5 Songs, 49 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Europe’s first professional black and minority ethnic orchestra, Chineke!’s aim is to champion change and celebrate diversity in classical music. Dvorak’s New World is a great symphony that draws inspiration from African-American melodies and, conducted by Kevin John Edusei, Chineke! play it with fire, passion, and a seemingly unstoppable dynamism. These young musicians sound like they’ve been playing alongside each other for years. Sibelius’s Finlandia, whose big tune was once the National Anthem of the short-lived African state of Biafra, makes a terrific impression in this live recording.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Europe’s first professional black and minority ethnic orchestra, Chineke!’s aim is to champion change and celebrate diversity in classical music. Dvorak’s New World is a great symphony that draws inspiration from African-American melodies and, conducted by Kevin John Edusei, Chineke! play it with fire, passion, and a seemingly unstoppable dynamism. These young musicians sound like they’ve been playing alongside each other for years. Sibelius’s Finlandia, whose big tune was once the National Anthem of the short-lived African state of Biafra, makes a terrific impression in this live recording.

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About Chineke! Orchestra & Keven John Edusei

The Chineke! Orchestra has a motto, "Championing change and celebrating diversity in classical music," and the stated goal of its sponsoring Chineke! Foundation is "to provide career opportunities to young Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) classical musicians in the U.K. and Europe." The name is Igbo for "God creates," and the foundation and orchestra are the brainchildren of double bassist Chi-Chi Nwanoku, who is of Nigerian and Irish background. She was a founding member of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, has taught at the Royal College of Music, and has been well known in the U.K. as a broadcaster, putting together programs like one for the BBC 4 network on the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. She was aware of the work of the U.S.-based Sphinx Foundation, which has worked to train and to increase opportunities for young musicians of color. Her moment of revelation came when she attended a concert by the Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra at London's Southbank Centre. "One thing I noticed at that concert," she told the London Independent, "was the incredulity on the faces of the philanthropists and politicians in the audience, looking at a stage filled primarily with black people."

The Chineke! Foundation sponsors not only the Chineke! Orchestra, but the Chineke! Junior Orchestra, aimed at providing talent and encouragement to talented young musicians. Yet the performing organizations have proven to have more than an educational or career-development function. The Chineke! Orchestra attracted support from the likes of the BBC, the Association of British Orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic Society, and Arts Council England, from the beginning. It gave its debut concert in September of 2015 at Queen Elizabeth Hall and was appointed an Associate Orchestra at London's Southbank Centre in the spring of the following year, returning to perform there at the Royal Festival Hall. The year 2017 saw several festival dates, the orchestra's first international appearance (in Ghent, Belgium), and performances at the Royal Albert Hall in its first BBC Proms concert. That year, the Chineke! Orchestra was signed to the Signum label and released its debut album, featuring music by Sibelius (Finlandia, Op. 26, which had been the Biafran national anthem) and Dvorák. Many of its concerts have featured music by composers of African descent. ~ James Manheim

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