Testimony and Grace: Latest Stanford Live film speaks to a pivotal moment in U.S. history


In Stanford Live’s latest film, Kronos Quartet: Testimony, filmed in Bing Concert Hall earlier this month, Ethio-American singer-songwriter Meklit Hadero delivers a stunning performance of the contemporary folk song “The President Sang Amazing Grace.”

Written by Zoe Mulford, “The President Sang Amazing Grace” is about the killing of nine people at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., by a white supremacist in 2015 and the memorial service that followed where then-President Barack Obama sang “Amazing Grace” as part of the eulogy.

Thomas Friedman, a foreign affairs Op-Ed columnist at the New York Times, included a mention of Meklit’s performance in his latest piece about truth-telling and healing, calling it “incredible.”

Kronos Quartet: Testimony is one of several original films produced by Stanford Live exclusively for Stanford Live members and all current Stanford students, but Stanford Live is making the film available free of charge to everyone through Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. PT. Meklit’s performance will remain available to the public beyond that time.

The film is a musical reflection on this moment in our nation’s history, featuring a Jimi Hendrix-inspired performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Rhiannon Giddens’ “At the Purchaser’s Option,” Charlton Singleton’s “Testimony,” “God Bless America,” and Meklit’s rendition of “The President Sang Amazing Grace.” Performances are paired with poignant spoken word poetry by young Bay Area poets Anouk Yeh, Cecelia “CeCe” Jordan, Jarvis Subia, Zouhair Mussa and Stanford senior DARNELL “DEESOUL” CARSON.

“For this film, we assembled a stellar group of Bay Area artists and collaborators,” says CHRIS LORWAY, executive director at Stanford Live. “Pairing Kronos’ stunning musical arrangements of songs that have defined this nation with poetry that speaks to contemporary issues has resulted in a powerful meditation on the challenges we face and the hope we have for a positive way forward.”