We Shall Not Be Moved


Continuing WRTI 90.1’s tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the dynamic baritone Keith Spencer joined us on in 2019 for a program that explored the rich musical legacy of the African-American experience, with host Debra Lew Harder.

Opera Philadelphia/Dominic M. Mercier

In a new opera, We Shall Not Be Moved, five teens find shelter in a condemned house in West Philadelphia, inhabited by ghosts recalling five children killed in 1985 when police bombed the headquarters of the black liberation group, MOVE. WRTI’s Susan Lewis spoke with the composer, whose work explores issues of racial and social injustice today. The opera is part of Opera Philadelphia's O17 Festival.

We Shall Not Be Moved is a new opera that takes its name from both the old spiritual-turned-civil-rights anthem and the Philadelphia black liberation group, MOVE. That group might be best-remembered for a 1985 tragedy: A police helicopter bombed the MOVE house, and the resulting fire killed 11 people and destroyed 62 homes in the neighborhood.

The opera, presented by Opera Philadelphia with the Apollo Theater, had its world premiere Sept. 16. It revisits that house and its ghosts, while remaining centered on stories about young people in Philadelphia today.