The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia (COP) Season Opening Concert, AFRICA Begins Migrations Season

A founding resident company of The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia (COP) announces the opening of their 2018/2019 season Migrations with their season opening concert, AFRICA.

The Chamber Orchestra's Migrations season takes audiences on a journey through many regions from which Philadelphia residents and their ancestors originated. AFRICA features music of two major African composers: Nigerian Fela Sowande, whose beautiful and graceful melodies, many derived from sources from his native land, are the core of his African Suite; and Tunde Jegede, born in London of a Nigerian father, who traveled to The Gambia to study the griot tradition of native music and storytelling, which dates back to the 13th century.

Tunde Jegede's early life in London was replete with multicultural influences. His Nigerian father and English mother were artists; they recognized Jegede's musical inclination, and he began cello study at seven. He then heard the kora virtuoso Bouly Cissoko, and took lessons from him; and also began studying with the griot master Amadu Bansang Jobarteh. At the age of eleven, Jegede traveled to The Gambia to continue his studies. During his time there, he continued his study of the kora, the 21-stringed instrument that emits an unforgettable sound and is capable of polyphonic melodies and polyrhythms. Jegede is now acknowledged as the world master of the instrument. As composer and performer, Jegede has used many different musical influences such as classical, opera, pop, R and B, reggae, hip hop, jazz, and of course African music. Jegede's works include a percussion concerto for Evelyn Glennie, compositions for the Royal Philharmonic, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony, the Brodsky Quartet and more. He is founder of the African Classical Music Ensemble.

Cycle of Reckoning is described by Jegede as "a culmination of all the diverse influences that shaped my early musical development as a composer, including classical melodies, jazz, African and Indian classical music." Jegede had just read Alex Haley's Roots, and was moved to write a piece which began to address this story. "It seemed to be one that both the perpetrators and victims had amnesia of, and one that I felt was crucial to my understanding of an African consciousness in the 20th/21st century...I recognized the need to build a new mythology to transcend the challenges that have been inflicted on African people of the diaspora."

Before the performance of Cycle of Reckoning¸ Mr. Jegede will demonstrate the kora to the audience, displaying its fascinating construction and abilities.

Fela Sowande, the son of an Anglican minister in Lagos, studied church music as well as organ and piano in Nigeria, until, at the age of 19, he moved to London. There he made a name for himself as a jazz musician, founding a band, playing with Fats Waller, and performing as soloist for an early London performance of Rhapsody in Blue. He found a post as organist for the BBC, playing a wide variety of music. Eventually, he returned to Nigeria and became head of the music section of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, where his programming explored (among other things) traditional Yoruba music, mythology and culture. After teaching African studies in Nigeria and America, Sowande passed away in 1987.

The African Suite was composed in 1944, and frames traditional African folksongs in a more European idiom, while retaining their characteristic rhythms and pentatonic melodies. The melodies are accompanied by a variety of sounds that call to mind nature, African plucked instruments, lullabies, nostalgia, and lively dance episodes. The finale became well-known to Canadian audiences as the theme for a popular program, "Gilmour's Albums."

The concert will open with two European works: Schubert's delightful Overture in the Italian Style, and the Symphony in D by Spanish composer Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga. Arriaga, who died at the age of 19, was thought by many to be the next Mozart. The brilliant and inventive Symphony, written a year before his death, displays the talent that might have flourished had he lived.

The concert is led by the Chamber Orchestra's Music Director, Sir Dirk Brossé. Brossé's acclaim as conductor and composer has taken him all over Europe and to China, South Korea, Australia, Canada, and of course the United States. His compositions have been performed in over 40 countries, and he has written soundtracks for film and television, receiving an Emmy nomination for his score for the BBC/HBO series Parade's End, which starred Benedict Cumberbatch. He has made more than 90 recordings. He has received many honors, and in 2013 he was elevated to Belgium's heredity nobility.

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