The Gentleman Rests is a concert performance of a new opera depicting the special session of congress in 2001 in which the Congressional Black Caucus attempted to halt the certification of Florida’s votes for the contested presidential election due to alleged disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of Floridians. Composer Dave Ruder (thingNY) sets transcripts of the congressional session to music for five vocalists, viola, trombone, Rhodes piano and bassoon, including the ironic drama of Al Gore (as President of the Senate) following congressional protocol by gaveling over each objecting Black Caucus member, hastening the end of his presidential ambitions. … After two months of post-election chaos in Florida in late 2000, the congressional session depicted in Ruder’s opera was the final step declaring Bush the winner. The Congressional Black Caucus repeatedly tried to raise objections about the results from Florida, citing widespread disenfranchisement and irregularities (that, as usual in the history of US voting, impacted African-Americans hardest), and each objection was turned away because no senator would second them.
The Gentleman Rests in part serves as a reminder that despite the outrage and confusion over the outcome of an election in which the candidate who won the popular vote lost the presidency, in which the Supreme Court and the brother of one of the candidates somehow played a role, and in which one candidate presided over the joint session of congress that finally crowned his rival, precious little has changed in the machinery of major US elections. By foregrounding the Congressional Black Caucus’s efforts to call attention to disenfranchisement in Florida, the piece also calls attention to constant efforts over the history of the US to keep African-Americans from voting, and how the past 16 years have seen increased opportunity for such discrimination via the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.