Chineke! Orchestra, Britain’s first professional orchestra made up entirely of black and minority ethnic musicians will be back on stage next month with two massive performances at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
Chineke! Orchestra’s debut concert last year was described by The Independent as ‘a significant moment in our cultural life’. The same debut concert was also summed up by The Guardian as ‘the beginning of something culturally inspiring and a musical event of the genuine artistic value’
According to the website of the Southbank Concert Venue, the Orchestra will be performing for Africa Utopia festival in September 2016, featuring newly announced BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
Africa Utopia is a festival that presents the best live music, theatre, dance, talks, workshops and food from one of the world’s most dynamic and fast changing continents.
Chineke! Orchestra performs works from the classical canon alongside composers who are less often heard.
Sibelius’ Finlandia features the nostalgic theme of a hymn identical to Biafra’s 1967 national anthem.
The suite from the opera L’Amant anonyme was written by the 18th-century Black composer Chevalier de Saint-Georges who, as a virtuoso violinist, led the orchestra in Paris for whom Haydn wrote his Paris Symphonies. Making his Royal Festival Hall debut, Sheku Kanneh-Mason performs Haydn’s ‘Cello Concerto in C Major’.
Dvorák’s New World Symphony reflects the composer’s interest in Native American music and the African-American spirituals that he heard during his years in America in the last decade of the 19th century.
Alongside this concert by the Chineke! Orchestra, the Chineke Junior Orchestra perform in The Clore Ballroom of Royal Festival Hall in a Passenger Seats event, giving the public the opportunity to sit within the ranks of the orchestra and experience the sights and sounds of a group of talented musicians making music together.
Chineke! Orchestra Kevin John Edusei
conductor Sheku Kanneh-Mason cello
According to The Independent, one of those uncomfortable truths about classical music is that most symphony orchestras in Europe still consist mostly of white and white-Asian people.
Chineke, the brainchild of the double-bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku, is Europe’s first professional orchestra made up entirely of black and minority ethnic musicians.
The idea is to bring together and showcase the wealth of talent among these under-represented performers. “It is about raising awareness, trying to level the playing field, altering the status quo a little bit and changing perceptions,” said Nwanoku in a recent interview with the Independent.
Born in London to a Nigerian father and Irish mother, Nwanoku has been mulling over these issues for years, from her vantage point as a founder member of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, a popular media commentator and broadcaster, and a professor at the Royal Academy of Music.
Her recent programmes for BBC Radio 4, In Search of the Black Mozart, about the 18th-century violin virtuoso and composer the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, sparked wide interest in historical musicians of colour.