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!

Tonight's concert pairs music related to empowerment struggles of Africans and African-Americans. Songs by Ghanaian composer Ephraim Amu lead into an excerpt from Wadada Leo Smith's civil rights epic Ten Freedom Summers. Performers come from NEC's jazz, classical, and Contemporary Improvisation programs, as well as from Tufts University.

Wadada Leo Smith

Voted "Composer of the Year" in the 2013 DownBeat Critics Poll and active since the 1960s, jazz trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has focused much of his work in recent years on the creation of Ten Freedom Summers. Smith compares his epic work to August Wilson's cycle of plays that traverse the African-American experience in the 20th century. He says that his own cycle "is the result of my research and reflection concerning the philosophical, social, and political history of the United States of America." It consists of three "collections" that can be peformed over three evenings.

Recent festival performances in Austria, Canada, and Chicago have centered around this music. At NEC tonight, we will hear two of the seven compositions that make up the Third Collection: Ten Freedom Summers.

Little Rock Nine: A Force for Desegregation in Education, 1957

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Memphis, the Prophecy

Written for Smith's Golden Quartet and Southwest Chamber Music, this music will be performed here by an NEC jazz chamber group. During his visit to NEC, Wadada Leo Smith will give a talk on Ten Freedom Summers and coach the NEC performers in rehearsal.

Aaron DuBenion, trumpet
Arielle Burke, flute, alto flute
Daniel Pencer, clarinet, bass clarinet
Phillip Golub, piano
Annabelle Taubl, harp
Andrew Schiller, double bass
Ryan Sands, drums
Jeremy Barnett, vibraphone, timpani
Yasmine Azaiez, violin
Abigale Reisman '13 M.M., violin
Abby Swidler, viola
Katharine McShane, cello
Dara Blumenthal-Bloom, double bass
Ken Schaphorst, conductor

Ephraim Amu

As a musician, educator, and role model, Ephraim Amu (1899–1995) is credited with preserving African traditions and asserting an Africanist position during the colonial era. His song "Yen Ara Asaase Ni" is associated with the independence movement that led to the emergence in 1957 of Ghana as the first sub-saharan nation governed by native African people in the modern era. It is seen today as an important patriotic song in Ghana—perhaps better known than the official national anthem.

Works performed during this segment of tonight's concert include traditional Ghanaian dances, songs by Amu, and a work by Fela Kuti (1938–1997) that represents Kuti's role in Nigerian liberation movements.

Traditional Asafo Dance, Adzogbo Dance
Agbekor Drum and Dance Society
Nani Agbeli, dancer
with singers participating in the course "Analytic Approaches to West African Music" and
NEC African-American Roots Ensemble, Nedelka F. Prescod, director

Ephraim Amu Abibrimma!, Yen Ara Asaase Ni
NEC Chamber Choir, Erica Washburn, director
Sam Jones, soloist in Abibrimma!

Fela Kuti Shuffering and Shmiling
NEC African-American Roots Ensemble
Agbekor Drum and Dance Society

NEC African-American Roots Ensemble
Nedelka F. Prescod, director
Mariel Austin, voice and trombone
Matt Barrett, voice and flute
Robin Baytas, drums, percussion
Millie Downs, vocals
Sam Fribush, vocals and keyboard
Rafael Horowitz Friedman, vocals and oboe
Gabe Gladstein, vocals and bass
Alexandra Greenwald, vocals
Sofia Kriger, vocals
Patrick McGonigle, vocals and violin
Alex Monti, vocals
Ryan Sands, drums, percussion
Damon Smith, vocals and piano
Rebecca Sullivan, vocals

Date: November 7, 2013 - 8:00:PM
Price: Free
Location: NEC’s Jordan Hall

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MUSICIANS OWN MUSIC BECAUSE MUSIC OWNS THEM. VIRGIL THOMSON