American Composers Orchestra and Apollo Theater co-present THE GATHERING
The American Composers Orchestra continues its 2021-2022 season, under the direction of Artistic Director Derek Bermel and President Melissa Ngan, with The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout co-presented by the ACO and the Apollo Theater and co -organized with the National Black Theater in partnership with Gateways Music Festival and Harlem Chamber Players, on Saturday May 7, 2022 at 8 p.m. at the Apollo.
The Gathering is a sonic quest rooted in the African and African American ritual of the Ring Shout, led by National Black Theater Executive Artistic Director Jonathan McCrory and conducted by Chelsea Tipton II with Chorus Director Gregory Hopkins. The concert features music by Courtney Bryan, Abby Dobson, Nona Hendryx, Toshi Reagon, Carlos Simon, Joel Thompson and Jason Michael Webb. Dobson, Hendryx and Reagon will also perform.
The Gathering is inspired by the age-old tradition of the Ring Shout, a transcendent gathering to celebrate spiritual expression, resilience and healing, with the aim of honoring the lives lost and improving the lives we continue to lead in the current situation against racism, inequality, and the pandemic over the past two years. The centerpiece of the evening is the New York premiere of Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, which sets the final words of seven black men – Kenneth Chamberlain, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant III, John Crawford, and Eric Garner – killed by police or authority figures. Thompson describes the piece as “a meditation on the lives of these black men and an effort to focus on their humanity, which is often eradicated in the media to justify their deaths.” Singer Abby Dobson will perform her own work, Say Her Name, which is inspired by the #SayHerName campaign of the African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy, uplifting black women and girls victimized by police. The show will also feature the New York premiere of the orchestral version of 2021 Sphinx Medal of Excellence recipient Carlos Simon’s Amen!, honoring the composer’s family’s four-generation affiliation with the Pentecostal Church, and includes American artist Courtney Bryan’s 2020 shrine, which is based on recorded sermons and includes the voice of Marlene Pinnock, who was beaten by a police officer in California, as well as the voices of activists in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 These works are in conversation with a new piece I Am Loved (and Other Healing Affirmations) by Tony Award winner Jason Michael Webb, and world premiere orchestrations of Grace, Heaven and Benediction by the Grammy-nominated musician, composer and actress. Awards Nona Hendryx and My Name, A Reflection of Home by Herb Alpert Award in the Arts winner Toshi Reagon, created to honor the current need for a collective space of commemoration. In recognition of ring shout traditions, the audience is encouraged to wear white.
COA Artistic Director Derek Bermel said, “Over four years ago, COA began planning with the Apollo Theater to present the New York premiere of Seven Last Words of the Unarmed. by Joel Thompson. This powerful multi-movement composition confronts us with the rawest truths of humanity’s nature; I hope that each work on the program will help shed more light on the challenges that Seven Last Words presents to us, both as as individuals and as a community. With this project, we are partnering with the Gateways Festival, the Harlem Chamber Players, and the National Black Theatre, organizations that have helped bring equity and inclusion to the fore in artistic creation; we are so proud to share the stage with them.”
The Gathering is anchored by a 70-member orchestra and 60-voice choir made up of singers, professional and amateur, from several African-American churches and choral ensembles in New York, including Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir, Broadway Inspirational Voices, Convent Avenue Baptist Church Choir and the Sing Harlem Choir. The program also includes interstitial video projections of Katherine Freer and Root Chakras written and spoken by Mahogany L. Browne. In addition to the Ring Shout, the narrative focuses on a name-calling – elevating the names of those who lost their lives, as well as those who fought for a fair shared space.
The Gathering collaboration included an array of powerful community engagement activities at the Apollo leading up to this concert, with the goal of creating space for hope, healing and collective exhalation. Two events are coming up:
- On Sunday, April 24, the Apollo, ACO and National Black Theater present Resistance and Healing: Engaging The Ring Shout. First performed by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and the United States, a Shout (or Ring Shout) is an ecstatic and transcendent religious ritual in which worshipers move in a circle while stomping, shuffling and clapping to open space for collective mourning, awaken joy as a source of liberation, and find love as a form of resistance. A panel of experts, thought leaders and The Gathering’s creative team explore the historical origins and meaning of the Ring Shout, then lead the audience through a joint ring shout.
- On Thursday, May 5, Live Wire: The Social Justice Playlist will discuss how black artists have been using their musical abilities to bring black communities together for decades in multiple ways. The Apollo will explore the timeline of political performance and discuss black artists and their musical contributions from the 19th century to the present day. As the conversation focuses on our current moment, a panel will examine what these performances and performers reveal about the systems in which black entertainment must exist.
Learn more about the artists and listen to their music: www.americancomposers.org/events/the-gathering
About the American Composers Orchestra: Founded in 1977, the American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With a commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, college-to-college composer education programs and composer advancement programs to foster a community of creators, audiences, performers , collaborators and funders. The ACO identifies and develops talent, performs established composers, champions those lesser known, and raises regional, national, and international awareness of the endless variety of American orchestral music, reflecting diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, geographical, stylistic and age. To date, ACO has performed the music of 800 American composers, including more than 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works.
The ACO offers a range of programs for emerging composers, including its own annual EarShot New Music Readings in New York, which has served more than 230 composers since its inception in 1991, and national EarShot Readings, which since 2008 have expanded mentoring 110 composers through partnerships with orchestras across the country, and in collaboration with the League of American Orchestras, New Music USA and American Composers Forum. Composers of readings have won every major composition award, including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Rome Prizes.
The ACO has received numerous awards for its work, including those from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and BMI recognizing the orchestra’s outstanding contribution to American music. ASCAP has given the ACO its annual award for adventurous programming 35 times, naming the ACO “the orchestra that has done the most for new American music in the United States”. The ACO received the first MetLife Award for Excellence in Public Engagement and a proclamation from the New York City Council. Read more: www.americancomposers.org
About the Apollo: The legendary Apollo Theater – the soul of American culture – plays a vital role in nurturing emerging artists and launching legends. Since its founding, the Apollo has served as a center of innovation and a creative catalyst for Harlem, New York City and the world. With music at its heart, Apollo’s programming spans dance, theatre, spoken word and more. This includes the world premiere of the theatrical adaptation of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and the New York premiere of the opera We Shall Not Be Moved; special programs such as the hit Bruno Mars Live concert at the Apollo; 100: The Apollo Celebrates Ella; and the annual Africa Now! Festival. The non-profit Apollo Theater is a performing arts presenter, curator and collaborator that also produces large-scale festivals, dance and musical works organized around a core set of initiatives that celebrate and extend the Apollo’s legacy through a contemporary lens, including Women of the World (WOW) as well as other multidisciplinary collaborations with partner organizations.
Since the introduction of the first Amateur Night competitions in 1934, the Apollo has served as a testing ground for new artists working in various art forms and ushered in the emergence of many new musical genres, including jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel. , blues, soul and hip-hop. Among the countless legendary artists who launched their careers at the Apollo are Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, HER, D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Machine Gun Kelly and Miri Ben. Ari; and Apollo’s forward-looking artistic vision continues to build on this legacy. Read more: www.ApolloTheater.org
About the National Black Theatre: The National Black Theater (NBT) was founded in 1968 by Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, award-winning performer, theater director, visionary entrepreneur and champion of the Black Arts Movement. NBT has pioneered as the country’s first revenue-generating black arts complex, as New York’s oldest black theater, as an acquirer of the largest collection of new Nigerian sacred arts in the Western Hemisphere and as one of the oldest theatres. founded and still managed by a woman of color in the country. More than five decades after its founding, NBT’s core mission remains the same: to be the premier producer of transformative theater – theater that strengthens African-American cultural identity by telling authentic, self-contained, and multifaceted stories of the black experience. . NBT is now envisioned as a means to educate, enrich, entertain, empower and inform the national consciousness around social justice issues that impact our communities.
Holding firmly to the founding principles of ownership, self-determination and human transformation, NBT continues to reach new heights with more than 350 original theatrical works touring around the world, including an associated partnership with the National Black Theater of Sweden. . The work and achievements of the National Black Theater have cemented its position at the forefront of the development, production and innovation of black theater and the activation of resources for advocacy in the arts sector. NBT is an AEA equity house and a member of Theater Communications Group, ART/New York, Harlem Arts Alliance and the Coalition of Theaters of Color. Under the current leadership of Managing Director Sade Lythcott, daughter of beloved Dr Teer, and Executive Artistic Director, Jonathan McCrory, NBT remains grounded in the liberationist spirit of the past, taps into the pulse of the present and serves as a catalytic force to our collective creative future.