Hannibal’s “One Land, One River, One People”: Composer Community Outreach
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Inspiring the Next Generation
One of the most important roles of an artist is that of “teacher.” As a musician and composer, Hannibal has embraced that calling, making it a priority to give presentations at schools, summer camps and programs serving youth and student musicians.
As the finale to his outreach activities connected to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center performance of One Land, One River, One People, Hannibal spoke to students participating in this year’s New York State Summer School of the Arts, School of Orchestral Studies program. He began by offering these gifted young musicians a front row seat to an electrifying trumpet performance.A jazz trumpeter earlier in his career, Hannibal performed with legends such as Etta James and John Lennon during the 1970s and 80s and pioneered his own style that seemed to “embrace the entire jazz tradition from New Orleans to Coltrane.” (Jazz: The Essential Companion, 1995)
After his performance, Hannibal discussed his musical journey and his segue into composing. He explained the sources of inspiration for his work. Using his morning fishing trip as an example, he described the musicality that he heard in that experience: the wind, the boat rocking, the movement of the water and so on. He also discussed the fact that the subject of human struggle is often the inspiration for the content of his pieces, including One Land, One River, One People.
The students, many of whom will go on to professional careers in music, had many questions for the composer who relished the dialogue and the opportunity to share his experiences. One of the most important pieces of advice he shared was the following: in the face of criticism and doubt, “believe in your own voice” and keep reaching for your dreams.
Music and Transformation
One of the most important events of SPAC’s 50th Anniversary Season was the SPAC debut of composer Hannibal Lokumbe’s phenomenal work, One Land, One River, One People. This gifted artist and dedicated humanitarian brings a holistic sensibility to his musical endeavors, striving to not only create music of the highest quality, but that is infused with meaning. For him, community outreach is an essential part of his work as a composer. In his own words, without outreach, “nothing grows.” A particular focus of his efforts is his work with prison inmates. In a November 2015 interview with NPR, he explained:
“My work in the prisons has been the most rewarding work of my life because I love transformation. And often the inmates, they say they’ve never had anyone explain certain things that we talk about…and so when many of them get out of prison, they never go back.”
“Because if I didn’t have the music, I could very well be in a cage too, like them. Because it helped me to deal with the violence that this society really was pushing me towards. Every time I look around, policemen are stopping me. Every time I go in a store, I get followed. It’s a lot. The layers of that kind of treatment as a human being to another human being can create a monster.”
The day after The Philadelphia Orchestra’s extraordinary performance of his work, Hannibal visited Great Meadow prison in Comstock, NY and met with a group of 20 inmates. He talked about his own life and explained to them, how, as a young man, he was headed in the wrong direction before music saved him. He shared personal experiences that they could relate to and stressed that each man in that room had the power to change his life and his future. He shared four key principles for transformation:
- renounce violence,
- acknowledge the presence of the divine;
- keep a journal
- fall in love with forgiveness.
He passed out journals for the men to write their personal stories, not only to better understand themselves, but to help their children to know them. Hannibal concluded with a soulful performance on his trumpet, reminding all in the room that he was one of the best jazz trumpeters in the world in the 1970s and 80s, before he turned to composing.
In the short span of an hour, Hannibal earned the respect and rapt attention of every person in that room. His message and his music clearly resonated with these men. It was a meaningful, thought-provoking event. Thank you, Hannibal.
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s SPAC season got off to a spectacular start last week with the August 3rd SPAC premiere of Hannibal’s stirring One Land, One River, One People. The stage featured an extravaganza of talent encompassing the brilliant musicians of the Orchestra, the combined choirs of Morgan State University and Albany’s Pro Musica, and the incredible vocalists, tenor Rodrick Dixon and soprano, Laquita Mitchell. The composer himself, an accomplished trumpeter, performed as part of the brass section.
The passion and brilliance of the artists on that stage, combined with the musical and spiritual power of the piece, brought forth a breathtaking performance for SPAC’s Opening Night.
Photo: Gary David Gold Ⓒ 2016
Hannibal discusses “One Land, One River, One People” on WAMC’s The Roundtable
“There is a song
inside of you.
It is older
than time and space.
It can teach you
all things of life. Listen
quietly to its healing tones
of peace and divine joy.
Silent rapture, eternal bliss.” – Choir (as the New Beings) from Hannibal’s One Land, One River, One People
Tonight, the Opening Night of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s SPAC season, composer Hannibal Lokumbe’s One Land, One River, One People will have its highly anticipated SPAC premiere. The above excerpt, which will be sung by the combined choirs of Morgan State University and Albany’s Pro Musica, reflects the essence of this richly spiritual work.
Listen to Hannibal discuss his inspiration and creative approach with WAMC’s Joe Donohue on today’s edition of The Roundtable.
The power of music…
Tomorrow, August 3, Hannibal Lokumbe’s One Land, One River, One People receives its Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) premiere by The Philadelphia Orchestra! Yet, the work is already having an impact as composer Hannibal connects with groups around the Capital Region to discuss the music and its meaning.
On Sunday, he met with the members and guests of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Saratoga Springs to discuss the work and the inspiration behind it. He also showed the crowd that he still has chops as a jazz trumpeter with an impromptu performance that had the group on their feet!
The day ended with a “Chat and Chew” with the members of 1st Israel AME Church in Albany, the oldest African American Church in upstate New York and a station on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Harriet Tubman slept on the east wall of the basement and leading abolitionists, including Frederick Douglas visited Israel Church. Hannibal discussed music’s power as a means of expression for people suffering from oppression, from pre- Civil War slaves in the south, to those today still struggling against prejudice, injustice and intolerance. In the context of recent events, his message truly resonates.
Our gratitude goes out to Hannibal for his outreach and his expansive vision of how music can change and uplift. We couldn’t agree more.
It’s getting closer…
We are so excited to have the opportunity to open The Philadelphia Orchestra’s summer season at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) on Wednesday, August 3, with Hannibal Lokumbe’s powerful One Land, One River, One People.
As SPAC celebrates its landmark 50th Anniversary, the opportunity to bring innovative and inspiring works like this one to our audiences is tremendously rewarding.
We are so grateful for New Music USA’s support of Hannibal’s extensive community outreach activities around this special performance. Now, more than ever, we need to hear his message about music’s power to heal, uplift and unify.
We will be sharing more in the coming days. Stay tuned…
“All the beings of the world will one day come to see the truth of their nature. And the lies of ignorance, fear and hatred will be gone from them and all that they do. Their minds will recall the cosmic womb from which it came and death will be known for the gift that it is. And grace will at last become their wealth and peace will become the ruler of the land. And this peace will hold them like a child holds a bowl full of all that it needs to grow in mind flesh and spirit. Then nations will fly the flag of One Land, and the pain of being, will be no more.”
– Hannibal Lokumbe
On August 3, 2016, Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) will present Hannibal Lokumbe’s work for full orchestra, soloists and choir, “One Land, One River, One People,” on the Opening Night of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s SPAC residency. Described by the composer Hannibal Lokumbe as a “spiritorio,” a term that encompasses the work’s libretto and choir elements and its influences from blues, jazz and spirituals, the work speaks to the universality of human struggle, injustice and ultimately, spirituality. Vocal accompaniment for The Philadelphia Orchestra’s performance will be provided by soprano Laquita Mitchell, tenor Rodrick Dixon, and combined choirs of Morgan State University and Albany’s Pro Musica. Conductor Stéphane Denève will lead the performance.
SPAC’s program will be only the second complete performance of the work which was commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra. The work had its world premiere in November 2015 at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.
SPAC is respectfully requesting funding to support composer Hannibal Lokumbe’s community outreach activities related to this performance. These activities will promote deeper understanding of the work and inspire others through the composer’s message of hope and healing through music.
From July 31 – August 3, the composer will present an immersive series of community activities to engage diverse groups from around the Capital Region — from prison inmates to music students to African-American congregations. Hannibal’s outreach will address the societal and cultural concepts of his work as well as the transformative power of art.
Artistically complex and symbolically potent, the community outreach and education around this performance will amplify its impact by helping people to better connect with its meaning. The number of people who will directly participate in these activities will be 400 – 500. However, thousands more will be reached through the media coverage and SPAC’s own social media activities surrounding the outreach.
About the Composer
Classic composer and jazz trumpeter Hannibal Lokumbe (né Marvin Peterson) has been celebrating and commemorating the African-American experience through music and words for over four decades.
Lokumbe’s work has been commissioned and performed by symphonies and orchestras across the country. Among his best known works is his oratorio “African Portraits” which debuted at Carnegie Hall in 1990. Since its debut, it has been performed over 200 times and recorded with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under Daniel Barenboim.
Photo by Gary David Gold © 2016
The Philadelphia Orchestra performs the November 2015 world premiere of Hannibal’s “One Land, One River,One People,” an oratorio for vocal soloists, mixed chorus, and orchestra. In this clip, the Orchestra’s Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the Orchestra and accompanists including: soprano Laquita Mitchell, tenor Rodrick Dixon, and combined choirs featuring Delaware State University Choir, Lincoln University Choir, and Morgan State University Choir.
Start and End Dates
07/31/2016 — 08/03/2016
Saratoga Springs and greater Capital Region, New York