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Roger Guenveur Smith and Meshell Ndegeocello Join ASK YOUR MAMA at the Apollo Tonight

The Apollo Theater and Manhattan School of Music previously announced that actor Roger Guenveur Smith and singer-songwriter and musician Meshell Ndegeocello have been added to the cast of Ask Your Mama, a multimedia symphonic work based on Langston Hughes' epic poem.

Smith will appear as spoken word artist and Ndegeocello will perform as bassist in this sonic tapestry of music, film, and spoken word by Emmy Award-winning composer Laura Karpman. Soprano Jessye Norman will lead an all-star cast that includes jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon. Originally scheduled as part of the cast, ?uestlove and Black Thought of The Roots will not appear due to scheduling conflicts.

The performance will take place at the world famous Apollo Theater tonight, March 23, 2013, and will feature the Manhattan School of Music Chamber Sinfonia led by George Manahan, who also conducted the sold-out world premiere at Carnegie Hall and a subsequent performance at the Hollywood Bowl.

Langston Hughes conceived his 1961 epic "Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz" as a multi-media creation, actually penning sketches for an imaginary soundtrack in the margin of each page as an accompaniment to his words. Hughes' "score" included hot jazz, German lieder, cha-cha, patriotic songs, post-bop, and Middle Eastern, as well as excerpts from specific songs like "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Karpman's composition, with the poet's own recorded voice at the core of the work, brings Hughes's vision to life, combining his language with sounds that come together to evoke the turbulent flow of American cultural life, making the fifty-year old text startlingly current. Sold out debut performances of the work at Carnegie Hall in 2009 were a critical success. This performance of Ask Your Mama brings the Manhattan School of Music: Harlem Nights series to the Apollo.

Ticket information: 35, $55, $75 and $125 (VIP Tickets). Tickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster.

Four-time Emmy Award-winning composer Laura Karpman was raised on bebop and Beethoven, and trained at The Juilliard School, where she played jazz and scatted in bars and studied with Milton Babbitt. Her music has been performed by the Los Angeles and Czech Philharmonics; Orchestra of St. Luke's; Houston, National, Detroit, and Prague Symphonies; and American Composers Orchestra, to name only a few. Her multi-media work Ask Your Mama, written for Jessye Norman and The Roots, premiered to a sold-out house at Carnegie Hall and at the Hollywood Bowl. She has also written scores for Steven Spielberg, PBS, Smithsonian, documentarian Barbara Koppel, the Chinese Government (for which she received an Annie Award nomination), and videogame music (for which she received a GANG Award) for Sony Online Entertainment, where she was resident orchestral composer. Karpman has received the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Ives Fellowship and several ASCAP and Meet the Composer awards and has had residencies at Tanglewood and the MacDowell Colony. A member of the UCLA faculty and recently a guest composer of The Juilliard Composition Forum, she has been a visiting professor for the Valencia Spain campus of Berklee College of Music program since this fall. Recent and upcoming premieres include Hidden World of Girls, a collaboration with NPR's Kitchen Sisters for the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and conductor Marin Alsop; Now All Set, honoring Milton Babbitt; Different Lanes for string quartet and 2 iPads; the 110 Project for the LA Opera, and an opera in collaboration with the New York Times columnist Gail Collins.

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