On April 7, 2022, at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in New York City, the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club will give the world premiere of To Repair, a multi-movement work reflecting on what is necessary to bring repair to Black communities in America written by composer and educator Tesfa Wondemagegnehu.
Wondemagegnehu's composition is a response to his experiences on a 60-day journey to over 40 cities that he took in the summer of 2021. Visiting numerous Black neighborhoods; collecting oral histories from Black community leaders, activists, and everyday residents; and visiting sites where unarmed Black people were killed by police; Wondemagegnehu set out on this journey after being challenged by one of his mentors, writer and activist Amanzi Arnett, to immerse himself in Black communities and amplify the voices doing repair work at the ground level.
As Wondemagegnehu says in a 2021 Facebook post introducing the To Repair Project, "it’s BEEN time for me to point the microphone at my Black kinfolk and siblings." The commissioned piece is just one part of Wondemagegnehu's vision for the To Repair Project, which he hopes will "give choirs a direct line" to connect with and invest in Black communities that are doing repair work, and to "seed future partnerships" that are Black-led and continue conversations on repair.
Conversations about commissioning a new work began between Wondemagegnehu and University of Michigan Men's Glee Club conductor Mark Stover back in 2020. The two became friends when both lived in the Twin Cities areas and crossed paths as fellow choral community leaders in the area. As both grappled with the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin, Stover and Wondemagegnehu began talking. "What unfolded from there was a conversation that just went over several weeks and then months and so on," Stover says. He extended an invitation for Wondemagegnehu to respond through music to the feelings and thoughts he was processing, which eventually became To Repair. In February, Wondemagegnehu traveled to Ann Arbor for a four-day residency with the Men's Glee Club, rehearsing the piece and engaging in deep conversation about how to take much-needed further steps toward repairing our communities.
In addition to the April 7 Lincoln Center premiere, the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club will perform To Repair two days later in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the April 9 performance will be available to watch via livestream. Subsequently the work will also be performed on the Men's Glee Club's spring 2022 Midwest tour, including concerts in Champaign, Illinois; Iowa City, Iowa; Northfield, Minnesota; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Madison, Wisconsin; and Chicago, Illinois.
To date, the To Repair Project and the To Repair composition have also been written about in Forbes and by the University of Michigan, and Wondemagegnehu set up a Facebook page in 2021 to document his journey, as well as providing updates on his personal social media accounts.