THE GATES OF JUSTICE, Brubeck's Epic Cantata Of Black-Jewish Healing, Gets Rare 3-Day Spotlight By UCLA

By: Nov. 16, 2022
THE GATES OF JUSTICE, Brubeck's Epic Cantata Of Black-Jewish Healing, Gets Rare 3-Day Spotlight By UCLA

The newly opened Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music announces the launch of MUSIC AND JUSTICE, a series of concerts and dialogue bringing artists and academics together to deep-dive into race and social justice issues in the modern world.

The kick-off is a monumental three-day festival, February 26-28, centered around THE GATES OF JUSTICE, jazz legend Dave Brubeck's rarely presented large-scale sacred composition. In the liner notes to the recording that came out in 1970 on Decca Records (now out of print), Brubeck wrote: "Concentrating on the historic and spiritual parallels of Jews and American blacks, I hoped through the juxtaposition and amalgamation of a variety of musical styles to construct a bridge upon which the universal theme of brotherhood could be communicated."

A historic performance of The Gates of Justice takes place Sunday, February 26 at 4:00 p.m. in Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, with Brubeck's sons as the accompanying jazz trio for the first time ever. The balance of the program features six socially conscious works by contemporary composers, including a world premiere by the great Arturo O'Farrill. A second performance of this entire program takes place at a local Black church in Los Angeles, Holman United Methodist Church, on Tuesday, February 28 at 7:30 p.m.. And on Monday, February 27, a daylong public conference features prominent scholars and experts exploring the historical and cultural connections of Black and Jewish communities in the United States, intimate analyses of Brubeck's Gates of Justice, and the contemporary relevance of music to social justice.

Brubeck composed Gates of Justice in the aftermath of the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was commissioned by the umbrella organization of America's Reform Judaism movement specifically to address increasing tensions between the Jewish and African American communities. But to Dave and his wife Iola Brubeck (Iola composed lyrics for Gates and compiled a textual tapestry of biblical and Hebrew liturgical excerpts, quotes from Dr. King's speeches and the Jewish sage, Hillel, and songs from African American spirituals), the work had a more universal message concerning "the brotherhood of man." Social justice was a key part of Brubeck's moral core.

In the words of Mark Kligman, director of the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience: "Through music, dialogue and the exchange of ideas, Music and Justice will demonstrate how the Milken Center engages with important issues and aligns with the aspirations of The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music for scholarship and performance at the highest level. Brubeck's Gates of Justice shows a creative and inspiring response to trauma. There is no better time than now to reintroduce the world to Brubeck's composition as a means for racial reconciliation and national healing. Our performances will provide students and professionals a unique experience to musically express the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam [repairing the world]."

Eileen Strempel, inaugural dean of The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, describes Gates of Justice as "a work of magical musical beauty that by its sheer compelling artistry rivets the listener into the journey of being a better version of ourselves both as individuals and as a country. This work resonates with our time; its struggles and inspiration should not be missed."

In a historic first, the jazz trio performing Gates of Justice will be Brubeck's sons Darius Brubeck (piano), Chris Brubeck (bass), and Dan Brubeck (drums). The three perform regularly as Brubecks Play Brubeck, but this marks the first time they come together to play Gates. Joining them will be UCLA students, professional musicians, and accomplished soloists under the direction of Neal Stulberg, director of orchestral studies and professor of conducting at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

Phillip K. Bullock is the baritone soloist in Gates. Equally at home in opera, gospel, and pop music, Bullock was heralded in Opera News for his "appealingly suave baritone" and "strong presence." A champion of new music, he most recently premiered two roles in the critically acclaimed new opera Castor & Patience by Gregory Spears and Tracy K. Smith. Bullock will be joined by Azi Schwartz, senior cantor of Park Avenue Synagogue in New York. Schwartz is a world-renowned singer and recording artist whose music reaches both Jewish and interfaith audiences internationally.

A remarkable choir joins the soloists on stage. It combines singers from local African-American churches, synagogues, UCLA, and Tonality, the award-winning vocal ensemble noted for its adventurous, socially conscious programming and "open-hearted singing." Under the direction of founder Dr. Alexander Lloyd Blake, Tonality is dedicated to representing the diverse cultures of Los Angeles. Both the LA Times and the NYT have taken note of Blake's work in anti-racism within classical music.

Juxtaposed with The Gates of Justice will be six works by contemporary composers addressing issues of social justice, including two fascinating world premieres: Still Waiting... by six-time Grammy winner and UCLA professor of music Arturo O'Farrill, based on the promises of civil rights; and Dear Freedom Riders by composer/singer/pianist/conductor Diane White-Clayton, written for 13 UCLA student singers who symbolize the 1st 1961 group of 13 Freedom Riders. Vocal works by Joel Thompson, Jared Jenkins, Nick Strimple, and Gerald Cohen round out the program.

A pre-concert lecture at 2:30 p.m. features a discussion with composer, teacher and musician Darius Brubeck, and Wall Street Journal music critic and culture reporter Larry Blumenfeld. Darius, the oldest son of Dave Brubeck (named after the French Jewish composer Darius Milhaud, Brubeck's teacher at Mills College), is an educator who initiated the first Jazz Studies Degree offered by an African university, and currently tours with the London-based Darius Brubeck Quartet, whose album Live in Poland was heralded by Downbeat Magazine as one of the best in 2020.

At the conference on February 27, the keynote address will be given by Dwight Andrews, professor of music theory and African American music at Emory University. Andrews is a composer, musician, educator, and minister whose professional credits include compositions for film and television and playing on over two dozen jazz and new music albums. He has held distinguished professorships at Yale, Harvard, and Emory University and is currently writing a book about Black music and race.



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