Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mann Center Commissions Five African American Composers for 2018 Festival

Jay Fluellen

Evelyn Simpson Curenton

Ruth Naomi Floyd

Dr. Rollo Dillworth

Darin Atwater


New Compositions to Examine Themes of Social Justice and Faith

PHILADELPHIA (July 10, 2018) – In a year of worldwide celebration of the 100th birthday of composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts is celebrating Bernstein’s musical excellence and cultural impact through the lens of his commitment to social justice and inclusion.  Brilliantly Bernstein: Beyond the Baton is the Mann’s 2018 community festival, for which it has commissioned five African American composers to interpret Bernstein’s legacy with new works to engage audiences of all ages in new ways.

District of Columbia-based composer, Darin Atwater, will make his Mann debut with the world premiere of South Side, Symphonic Dances during the Mann’s Bernstein: Broadway & Beyond concert with The Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Kensho Watanabe, on July 18. South Side, Symphonic Dances is based on the eternal tale in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Bernstein's romantic musical update West Side Story, and represents the tragedy and triumph of African American youth who navigate the complexity of urban living. The war between rival teenage gangs in Bernstein's West Side Story is replaced with the metaphoric rival "gang" of oppressive forces and structures of subordination, including racism, economic and educational disparities, injustice and media bias.
“In South Side Symphonic Dances, I’ve explored African American social dance encased in a modern language – American Roots and Pop Music. These dances reach back to the slave plantation and extend forward to urban street dancing - Buck Dance, Wing Dance, Jig, Waltz, Two-Step, Dub Step "Trap", Healing Dance, Shout and AfroFuturism,” said Darin Atwater. “It is Dance as a creative expression of our collective struggle; resistance and release from the social tensions addressed in the larger South Side narrative.”

In addition to Atwater, four Philadelphia-based composers, Dr. Rollo Dilworth, Ruth Naomi Floyd, Jay Fluellen and Evelyn Simpson Curenton, will be featured on August 11 during the Philadelphia Community Mass, jointly presented by the Mann and NEWorks Productions. Inspired by Bernstein’s MASS, and conceived and artistically directed by Nolan Williams, Jr., this program will draw together a collective of Philadelphia-based composers, musicians and directors from Philadelphia’s rich African American church community to create a community Mass that explores the relevance of faith in our times. Each commissioned composer was encouraged to explore within themselves to create a piece that honors Bernstein, but also touches their favorite genre, such as jazz, blues and gospel.
Featuring the Bernstein-inspired compositions, the Philadelphia Community Mass will be presented as a full concert at the Monumental Baptist Church. The concert will feature a collective of singers, with a majority coming from the Absalom Jones Choir, and be punctuated by spoken libretto excerpts from Bernstein’s MASS delivered by leaders from Philadelphia’s civic and religious communities. 
For the past five seasons the Mann has mounted multi-faceted, artistic festivals that wrestle with poignant issues raised by the lessons of history and explored through a modern lens. The Mann’s 2018 festival, Brilliantly Bernstein: Beyond the Baton, aims to engage audiences of all ages to examine Bernstein’s legacy of musical excellence and his commitment to social justice and to understand both in new ways.
Brilliantly Bernstein: Beyond the Baton is curated in partnership with Nolan Williams, Jr., the Mann's Festival Artistic Director and CEO of NEWorks Productions, Collaborative Artistic Partner.

To explore the full line-up of Festival events, visit the Mann’s website at https://manncenter.org/bernstein.


About the Mann
As one of the foremost outdoor music centers in the country, the Mann, a leading non-profit organization, has a historical legacy of artistic excellence as a world-class entertainment destination presenting premier artists in association with AEG Presents. Each summer season, renowned symphony orchestras, iconic rock stars and the latest touring artists in indie rock, hip hop, R&B and pop take the stage here.  The Mann is the summer home of The Philadelphia Orchestra and has presented critically acclaimed performers in every decade since the 1930s.  Located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, the Mann hosts more than 200,000 visitors annually.  Signature concert experiences are surrounded by Philadelphia’s stunning skyline and include seats beneath the Mann’s acoustically acclaimed pavilion; picnics, blankets and music under the stars on its great lawn; and dining in Crescendo, the venue’s spectacular tented restaurant.  For more information, visit www.manncenter.org.

About NEWorks Productions
As one of the country's premiere producers of inspirational arts programming, NEWorks Productions partners with leading humanitarian, educational, arts, and renowned institutions to present curatorial festivals, concert productions, special events, and other signature projects that leverage the power of music and the arts for community engagement and social good. Past and present partners include: The Mann Center for the Performing Arts, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington National Opera, the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Georgetown University, Oberlin College, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, the Embassy of India, the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa, the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the world class Philadelphia Orchestra. www.NEWorksProductions.com.  

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