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This season at New England Conservatory, 30+ concerts demonstrate just how vital music is to human struggle, and what revolution in artistic expression sounds like. Programs range from roots music to Beethoven, fight songs to anti-war anthems. Join our year-long exploration of how music speaks truth to power!

"Some call me Mister Ra.
Some call me Mister Re.
But you can call me Mister Mystery."
—Sun Ra, in the film A Joyful Noise

Ken Schaphorst leads the NEC Jazz Orchestra in a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Sun Ra’s arrival day on this planet.

Ken Schaphorst talks about Sun Ra in this podcast.

Who was Sun Ra? Was he Herman Blount, born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1914, who came in to Fletcher Henderson's big band as a pianist and arranger just after WWII? That persona had disappeared by the 1950s, when—as Sun Ra—he was already leading a big band of his own, soon to be called the Arkestra, and was claiming to have come from Saturn, with connections to the Egyptian gods.

This persona represented the ultimate liberation from space and time, and gave Sun Ra the freedom to create an immersive experience that built on classic big band chops to go deep into collective improvisation and multimedia performance. All of this was rooted in a communal living situation where the band could focus on their sound, look, and ideas with a minimum of interference from mundane associations.

Sun Ra's unfettered, joyful music is summed up by the exhortation to join him and the Arkestra as We Travel the Spaceways. Other signature songs that will guide your journey tonight are Space Is the Place, A Call for All Demons, Brainville, Planet Earth, Saturn, El Is the Sound of Joy, Enlightenment, Love in Outer Space, Satellites Are Spinning, Shadow World, and Outer Spaceways Incorporated. This music will be performed in Ken Schaphorst's arrangements.

"We must live for the future of music. Many musicians think that most people are destined to be musically ignorant, but I know that there is a spark in every person which will respond and glow to the touch of beauty. Because I know this, I am going to continue presenting beauty to the world until I ignite that spark in people’s hearts."
—Sun Ra

NEC Jazz Orchestra

Ken Schaphorst, director

Saxophones, Woodwinds
Richard Garcia, alto saxophone, flute
Lihi Haruvi, alto and soprano saxophones
Wyatt Palmer, tenor saxophone
Jacob Sieckman, tenor saxophone
Austin Yancey, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet

Trumpets
Kai Sandoval
Aaron Bahr
David Adewumi
Jeffrey Cox

Trombones
Dan Gabel
Michael Prentky
Blake Manternach
Joe Ricard

Rhythm Section
Nikolaos Anadolis, piano, Fender Rhodes
Xiongguan Zhang, guitar
Daniel Raney, bass
Carl Pillot, drums

Guests
Allan Chase, baritone saxophone
Nedelka Prescod, Sami Stevens, Farayi Sumbureru, vocals
Kazemde George, Harrison Honor, percussion

Date: April 17, 2014 - 8:00:PM
Price: Free
Location: NEC’s Jordan Hall

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YOU PLAY BACH YOUR WAY, AND I'LL PLAY HIM HIS WAY. WANDA LANDOWSKA