Composer’s Spotlight – Nicholas Brittel – 12 Years a Slave

12 years a slave poster 

Download MP3 Podcast | Open Player in New Window

As the film 12 Years a Slave opens, we see a group of slaves toiling away in the field, and we hear perfectly synchronized to their chopping, the chorus…

When I was young, I saw the sun, Too hot for me, Too late for me, Live or die, Lay down and cry, Hey boys!, I’m tired, My Lord Sunrise …

That is the first stanza of the original song “My Lord Sunshine (Sunrise), played against such imagery, sets the tone for the film and is written by songwriter Nicholas Britell for director Steve McQueen’s gripping cinematic recounting of the memoir of Solomon Northup, who as a free New York state black violinist was abducted and sold into slavery. In composing and arranging such spiritual work songs like “My Lord Sunshine (Sunrise)” and “Roll Jordan Roll” as well as three traditional fiddle tunes on the 12 Years a Slave soundtrack, Britell painstakingly researched this lost form of music, which was never recorded and in many cases never written out, in an effort to bring the most accurate musical representation to this landmark story. The songwriter joins us for a conversation on the challenges and rewards of recreating musical history.

For more on 12 Years a Slave news and screenings at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *