Listening Project returns to Orchestra Hall Stage, spotlighting underrepresented composers

Now in its third year, the November 3 iteration of the Listening Project includes selections from 20th-century and contemporary composers. Recordings of the performance will be distributed to concertgoers, broadcast through YourClassical MPR and shared with the African Diaspora Music Project.

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The Listening Project has grown out of a Minnesota Orchestra musician-led initiative to spotlight the music of historically underrepresented composers.

As with the 2022 iteration of the ongoing project, the November 3 concert will be conducted by Kensho Watanabe and hosted by Dr. Louise Toppin, a renowned performer and scholar who will again provide deeper context around each of the program’s pieces. All of the works on the program will be recorded to aid and encourage future programming of this music by other orchestras, and to familiarize musicians and audiences with this rarely heard music.

The program will be performed at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis on Friday, November 3, at 8 p.m., with tickets at $40. Choose Your Price tickets are available to all concertgoers for select seating sections ($5 minimum ticket price). Free ticketsare available to young listeners under the age of 18 thanks to the Orchestra’s Hall Pass program.

The first iteration of the Listening Project took place in 2021 when, under the direction of guest conductor Scott Yoo, the Orchestra made the first-ever professional recordings of five contemporary and historic works. In 2022, the initiative was expanded to include a subscription concert for audiences. The Orchestra will again collaborate with YourClassical MPR to record the November 3 concert; YourClassical MPR will rebroadcast the performance in February 2024, and will play these works on-air through its regional radio network in the future. Additionally, recordings from the performance will be shared with the African Diaspora Music Project, a repository of music that encourages the research, exploration and performance of music by composers of the African diaspora.

Repertoire includes selections from 20th-century and contemporary composers, with an emphasis on works that have not been professionally recorded due to systemic injustices and racial discrimination in the recording industry and the orchestral field more broadly. The concert will feature two works from vital American composers of the last century. It opens with Julia Perry’s Short Piece for Orchestra, which showcases the rhythmic complexities and ingenuity of the late Lexington, Kentucky-born composer’s oeuvre; the concert’s second half will begin with Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s harmonious Mop/Mop: A Symphonic Sketch, which was written in honor of Bebop musician Max Roach.

Emphasizing the Orchestra’s goal of collaborating with a broader group of living composers, the concert features four works by composers active today: Errollyn Wallen’s “The World’s Weather” highlights the composer’s wide musical influences and ability to shift between moods and sensations; Brian Raphael Nabors’ “Pulse” contemplates “our deep connection as living beings to everything within, over, under and around us”; written the year after Rodney King’s violent beating by Los Angeles police officers, Alvin Singleton’s “56 Blows (Quis Custodiet Custodes?)” forms a musical response to abuses of power; written for orchestra and mezzo-soprano, Carmen Brouard’s “Trois monologues d’Émilie” reimagines the life of poet Emily Dickinson. Making her Orchestra Hall debut, acclaimed mezzo-soprano Catherine Daniel will perform the vocal line of Brouard’s composition.

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