Seth Parker Woods
Feb. 7, 2017
By Mara Bandy
This Thursday, as part of a month-long collaboration between the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Illinois School of Music, Krannert’s Foellinger Great Hall will be home to an evening of music titled Sonic Illinois: The Black Composer Speaks. The Sonic Illinois series is intended to celebrate “the enormous diversity of today’s contemporary music scene” in honor of the university’s 150th anniversary, and the line-up for The Black Composer Speaks reflects that commitment.
The evening’s program was designed by the Fulcrum Point New Music Project, a Chicago organization dedicated to championing and commissioning innovative contemporary classical music. Fulcrum Point founder and artistic director Stephen Burns describes the event as an “adventure through the creative landscape of contemporary African-American concert music” that will highlight, through the inclusion of three generations of composers, a variety of musical aesthetics.
After beginning with pieces by composers Alvin Singleton, Olly Wilson, Jessie Montgomery, and Jeffrey Mumford, The Black Composer Speaks will feature the world premiere of Chicago-based composer Tomeka Reid’s "Present Awareness" and will then conclude with free-jazz improv led by Kahil El’Zabar and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble has existed in various configurations for over 40 years and was formed by El’Zabar with the intent of combining African-American musical styles with traditional African rhythms and influences.