Friday, September 21, 2007

Harlem Quartet Debuts "Delights and Dances" by Michael Abels at Sphinx Laureates Concert

The Sphinx Laureates Concert at Carnegie Hall on Sept. 25, 2007 will feature the Harlem Quartet's premiere of Delights and Dances, a work by Michael Abels which was commissioned by the Sphinx Organization to celebrate its 10th Anniversary as well as its dedication to promoting the works of Black and Latino composers. Called “A genuine rising star” by, Michael Abels is an African American composer and music educator who caught the attention of many in the field of classical music with his 1990 composition Global Warming. He is also Music Director of New Roads School in the Los Angeles area. His website,, lists his compositions and illustrates his educational, athletic, and outreach activities.

Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, wrote the liner notes for African Heritage Symphonic Series, Vol. III, which opens with Global Warming (8:18). The work is performed by the Chicago Sinfonietta, conducted by its Founder and Musical Director, Paul Freeman, on Cedille Records 90000 066 (2002).

Michael Abels was born in 1962 in Phoenix, Arizona, where he also attended grammar school. He spent his youngest years, however, in rural South Dakota and began studying piano there at an early age. A graduate of the University of Southern California, he studied composition with James Hopkins and Robert Linn and was named Outstanding Senior among student composers for his “Queries” for piano and prepared piano. In 1985-86, Abels studied West African music with Alfred Ladzekpo at the California Institute for the Arts. Abels remains a resident of Los Angeles.

Abels wrote Global Warming in 1990, not long after the Berlin Wall fell. It attracted international attention when it was featured at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's 1992 African-American Symphony Composers Forum and has enjoyed more than 100 performances since its debut. Most notable, Global Warming became the first piece by a Black composer to enter the repertory of the National Symphony of South Africa.
Among Abels's other works is
Tribute (2001), a short orchestral memorial to the events of September 11. He has also written works for chorus, two operas, and other compositions for orchestra, many created on commission. His output manifests an interest in sports (he is a triathlete) and his dedication to outreach projects, with particular concern for social welfare and for young people. Abels ascribes to the philosophy of many contemporary artists of color who see international implications inherent in their ethnic heritage.”

A press release from New Roads School on Sept. 13, 2007 explains the origin of the composition and provides an overview of the composer's activities as a music educator:

"Michael was chosen for the commission because he is one of the leading African-American composers working today," said Sphinx Organization President Aaron Dworkin. “As Sphinx presents the most talented musicians from around the country, Michael’s work represents the height of artistic excellence. We could think of no better composer with whom to partner.”

In addition to his work as a composer, Abels runs the Music Program for New Roads School, one of L.A.'s most exciting, independent K-12 college preparatory schools. New Roads offers its diverse student body a challenging academic environment that promotes personal responsibility, community engagement and global awareness.

"Through his work at New Roads and his personal experience teaching music production to LA youth in public housing projects, Michael is a role model for the 21st Century," said Head of New Roads School, David Bryan. "His work underscores the importance of individualized, independent education in the arts, within a well-rounded academic environment that inspires social responsibility."

"Delights and Dances" is Mr. Abels's first commission with Sphinx. His works have been performed by orchestras throughout the world, including the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. He is currently writing another commission for Sphinx, scheduled to premiere on PBS in February 2009.

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