Mahakala, a Commission by Leila Adu
Chatterbird, a Nashville-based chamber music ensemble focused on exploring alternative instrumentation and stylistic diversity, will collaborate with New Zealand-American composer Leila Adu to commission and perform a 20-minute chamber opera for two female soloists and a 12-member ensemble. The world premiere will take place in Nashville, Tennessee in November 2020. In addition to the ensemble and vocal soloists, the performance will feature guided improvisation from a local youth choir of eight to fifteen middle and high school students.
Leading up to the performance, skilled teaching artists with two community-focused partner agencies will lead arts and activism workshops that focus on Adu’s career while involving students in hands-on, interactive workshops to create their own songs and music.
A professional visual artist will create a motion-based, interactive art component to accompany Adu’s work, and a second artist will used recycled material to create murals based on thematic components.
Adu’s new work will explore themes of environmentalism as seen through multiple lenses: her own cultural background (born of New Zealand and Ghanaian descent), that of the Buddhist faith, and the perspectives of our nation’s indigenous peoples. The composer’s genre-mixing style reflects this multi-faceted thematic element. Her major areas of influence include the traditional New Zealand folk music of her childhood; her informal training in American genres like punk, indie, hip-hop, and free jazz; and her formal training in notated music for chamber ensembles and orchestras.
Environmental themes from the piece will be explored in greater depth through youth-oriented social activism workshops leading up to the premiere. Collaborating with youth from Nashville’s Oasis Center and Youth Empowerment Through the Arts (YEAH!), these workshops will be conducted to encourage cross-generational efforts in environmental activism. The composer and ensemble have a stark awareness of the dire consequences facing younger generations if we don’t all take on a great sense of urgency in addressing the dangers of climate change, pollution, and other environmental issues.
Negative Space is a poignant reflection on the troubling racial divides that persist in the United States and throughout the world. The piece was originally composed following the murder of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American who was shot by George Zimmerman in 2012. When a jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter, people around the world cried out against the American justice system. Included here as a sample of the ensemble type that Adu will be composing for.
chaterbird performs David Kirkland Garner’s Awake, Awake, for soprano, alto flute, banjo, electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, and cello. Chosen because of its artistic quality and sample of the type of inventive instrumentation that chatterbird typically uses.
HELLO GOLD MOUNTAIN is an original composition by Wu Fei for chamber orchestra, performed by chatterbird, featuring Wu Fei on guzheng and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (Silk Road Ensemble) on oud. The work is inspired by real stories of Jewish refugees who fled to Shanghai from Europe before and during World War II, and built lives in China. Selected because of its relevant social and cultural message, and as an example of the level of project and partnership the Adu project will be. For more information on this project, visit hellogoldmountain.com
Start and End Dates
06/01/2020 — 05/31/2021