Arts Scene: 'No Tears Suite' Composers Christopher Parker And Kelley Hurt

Oct 2, 2020

Credit Art direction by Carter/Reddy / Photograph of Elizabeth Eckford courtesy of The Will Counts Collection, Indiana University Archives

Melba Pattillo Beals, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Thelma Mothershed, Terrence Roberts and Jefferson Thomas. 

Those nine Black Arkansans became part of Civil Rights history 63 years ago as the first to attend classes at the previously all-white Little Rock Central High School.

The story of the Little Rock Nine is a nuanced one; a story of bravery and torment that for some who lived it is a story too painful and harrowing to tell.

Little Rock musicians Christopher Parker and Kelley Hurt sought to accurately represent the gravity of that story, while celebrating the triumph of it, in their jazz composition “No Tears Suite” based on the memoir "Warriors Don’t Cry" by Melba Pattillo Beals.

They enlisted Grammy-award winning drummer Brian Blade, bassist Bill Huntington, trumpeter Marc Franklin, and saxophonists Bobby LaVell and Chad Fowler to make their interpretation of this essential account of civil rights history accessible to the modern audience.

Arts Scene spoke with Hurt and Parker about the work behind the music, and their approach to revisiting and re-telling the Nine’s story. The suite, and an orchestral arrangement played by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra is newly-released by Arkansas jazz label Mahakala Music and the Oxford American.