Abeni Merriweather, originally from El Paso, became the youngest composer of the major music publishing house Carl Fischer Music Company.
“Anyone who makes music obviously knows who Carl Fisher is. … He’s been one of the most respected music publishers for literally a century, ”said Merriweather. “So I was like, oh they want my part?” “
Founded in 1872, the New York-based company has been an educational leader and publisher for a variety of musical genres such as jazz, concert music, and choirs. Fischer is also home to some of the most famous music catalogs by composers such as Howard Hansn and Pulitzer Prize winner Norman Dello Joio.
“I just think of (how I am) this black girl from El Paso (who) got the attention of a big company,” she said.
Merriweather, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Texas at El Paso, caught the eye of Fischer editor-in-chief Denise Eaton after she performed an a capella arrangement, “Hold On Just A Little While Longer ”during the UTEP Choral Concert in October 2020.
“I saw the comments and she said, ‘Who wrote this play? Who is it published by? ‘ ”Said Merriweather. “So I went to his profile, texted him and said, ‘Hi, I’m the arranger of this piece. And she said, ‘I really like your piece and I think it would be a great piece to include in our July catalog.’ “
Two days after her birthday last week, she signed a deal with the company to give them the publishing rights and feature in this month’s music catalog. Her piece is also showing at the Texas Choral Directors Association in San Antonio this week.
“I am very happy to have released Abeni’s first choral arrangement with Carl Fischer Music,” said Eaton. “She’s a very talented songwriter – and I can’t wait to see the success of the piece ‘Hold On Just a Little While Longer’ and future compositions.”
Merriweather said she still deals with what she accomplished as just six years ago she had no idea music and music composition would become her passion.
“If someone had told me when I was 14 when I was singing that I would end up being a songwriter, published by a big company and doing all these other musical things, I would have been like, ‘What- what Carl Fisher? ‘” she said.
After performing Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” at an open mic session at the Youth Center, Merriweather’s interest in singing and music took off.
Now Merriweather says she thinks working with music is what she’s supposed to do.
“I think at this point that’s what I’m supposed to do, it’s my calling because of the joy and pride it has brought me into my life,” she said. . “I don’t think music has ever given me anything unwanted.”
Merriweather’s piece is an arrangement of black spirituals dating back to the days of legal slavery in America. She said she was inspired to use spirituals after hearing it in a video game.
“I have the basic melody that stays throughout and it’s like a slow build-up,” Merriweather said. “The sound is built with the chords and that dramatic chord towards the end fades in unison. I wanted it to be in unison on purpose, because I felt it was a very important way to end the piece in that you technically start in unison, and you end up in unison through everything.
While the lyrics of her piece are simple, “wait a little longer” and “everything will be fine,” Merriweather said, it’s the context of those words that adds the emotion.
“I really felt like those particular words were important no matter how simple they were because the message is right there, you just have to hang on,” she said. “I felt that these words were very important in these times of shooting (Walmart), pandemic and police brutality. The main message is that we all need to stay internally a little longer (and) everything will be fine. “
Merriweather said she started this play during her senior year at Andress High School, but took a hiatus until the shooting at the Walmart in El Paso on August 3, 2019.
“The only thing I could think of at the time was adjusting to the music,” she said. “There was a lot of grief, a lot of pain and anger. There is so much I can say without music.
She took it over in the summer of 2020 after the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
“It was a lot of stuff to deal with,” she said. “There (was) so much to do to keep up with the news and the protests. It can be very damaging on a spiritual level.
On Twitter, Merriweather isn’t shy about saying what she thinks about her blackness, racism, politics and other perspectives. But she still says the music does something her tweets can’t.
“We say the words we want, but sometimes music, art, expresses things 10 times more than words ever will,” she said. “I can convey, even have the conviction in my voice, of the pain I am feeling as a black woman in America right now. But I can also paint this in songs.
Although a video game inspired her to use dark spiritual hymns in her arrangement, Merriweather said she always intended to recognize and use the story of the songs.
“From slavery until now, we have always used music, not just to face, but to say something,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that most of the time we still sang the same songs from the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s until now, but I think that’s really where our power comes from. We always sing the same songs because the same things are happening and they still have the same meaning. “
As a composer for Carl Fischer, other musicians can perform his piece. But she hopes the song’s message remains intact.
“If they don’t get or really get the message out, the song has been lost, but it’s not necessarily something I can really focus on,” she said.
Merriweather said she provided notes on the song’s meaning for others who choose to perform it. Most importantly, she hopes her presence as a black woman in music and as a songwriter will help pave the way for other young black people.
“It’s great because growing up until now it’s very difficult to find black female songwriters and even harder to find black female songwriters,” said Merriweather. “I really want more young people in general, but especially young black people, to realize that if they feel really passionate about pursuing not only music, but all that is creative, there is a possibility that it will be. flourish and be fruitful. “
Cover photo: Abeni Merriweather’s composition ‘Hold On Just A Little While Longer’ is published by Carl Fischer, a New York-based music publisher.