Image courtesy of the American Composers Orchestra.
Co-Curated with National Black Theatre
Creative Concept and Direction by Jonathan McCrory
Conducted by Chelsea Tipton II
Featuring Orchestral Premieres and Commissions by Award-Winning Composers and Performers including Joel Thompson, Carlos Simon, Courtney Bryan, Jason Michael Webb, Toshi Reagon, and Nona Hendryx
On Saturday, May 7 at 8:00 pm ET live and in-person, three major, mission-aligned organizations—the Apollo and American Composers Orchestra (ACO), with cocuration by National Black Theatre (NBT) present The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout, a multi-part concert featuring new commissions and orchestral premieres by Jason Michael Webb, Toshi Reagon and Nona Hendryx, performed alongside and in response to works by Joel Thompson, Carlos Simon, and Courtney Bryan. Directed by NBT’s Executive Artistic Director Jonathan McCrory and conducted by Chelsea Tipton II with choirmaster Gregory Hopkins, the concert features award-winning multidisciplinary artists, a 50-voice choir and a 70-member orchestra.
The Gathering is inspired by the ancestral tradition of the Ring Shout, a transcendent gathering of spiritual expression, resilience, and healing, with a goal to honor the lives lost and uplift the lives we continue to lead during these turbulent times. Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed is the centerpiece of the evening, a choral and orchestral work composed of seven movements representing the last words from seven Black, unarmed men who lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement or by authority figures. In the spirit of the Ring Shout, audiences are encouraged to wear white.
Tickets start at $20 and are on-sale now, both online and in-person. The Apollo continues its Half off for Harlem programing, enabling Harlem residents, employees, business owners, and students to save 50% on tickets. Additional details available at www.ApolloTheater.org/half-off-for-harlem.
“The Ring Shout is historically an open space to grieve, awaken joy as a source of liberation, and use love as a form of resistance. The Gathering embodies that through all of the distinct and moving pieces of the evening, which at times may be emotionally difficult as we confront the horrors of injustice we’ve had to walk through,” said Apollo Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes. “But The Gathering also allows us to lean into a journey of the spirit that will leave audiences feeling healed and rejuvenated for the future. I’m thrilled to partner with American Composers Orchestra and National Black Theatre, two organizations whose values and ideals are so in sync with the Apollo, to bring this evening to our audiences.”
Through this concert presentation and community programs, the Apollo continues to serve as a cultural anchor in Harlem, New York City, and the world, expanding its role as a catalyst for both social and artistic engagement, artistic production, and social justice. Together with ACO and NBT, the organizations joined forces to harbor healing in the New York City and global community through a series of digital and in person events culminating in the May 7 program. In addition to Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, singer Abby Dobson will perform her own work, Say Her Name, which is inspired by the #SayHerName campaign of The African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy, amplifying the Black women and girls victimized by police. The performance will also feature the New York premiere of the orchestral version of Carlos Simon’s Amen!, honoring the composer’s family’s four-generation affiliation with the Pentecostal church, and includes Courtney Bryan’s Sanctum, which draws from recorded sermons and includes the voice of Marlene Pinnock, who was beaten by a police officer in California, as well as the voices of activists in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. These works are in conversation with a newly commissioned piece I Am Loved (and Other Healing Affirmations) by Jason Michael Webb; and world premiere orchestrations of Grace, Heaven and Benediction by Nona Hendryx; and My Name, A Reflection of Home by Toshi Reagon; created to honor the present need for a collective space of remembrance.
This evening-length program will be anchored by a 70-member orchestra and 50-voice choir composed of both professional and amateur singers from multiple African American churches and choral ensembles in New York, including Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir, Broadway Inspirational Voices, Convent Avenue Baptist Church Choir, and Sing Harlem Choir. The program also features interstitial video projections by Katherine Freer and Root Chakras and poems written and spoken by Mahogany L. Browne. In addition to the Ring Shout, the narrative focuses on a calling of names – lifting up the names of those who have lost their lives, as well as of those who have fought for equitable shared space.
More than two years in the making, the Apollo, ACO, and NBT have been working directly with the community, hosting a series of related events to explore and learn about the under-represented role of Black composers in classical music, transforming trauma through artistic creativity, and social justice activism in music. The community events feature a special presentation reserved for students alongside professional workshops for educators who plan to bring students to the event, which is recommended for middle and high school ages, and want to prepare for and discuss the themes of the evening. They also feature a panel discussion to explore the history of the Ring Shout, first practiced by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and in the United States, and a conversation to explore the timeline of political performance and discuss Black artists and their musical contributions beginning in the 19th century to the present day.
The Gathering: A Collective Sonic Ring Shout is generously supported by Art for Justice Fund, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Linda and Stuart Nelson, Anonymous, JP Morgan Chase, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and The New York Community Trust.
ABOUT THE GATHERING EVENTS
Resistance and Healing: Engaging The Ring Shout
Sunday, April 24 at 3:00pm EST
Apollo Soundstage – Live and In-Person
Free with RSVP
Presented by the Apollo, the American Composers Orchestra, and the National Black Theatre
A community engagement activity of The Gathering
First practiced by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and in the United States, a Shout (or Ring Shout) is an ecstatic, transcendent ritual in which worshipers move in a circle while stomping, shuffling, and clapping to open a space to collectively grieve, awaken joy as a source of liberation, and find love as a form of resistance. This panel of experts, thought-leaders, and the creative team for The Gathering explore the historic origins and significance of the Ring Shout, and will then lead audiences through a communal ring shout.
Live Wire: The Social Justice Playlist
Thursday, May 5 at 6:30pm EST
Apollo Soundstage – Live and In-Person
Free with RSVP
A community engagement activity of The Gathering
Black artists have been utilizing their musical abilities to bring Black communities together for decades in a myriad of ways. The Apollo will explore the timeline of political performance and discuss Black artists and their musical contributions beginning in the 19th century to the present day. As the conversation focuses on our current moment, a panel will consider what these performances and performers reveal about the systems within which Black entertainment must exist.
The Gathering: A Collective Ring Shout
Saturday, May 7, 2022, at 8:00pm EST
Apollo Mainstage – Live and In-Person
Co-presented by the Apollo & American Composers Orchestra
Co-curated with National Black Theatre
In partnership with Gateways Music Festival and Harlem Chamber Players
Creative concept and direction by Jonathan McCrory
Chelsea Tipton II, conductor
Gregory Hopkins, choirmaster
Tickets start at $20
Featuring: American Composers Orchestra with Gateways Music Festival and Harlem Chamber Players, Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir, Broadway Inspirational Voices, Convent Avenue Baptist Church Choir and Sing Harlem Choir
ABBY DOBSON: Say Her Name
JOEL THOMPSON: Seven Last Words of the Unarmed (New York Premiere)
JASON MICHAEL WEBB: I Am Loved (and Other Healing Affirmations) (World Premiere)
COURTNEY BRYAN: Sanctum for orchestra and recorded sound
TOSHI REAGON: My Name, A Reflection of Home (World Premiere of orchestral version)
CARLOS SIMON: Amen! (New York Premiere of orchestral version)
NONA HENDRYX: Grace, Heaven and Benediction (World Premiere of orchestral version)
School Day Live: The Gathering
Monday, May 9 at 11:30am EST
Apollo Mainstage – Live and In-Person
Appropriate for middle school and high school students
School Day Live performances offer a new generation of theatergoers an exciting opportunity to see a live performance at the Apollo and be immersed in an atmosphere of art, history, and culture. Schools interested in participating should visit https://www.apollotheater.org/event/school-day-live-the-gathering/.
The health and safety of our audiences, artists, and staff is the Apollo’s top priority. Please note that all attendees must present a government-issued picture ID prior to entry and show a completed vaccination card authorized by the FDA or WHO against COVID-19 (dated at least 14 days before the show). Proof of vaccination can be displayed on smartphones. Proof of vaccination may also include a CDC Vaccination Card (or photo), NYC Vaccination Record, or an official immunization record from outside New York City or the United States. Photo ID for children under 12 will not be required if they are accompanied by parents/guardians with government-issued photo ID. All attendees are required to wear masks inside the theater, and there is no eating or drinking allowed. For a complete list of the Apollo’s COVID-19 safety protocols, please visit www.ApolloTheater.org.
ABOUT THE APOLLO
The legendary Apollo Theater—the soul of American culture—plays a vital role in cultivating emerging artists and launching legends. Since its founding, the Apollo has served as a center of innovation and a creative catalyst for Harlem, the city of New York, and the world.
With music at its core, the Apollo’s programming extends to dance, theater, spoken word, and more. This includes the world premiere of the theatrical adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and the New York premiere of the opera We Shall Not Be Moved; special programs such as the blockbuster concert Bruno Mars Live at the Apollo; 100: The Apollo Celebrates Ella; and the annual Africa Now! Festival. The non-profit Apollo Theater is a performing arts presenter, commissioner, and collaborator that also produces festivals and large-scale dance and musical works organized around a set of core initiatives that celebrate and extend the Apollo’s legacy through a contemporary lens, including the Women of the World (WOW) Festival as well as other multidisciplinary collaborations with partner organizations.
Since introducing the first Amateur Night contests in 1934, the Apollo has served as a testing ground for new artists working across a variety of art forms and has ushered in many new musical genres—including jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, soul, and hip-hop. Among the countless legendary performers who launched their careers at the Apollo are Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, H.E.R., D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Machine Gun Kelly, and Miri Ben Ari; and the Apollo’s forward-looking artistic vision continues to build on this legacy. For more information about the Apollo, visit www.ApolloTheater.org.
About American Composers Orchestra: Founded in 1977, American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, middle school through college composer education programs, and composer advancement programs to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders. ACO identifies and develops talent, performs established composers, champions those who are lesser-known, and increases regional, national, and international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music, reflecting gender, racial, ethnic, geographic, stylistic, and age diversity. To date, ACO has performed music by 800 American composers, including over 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works.
ACO offers an array of programs for emerging composers including its own annual EarShot New Music Readings in New York City, which has served over 230 composers since its inception in 1991, and national EarShot Readings, which since 2008 expanded mentorship to 110 composers through partnerships with orchestras across the country, and in collaboration with the League of American Orchestras, New Music USA and American Composers Forum. Readings composers have gone on to win every major composition award, including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Rome Prizes.
ACO has received numerous awards for its work, including those from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and from BMI recognizing the orchestra’s outstanding contribution to American music. ASCAP has awarded ACO its annual prize for adventurous programming 35 times, singling out ACO as “the orchestra that has done the most for new American music in the United States.” ACO received the inaugural MetLife Award for Excellence in Audience Engagement, and a proclamation from the New York City Council. Read more: www.americancomposers.org
About National Black Theatre: National Black Theatre (NBT) was founded in 1968 by Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, an award-winning performer, director, visionary entrepreneur and champion of the Black Arts Movement. NBT has broken ground as the country’s first revenue-generating Black art complex, as the longest-running Black theater in New York City, as acquisitor of the largest collection of Nigerian New Sacred Art in the Western Hemisphere, and as one of the oldest theaters founded and consistently operated by a woman of color in the nation. More than five decades after its founding, NBT’s core mission remains the same: to be the premier producer of transformative theatre – theatre that enhances African American cultural identity by telling authentic, autonomous, multifaceted stories of the Black experience. NBT is now envisioned as a means to educate, enrich, entertain, empower and inform national consciousness around social justice issues that impact our communities.
Holding tight to the founding principles of ownership, self-determination and human transformation, NBT continues to reach brand new heights with over 350 original theatre works touring world-wide, including an associate partnership with the National Black Theatre of Sweden. The work and accomplishments of National Black Theatre have solidified its position at the leading edge of Black theatre development, production and innovation, and activating resources for arts sector advocacy. NBT is an AEA Equity house and a member of Theatre Communications Group, A.R.T./New York, Harlem Arts Alliance and the Coalition of Theatres of Color. Under the current leadership of Chief Executive Officer Sade Lythcott, daughter of the beloved Dr. Teer, and Executive Artistic Director, Jonathan McCrory, NBT remains anchored in the Liberationist spirit of the past, tapped into the beating pulse of the present and serves as a catalyzing force for our collective creative future.