Hidden from small

Taking the Message to the Community

November 06, 2015

“This commission is going to resonate all over the city.”

That’s how Philadelphia Orchestra Director of Collaborative Learning Dan Berkowitz describes the impact Hannibal’s brilliant “spiritatorio,” One Land, One River, One People is sure to have in Philadelphia.

This Orchestra commission is having its world premiere November 13-15 under the baton of Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, performances that will enthrall the lucky audiences inside Verizon Hall. This highly personal piece is a reflection of Hannibal’s fascinating life and experiences, and of his desire to use music to make the world a better place. With a libretto written by the composer himself, the concerts feature soprano Laquita Mitchell, tenor Rodrick Dixon, and a combined choir drawn from the Delaware State University Choir, the Lincoln University Concert Choir, and the Morgan State University Choir, all under the direction of J. Donald Dumpson.

The work’s three movements (or “veils” as Hannibal describes them) are dominated by science, spirituality, and the harmony that unites them. “The sole purpose of the composition is to remind human beings of their divinity,” says Hannibal.

That lofty intention will also be reaching people far beyond the concert hall. As Berkowitz explains, “It’s always a goal of ours to use art to incite dialogue.” He cites Bernstein’s MASS as a prime example when earlier this year the Orchestra organized special events around those concert performances to bring the music and its message deep into the community, part of an ongoing conversation about faith and music. 

A wide variety of events will continue that conversation, around One Land, One River, One People. On Tuesday, November 10, a chamber ensemble of Orchestra musicians performs three very special concerts: at 9:30 AM at the Philadelphia Prison System’s Detention Center in Northeast Philadelphia; at 3:30 PM with Play On, Philly! students at St. Francis de Sales School in West Philadelphia; and at 7:00 PM at the Christ Church Neighborhood House (20 N. American Street, Philadelphia), presented in conjunction with the African American Museum’s Outcry! exhibit at the 14th Annual First Person Arts Festival. (This event is free and open to the public).

At each concert, Principal Second Violin Kimberly Fisher, Assistant Principal Second Violin Dara Morales, Associate Principal Viola Kirsten Johnson, and cellist Derek Barnes perform Hannibal’s Fannie Lou Hamer, which features jazz vocalist Tulivu-Donna Cumberbatch. Violist Judy Geist also performs When Peace Comes, a work Hannibal wrote for her that he narrates. The performance concludes with the finale of Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 3 in D major, Op. 44, No. 1.

Later in the week (on Thursday, November 12), the Free Library of Philadelphia hosts a pair of discussions. One Land, One River, One People: Art and its Unifying Power will be presented at 5:30 PM at the Parkway Central Library’s Auditorium, featuring Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Hannibal, and Philadelphia’s first poet laureate, Sonia Sanchez. Earlier in the day, at 3:30 PM at the Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library in Germantown, Hannibal and Sanchez will speak to area students and their families. Both events will explore the transformative power of art, and how it can be used to stimulate important dialogue and promote unity in times of injustice. Both of these conversations are free and open to the public.

Berkowitz adds, “The Orchestra sees this as an opportunity to contribute to the critical conversation of social justice in this country. We’ve connected with exceptional community organizations to reach concert-goers, students, and brand-new audience members alike. It is essential for us to align with the narratives of Philadelphia, and Hannibal’s music and story are deeply relevant for the city today. This world premiere is a signature event that will bring individuals across Philadelphia together through music. The Orchestra is both compelled and excited to play a central role in that.”

(The Philadelphia Orchestra performs Hannibal’s One Land, One River, One People November 13-15 at Verizon Hall. Those performances are made possible in part by the generous support of the Presser Foundation. Please click here for more information.