Soulful Symphony Jazzes It Up, February 21 and 22
Jazz-inspired program features Duke Ellington's Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, premiere of Darin Atwater's arrangement of Ravel's Pavane
Baltimore, Md. (January 28, 2008)- The acclaimed African-American ensemble Soulful Symphony will bring an all-new, jazz-inspired program to the Music Center at Strathmore on Thursday, February 21, and to the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on Friday, February 22. Led by founder and artistic director Darin Atwater, the program features Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, coupled with Duke Ellington's jazz arrangement of the same work. Also on the program is David Baker's Jazz Suite for Clarinet and Orchestra, with clarinetist Nicholas Lewis, and the premiere of Atwater's arrangement of Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante défunte. See below for complete program details.
In true Soulful Symphony style, the program blends classical and jazz idioms, pairing Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 with Duke Ellington's jazz orchestration of the work. Originally composed as incidental music for Henrik Ibsen's play of the same name, Grieg's Peer Gynt suites are among the composer's most enduring and popular works. Based on Scandinavian legend, the story chronicles the adventures of the rogue Peer Gynt, who leaves his mother and sweetheart to embark on an epic journey around the world, encountering trolls, the devil, and other fantastical creatures along the way. Two movements in Suite No. 1 have taken on iconic status, having been used in countless commercials, cartoons and movies: "Morning Mood," with its lyrical depiction of daybreak, and "In the Hall of the Mountain King," with the pizzicato strings that accompany Peer as he sneaks through caves and encounters a nasty band of trolls.
Just as Ellington re-imagined classical masterpieces, Darin Atwater will give the world premiere of his own jazz arrangement of Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante défunte. One of the most brilliant orchestrators of his time, Ravel wrote Pavane first as a piano piece, which was so well received that he arranged it for orchestra several years later. Atwater's orchestration takes the rich orchestral hues of Ravel's original work and sets them against a jazzy backdrop. Atwater, himself an accomplished pianist, conducts Soulful Symphony from the keyboard.
Among the most renowned jazz composers of this era, David Baker wrote his Jazz Suite for Clarinet and Orchestra: Three Ethnic Dances as a combination of jazz and classical forms. According to Baker, the work is "heavily indebted to and influenced by dance issuing from the black aesthetic. Movement I, 'Jitterbug,' is an obvious reference to a dance popular in the Swing Era…Movement II, 'Slow Drag,' is a melancholy blues that attempts to evoke the smoke-filled after-hours exoticism of a club or dance hall in Harlem or on the South Side of Chicago. The final movement, 'Calypso,' is my attempt to capture the gaiety and playful jauntiness of the music of my Caribbean cousins."
The program opens with Arturo Marquez's Danzón No. 2, one of the composer's best known works. Based on a formal Cuban couple's dance, the work evolves from a mournful clarinet solo into sensual Latin rhythms and ebullient colors.
About Soulful Symphony
Founded in 2000 by composer and artistic director Darin Atwater, Soulful Symphony is among the nation's most prominent African-American symphony orchestras. Featuring a culturally diverse ensemble of 75 musicians and vocalists, Soulful Symphony blends rhythm and blues, jazz and gospel music all within a symphonic framework for orchestra.
As a not-for-profit arts organization, Soulful Symphony is dedicated to the preservation of African-American cultural expression and to the presentation of symphonic music. Soulful Symphony is a repository for the exploration of diverse musical expressions: classical, jazz, gospel and popular forms capturing a universal language that gives all cultures common ground.
In 2004, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra forged an historic joint venture with Soulful Symphony, partnering with the organization to bring their unique brand of music to new and diverse audiences throughout Maryland. Since partnering with the BSO, Soulful Symphony has performed to sell-out houses at both the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore and the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda.
Darin Atwater, conductor, pianist and Soulful Symphony Artistic Director
Composer, conductor and pianist Darin Atwater is regarded as one of the leading artists of his generation. His skills in the idioms of classical, jazz and sacred music have earned him a distinguished international reputation. Born in Washington D.C. and raised in Prince George's County, Md., Mr. Atwater made his orchestral debut as both composer and pianist in May 1995 with the National Symphony Orchestra, premiering Maschil for piano and orchestra. Engagements with major orchestras, a European tour and world premieres of his numerous compositions followed. In June of 1998, Mr. Atwater, welcomed by former President and Mrs. Clinton, performed with the Morgan State University Choir in a celebration of gospel on the south lawn of the White House.
February 2000 marked the premiere of Song in a Strange Land, a contemporary exploration of Spirituals that featured Wynton Marsalis, Karen Clark-Sheard, Kim Burrell and the debut of Soulful Symphony. Praise has been unanimous: The New York Times described Mr. Atwater as a composer with a "muscular imagination," and The Baltimore Sun wrote that "Atwater has an uncommon ear for instrumental coloring and the urban beat."
Mr. Atwater is the founder and artistic director of Soulful Symphony. Among his many honors and recognitions, Ebony magazine dubbed him one of the "30 Leaders of the Future," and the Baltimore Business Journal placed him on their exclusive "40 under 40" list. Mr. Atwater is a recently appointed trustee for Maryland Citizens for the Arts and also serves on the music team at Celebration Church in Columbia, Md.
Nicholas Lewis, clarinet
Nicholas Lewis is a versatile and eclectic musician, skilled on the clarinet, saxophone and piano, and able to perform in a variety of musical styles. His early musical training was provided by his grandmother and mother, both accomplished musicians. He subsequently had his first professional experience as part of a musical ensemble series at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. at the age of 16. In 1990, he left to study at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn., where he would later complete his bachelor's degree in 1994 and his master's degree in 1996.
Mr. Lewis is currently the bass clarinetist with the Richmond Symphony and the principal clarinetist with the Williamsburg Symphonia. In the summer, he serves as principal clarinetist of the Bard Conductor's Orchestra at Bard College in upstate New York. He has performed with the Akron and Westmoreland symphonies, as well as the Brevard Music Center Orchestra and Pittsburgh New Music Festival Orchestra.
Most recently, Mr. Lewis has been forging his way as soloist, having been featured in the Richmond Symphony's In Harmony Celebration, performing the Jazz Suite for Clarinet and Orchestra by David Baker. Lewis has also been a featured artist twice on Duke University's "Encounters with the Music of Our Times" in Durham, N.C. In March 2007, he performed Mozart's Concerto in A Major, following up a performance of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in December of 1999, both with the Williamsburg Symphonia. Mr. Lewis holds recordings on the Carnegie Mellon, Mode and New World labels.
COMPLETE PROGRAM INFORMATION
Soulful Symphony: Fresh Winds
Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 8:00 p.m.-The Music Center at Strathmore
Friday, February 22, 2008 at 8:00 p.m.-Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
Darin Atwater, conductor and piano
Nicholas Lewis, clarinet
Ravel/arr. Darin Atwater-Pavane pour une Infante défunt
Grieg-Peer Gynt Suite No. 1
Grieg/arr. Ellington-Peer Gynt Suite No. 1
Arturo Marquez- Danzón No. 2
David Baker-Jazz Suite for Clarinet and Orchestra: Three Ethnic Dances
Soulful Symphony is presented by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The BSO does not appear on this program.
Media sponsorship for this program is provided by Magic 95.9 FM.
Tickets for this program range from $15-$55 and are available through the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Ticket Office, 410.783.8000, 877.BSO.1444 or BSOmusic.org.