“Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga” by Michael Abels

Submitted by Stuart Ronkainen

I loved the movie Get Out, in part because of its excellent score, particularly the extremely eerie theme “Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga”. In this track, the Swahili lyrics loosely translate to “Brother, listen to the ancestors. Run! You need to run far! (Listen to the truth) Save yourself! Run! Run!” The composer, Michael Abels, has described the style as “gospel horror”, something he and director Jordan Peele describe as recognizably black but lacking any of the hopefulness of traditional African-American music.

Michael Abels is best-known for his scores for the Oscar-winning film Get Out, and for Jordan Peele’s US, for which Abels won the World Soundtrack Award, the Jerry Goldsmith Award, a Critics Choice nomination, an Image Award nomination, and multiple critics awards. Abels is co-founder of the Composers Diversity Collective, an advocacy group to increase visibility of composers of color in film, game and streaming media. Upcoming projects include the ballet for concert band FALLING SKY for Butler University, AT WAR WITH OURSELVES for the Kronos Quartet, and the Hugh Jackman film Bad Education for HBO.

The Spacious Music of Orlando Jacinto Garcia

Submitted by MSO Board Member Kris Kautzman

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been way over-scheduled the past few weeks, and craving some time to just sit and watch the clouds go by. On Tuesday, as waves of rain blew into the Twin Cities, I not only got that chance to sit and watch the dramatic sky — I also discovered a great soundtrack for the activity! Cuban-American composer and educator Orlando Jacinto Garcia (b. 1954) is known for compositions that are “time suspended- haunting sonic explorations.” His catalog includes more than 200 works for strings, solo instruments, voice, chorus, orchestra, electronics – and combinations of all of the above! There is a fascinating list of works to explore on his website. 

What caught my eye this week was an album of his orchestral works, recently uploaded to YouTube. Orlando Jacinto García: Orchestral Music, Vol. 2 is a collection of four works inspired by nature; three concertos with orchestra for violin, piano, and clarinet; and a piece for full orchestra. The music is minimal and lyrical at the same time, and I really did feel like time was suspended. The next time you need to take a break and lose yourself in some spacious music, I recommend spending 14 minutes listening to “The Distant Wind II.” Enjoy!

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

From Christine Melchert

This weekend we are fortunate to play “African Suite: IV. Dance Negre” by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.  Here are some fun facts in addition to what Bill shared at rehearsal:
• His mother named him after the famous English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge
• His first commission came via Edward Elgar
• His most famous work is “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast” based on a poem by Longfellow
• He was influenced by his friendship with African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar to concentrate on his African heritage in his music
• He was 23 years old when he wrote “Danse Negre” (the 4th and most familiar movement of “African Suite which highlights elements of the African experience)
• He was hugely popular in the United States 110 years ago and inspired leading figures in the early civil rights movement
• In 1904, he was the first black man to conduct a white orchestra in America
• You can watch a 2 hour documentary on YouTube about  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America (1900-1912)
• Chineke! Orchestra has made more of his music familiar like this Ballade for Orchestra Opus 33
I highly recommend this in-depth and fascinating presentation about Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and the Musical Fight for Civil Rights
You can also listen here to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s All Time Best Works.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Racial Equity Learning Together

By Christine Melchert

Students at a New York City middle school couldn’t find a children’s book about Florence Price, a prolific, but often ignored and unknown Black female composer. So, they decided to write their own! This is a remarkable story about how the next generation saw a need and took matters into their own hands to re-write classical musical history to be more inclusive and equitable. The students’ work was promoted by Kate Sheeran (Executive Director of the Kaufman Music Center) who said, “They’re seeing that they can have a voice in shaping who writes history and who tells stories, and that we don’t have to just accept the way music is presented to us or the way music history is presented to us — that they too can shape that. And that, to me, is the most exciting thing.

“We talk about representation in literature all the time,” Shannon Potts, the students’ English teacher, observes. “For kids to be able to become authors and activists in a way, to disrupt the story of the way that classical music is being told. They no longer, as a diverse population, become victims of a largely white society. They control the narrative. They can rewrite it. And this project, in the way it’s been received, really shows them that when they speak up, the world is ready to hear them.”Read and listen about this exciting process here:  
Students write a book about Florence Price

Check you favorite book seller to purchase a copy of the book.

Three of the student authors of Who Is Florence Price? (left to right: Sebastián Núñez, Hazel Peebles and Sophia Shao), joined by their English teacher, Shannon Potts.Courtesy of Special Music School
Who Is Florence Price?, by students of the Special Music School at Kaufman Music Center, NYC.Schirmer Trade Books