Keith Allegretti 



Voices of Death Row

for baritone and chamber ensemble (2017)


Program Note

Voices of Death Row is a performance focusing on poems by death row inmates in Texas, housed at the Alan B. Polunsky Unit in Livingston: Terence Andrus, Malik Gobert, Garland Harper, and Clinton Young. Through music, movement, and drama, five operatic art songs are presented in a staged production. A collaboration between prisoners and university students, this piece humanizes those who are dehumanized.


Poetry by Terence Andrus, Garland Harper, Malik Gobert, and Clinton Young

I. Mail Call (Terence Andrus)
Shhh, total silence, in the midst of death.
Life’s romance is being dealt,
from a letter beyond the
electric fence,
a life’s presence is being felt.
A moment of beauty
in this confined design;
an escape into silence,
shhh, mail call time.
II. Soul's View (Malik Gobert)
See prayers are the window to the Soul
My intellect, my will, my emanations
Now that’s a spiritual devotion
Gaze into the attributes of my essences
And listen to what each one is stressing
Do you like the flavor of each one?
Is it like your favorite dessert?
Your spiritual feet are on intimate
This is like a soulful show-down
How many licks will it take you to get to my core?
You keep licking your lips like you want more
I pray five times a day
So that’s like an encore
Dame!!! our yoke is equal
And now I’m hearing your conversations with God
Dame!!! our concerns are mutual
Our intellects are so honest
No criticism
Just me and you
And a complete picture of our
Soul’s view.
III. Illuminate (Garland Harper)
Wide eyed, stepping outside, in the dark.
As they shine and wink at me,
twinkling, on the backdrop
of a dark blue black canvas.
Reminding me that someone
may be watching me.
As I walk through life
on the red carpet.
Flash bulbs pop with excitement.
I also dazzle, wink, twinkle, and shine.
Knowing my excellence,
As I, too, am a star!
IV. Murder Became Me (Clinton Young)
Hollow tips,
Solemn rips,
All through my flesh.
Empty clips,
Bloody eclipse,
Inhale my last breath.
V. Black Rose (Terence Andrus)
Rising through
chipped paint, rusty doors
stained steel, and cracked floors,
a black rose
rose for an encore.
Rooted by tears of spilled dreams,
and the soil of being deemed
unenviable for life’s theme;
yet, blossomed, a rose has risen.
Nurtured by the rays of hope on the horizon,
a fellow petal’s guidance,
and the pose of nature’s elegance.
Such beauty, through concrete and steel,
a black rose is living
in spite of existing.

Duration: ca. 25 minutes


Performance History

April 10 and 12, 2017
Austin, Texas
Jawan Jenkins, baritone; kt shorb, director; BP Houle, media designer