, percussion, and patriotism, all to the now-familiar voice of the poet herself reciting her history-making work. Setting a piece of classic literary Americana to music inevitably recalls Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait or Samuel Barber’s Knoxville Summer of 1915. It is well worth the listen.

About John Clayton

Bassist, composer, arranger, and producer, John Clayton, is a busy man. With a Grammy on his shelf and nine additional nominations, he’s had artists such as Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, Regina Carter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gladys Knight, Queen Latifah, and Charles Aznavour on his crowded calendar. In 1985 he co-founded the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and rekindled The Clayton Brothers Quintet. In addition to individual clinics, workshops, and private students, Clayton also directs the educational components associated with the Centrum Jazz Festival and Workshop, and Vail Jazz Workshop. Career highlights include arranging the “Star Spangled Banner” for Whitney Houston’s performance at Super Bowl 1990 (the recording went platinum), playing bass on Paul McCartney’s CD Kisses on the Bottom, arranging and playing bass with Yo-Yo Ma and Friends on Songs of Joy and Peace, and arranging, playing and conducting the CD Charles Aznavour with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, as well as numerous recordings with the Clayton Brothers, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Milt Jackson, Monty Alexander, and many others. Learn more at www.johnclaytonjazz.com.

About Amit Peled

Praised by The Strad magazine and The New York Times, internationally renowned cellist Amit Peled is acclaimed as one of the most exciting and virtuosic instrumentalists on the concert stage today. Having performed in many of the world’s most prestigious venues, Peled has released over a dozen recordings on the Naxos, Centaur, Delos, and CTM Classics labels. A professor since 2003 at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, he has performed and presented master classes around the world. For more information, visit www.amitpeled.com.

About the Mount Vernon Virtuosi

The Mount Vernon Virtuosi is a chamber orchestra based in Baltimore. Composed of seventeen string players, the orchestra was founded in 2018 by Amit Peled with a mission to provide a place of artistic growth for the young musicians on the brink of their professional careers. By providing a platform for young musicians to continue developing their skills, personal growth is achieved by engaging with audiences of all ages through exceptional performances and community engagement activities throughout the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. region. To learn more, visit www.mountvernonvirtuosi.com.

Watch the Film for The Hill We Climb.


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.