News

World Premiere of Wynton Marsalis’s newly revised, complete Blues Symphony

Washington Performing Arts presents World Premiere of Wynton Marsalis’s newly revised, complete Blues Symphony for 100-piece symphony orchestra at The Music Center at Strathmore on February 4th at 8pm
With Special appearance of The Wynton Marsalis Quintet in solo set

Performance is the culmination of a robust semester-long residency with the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra as part of Washington Performing Arts’ The Art of the Orchestra Series

Early in the 2013-2014 performance season, internationally acclaimed musician, composer, bandleader, educator, and long-time Washington Performing Arts collaborator Wynton Marsalis approached the D.C.-based arts institution with a project of great personal and musical significance to him: his innovative Blues Symphony. Composed for a 100-piece symphony orchestra, this work had been unveiled in part by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 2010. But the newly revised and complete version of this major work from the Pulitzer-winning composer had yet to enjoy its world premiere—owing in part to the essential need for significant rehearsal time (often a luxury for a top-tier professional orchestra).

Intrigued and determined to realize the work’s potential in concert, Washington Performing Arts initiated a robust semester-long residency program with Shenandoah Conservatory and its Symphony Orchestra as an element of the orchestra’s curriculum. Over the course of several months of study and rehearsals in Fall 2014, Marsalis and the Shenandoah Orchestra, under the direction of Jan Wagner, held multiple working sessions to hear how the piece was coming together, fine-tune the music, and fully explore the intricate themes and musical styles.

The culmination of this residency is the world premiere of Blues Symphony at The Music Center at Strathmore on Wednesday, February 4, 2015, at 8pm. This performance is part of Washington Performing Arts’ season-long celebration The Art of the Orchestra, designed to bring distinguished orchestras from around the world to the nation’s capital. The premiere also serves as the centerpiece of Washington Performing Arts’ contribution to Strathmore’s 10th anniversary celebration in February 2015.

“Washington Performing Arts ‘ President Emeritus Doug Wheeler, first forged a relationship with Wynton more than 30 years ago,” said Jenny Bifield, Washington Performing Arts President & CEO. “Over the decades, we’ve treasured this long partnership that has spanned performance and our Capital Jazz Program, which was created in tandem with Jazz at Lincoln Center. So of course, when Wynton shared his vision for Blues Symphony with us, our immediate reaction was to find a way to help him realize his goal: to revise, remount, and hear this work. Working in partnership with artists to realize projects of critical, essential importance to them, is part and parcel of what we do and something I’m personally committed to so, Blues Symphony was right up our alley: the perfect intersection of a long standing relationship with an artist we treasure, with developing new works of significance , and engaging students in a dynamic learning environment. The work required extensive rehearsal time and so we needed to be creative in identifying the right partner. Shenandoah Dean Michael Stepniak and conductor Jan Wagner, have been passionate collaborators from our first conversation – committed to offering Shenandoah students a breadth of experience. It will be thrilling to share this music with DC area audiences in a few weeks!”

Blues Symphony features a compendium of Marsalis’ encyclopedic knowledge of blues, jazz, and other traditional American music. One of his only pieces composed for purely orchestral forces, this celebration of the blues is heard through the prism of moments in American, and specifically African-American, history and folklore. The program will also include Marsalis’ Quintet, underscoring the renowned artist’s versatility as a performer, educator, and composer in both the jazz and symphonic traditions.

Wynton Marsalis was born into a musical family in the city of New Orleans – his father is the legendary pianist and music teacher Ellis Marsalis, and his older brother is saxophonist and former Tonight Show band leader Branford Marsalis. Wynton was a precocious student of music in his youth, eventually attending the Juilliard School. Widely recognized as one of the pre-eminent jazz artists of our time, he is hailed not only as a virtuoso trumpeter, but also as a composer, music educator, and standard-bearer of the history and culture of jazz. Marsalis is also an established trumpet performer in works of classical music, in 1983 becoming the first artist ever to win Grammy Awards for both classical and jazz recordings (a feat he repeated the following year). Also a leader in civic matters, Marsalis is a tireless ambassador for jazz and, since his emergence as a band leader in the 1980s, has been a major force in extending the music’s reach and preserving its traditions. In addition to performing, Marsalis places a priority on jazz education, giving lectures and leading student workshops around the world.

In addition to his nine Grammy wins—two of them for his recordings of classical works for trumpet by Haydn, Mozart and Handel—Marsalis holds the distinction of being the first jazz artist ever to win a Pulitzer Prize, awarded for his oratorio Blood on the Fields. He was the co-founder of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and currently serves as the Artistic Director and Music Director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. (Washington Performing Arts will present the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for their annual Kennedy Center engagement on Sunday, April 19th at 7pm. Click here for more information.)

This performance is made possible through the generous support of Patricia and Lloyd Howell, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Amphion Foundation, and the Van Auken Family Private Foundation, honoring global efforts to advance awareness and early detection of lung cancer.

Washington Performing Arts is committed to making every event accessible for persons with disabilities. Please call the Washington Performing Arts Ticket Services Office for more information on accessibility to the various theaters in which our performances are held. Services offered vary from venue to venue and may require advance notice

About Washington Performing Arts

Since 1965, Washington Performing Arts has had a foundational role in the arts in our nation’s capital, creating profound opportunities that connect community and artists, in both education and performance. Through live events in 11 venues that criss-cross the D.C. metropolitan area, the careers of emerging artists are launched and nurtured, and established artists return to develop closer relationships with Washington Performing Arts’ audiences and creative partners.
As one of the leading presenters in the nation, Washington Performing Arts embraces a broad spectrum of the performing arts, including classical music, jazz, gospel, contemporary dance and music, international music and art forms, and new work. Dynamic education programs in the public schools and beyond, are hallmarks of Washington Performing Arts, as are the Embassy Adoption Program and two resident gospel choirs.
In the 2012–13 season, Washington Performing Arts was twice honored for its work at the intersection of arts presenting and education: by President Barack Obama with a National Medal of Arts (becoming only the fourth D.C.-based arts group and the first arts presenter of its kind to be so honored), and the Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts.

Who:
Wynton Marsalis Quintet
Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra
Jan Wagner, conductor

Where:
The Music Center at Strathmore

When:
Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 8pm

Program:
Marsalis Blues Symphony

Tickets:
Start at $35, available at washingtonperformingarts.org or by calling (202) 785-9727.

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