Thursday, December 3, 2009

Naxos Releases Hannibal Lokumbe's Oratorio 'Dear Mrs. Parks' On CD Dec. 15, 2009

[ABOVE: CD Sleeve; BELOW: CD Cover; Hannibal Lokumbe: Dear Mrs. Parks; Janice Chandler-Eteme, Soprano; Jevetta Steele, Mezzo-soprano; Kevin Deas, Bass; Taylor Gardner, Child Soprano; Rackham Symphony Choir and Suzanne Mallare Acton, Chorus Master; Brazeal Dennard Chorale and Dr. Augustus O. Hill, Director; Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Thomas Wilkins, Resident Conductor; Naxos 8.559668 (2009) (59:03)]

On March 3, 2008 AfriClassical posted: “Hannibal Lokumbe's 'Dear Mrs. Parks' To Be Recorded By Detroit Symphony Orchestra.” We began: “
The African American jazz trumpeter and composer Hannibal Lokumbé (b. 1948) was born Marvin Peterson in Smithville, Texas. His oratorio Dear Mrs. Parks, about the famed Civil Rights figure Rosa Parks, was given its world premiere by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 2005. We recently learned that the orchestra plans to record the work for the acclaimed Naxos 'American Classics' series next season.” The recording took place March 6-8, 2009 at Orchestra Hall in Detroit. Naxos 8.559668 will be released Dec. 15, 2009. The liner notes introduce the work:

“Commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO),
Dear Mrs. Parks had its World Premiere by the DSO at Detroit's Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in February 2005 under the direction of Resident Conductor Thomas Wilkins. According to Hannibal Lokumbe, 'Dear Mrs. Parks is a prayer of music and words in honor of Mrs. Rosa Parks and every soul of her spiritual and social realm. She is the true nature of what is perceived and spoken of as being heaven. Her unselfish love, as unselfish love always does, transforms the entire world.'

Dear Mrs. Parks is a 57-minute oratorio for which Lokumbe wrote both the music and the libretto. The work features a massive ensemble comprised of full orchestra plus a large choir and four vocal soloists. Featuring influences from the blues, jazz, African music and Gospel music, it pays homage to Rosa Parks in the form of imaginary letters to the civil rights heroine from three individuals: an African-American woman who worked with Mrs. Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., representing the viewpoint of all African-American civil rights activists of her generation; Viola Liuzzo, a white Civil Rights martyr from Detroit slain by the Ku Klux Klan in 1965; and a young African-American man whose generation benefited from the Civil Rights Movement. The fourth soloist is a young girl, representing innocence and hope, who leads the 'Prayer for the World' that concludes the composition.

The composition is in 10 movements that are essentially continuous. The orchestration is compact yet meaty, and even when rhythms are quick, they are still tightly orchestrated. The composer creates a sense of music in unity among the sections of the orchestra, the soloists and chorus. The result is an enthralling atmosphere that also lends clarity to the text. In other places, the composer creates wide-open spaces in both the harmony and instrumentation. Again, this illuminates the spiritually charged text.”

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