January 3, 2022
NWS announces Harlem Renaissance festival
The New World Symphony and Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas announce I Dream a World: The Harlem Renaissance and Beyond, a multi-disciplinary, multi-tiered festival that celebrates the history and influence of this cultural movement. Although largely associated with the cultural and intellectual milieu of 1920s Harlem, the Renaissance—ideologically and artistically—extended beyond this geographic space to other major cities within the United States and to expatriate communities in Europe.
The Harlem Renaissance marked a turning point in history, helping to establish the authority of Black artists over the representation of Black culture and experience and setting the stage for contemporary Black artists shaping American culture. It was significant in linking 19th-century Black intellectual culture to the radical form of Black art that extended out of the Black civil rights movement during the 1960s and it serves as an important foundation for contemporary Black art. The I Dream a World festival seeks to capture and celebrate the fullness of this legacy.
I Dream a World: The Harlem Renaissance and Beyond takes place February 1-5, 2022, at the New World Center on Miami Beach. This festival of orchestral music, talks, recitals, poetry readings and chamber music will be led by Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) in collaboration with musicologist Dr. Tammy Kernodle (University Distinguished Professor of Musicology at Miami University of Ohio). Collaborators include pianist Michelle Cann (Chair in Piano Studies at the Curtis Institute of Music), poet P. Scott Cunningham (founder and director of O, Miami), conductor Thomas Wilkins (Principal Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and Music Director Laureate of the Omaha Symphony), and poet Kevin Young (Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and Poetry Editor for The New Yorker). The festival will feature an exhibition curated by Christopher Norwood, a special presentation from the Wolfsonian/FIU, with support from the Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab, and a screening of the film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom presented by the American Black Film Festival.
Comments from Dr. Tammy Kernodle:
I’m so excited to be part of this festival because I believe it is timely and represents the type of work I envisioned doing when I entered the field of musicology. I Dream a World models a more holistic approach to expanding the context of who is “heard” in the American concert hall. It is easy to program one concert a year that might feature the music of BIPOC or women composers, but we have reached a point in our current time where audiences recognize that for what it is—tokenism.
If arts organizations are truly going to advance change and embody this notion of inclusion, then they must go deeper. Invest time and energy to not only exploring repertory, but also developing understanding about the history and lived experiences that birthed that repertory. The multi-tiered approach advanced through the I Dream a World festival embodies this. It presents one way in which the cultural hierarchy advanced in our concert halls and arts-based institutions is being acknowledged and challenged. The Renaissance was such an important cultural movement and too often the public context focuses on the literary movement that took place in Harlem. It was so much more—music, the visual arts and dance—and it stretched to many major cities and abroad and well into the late 20th century. The programming we have been working on reflects this. Attendees will experience the full context of Black art.
My biggest hope is that people will not just look at this festival and think it is about repertory and representation only. It is advancing the type of community-building that the intellectuals and artisans that birthed the Renaissance employed. They cultivated dialogue and collaboration between educators, scholars, performers, poets, visual artists and the larger community and that is the intention of this work: Dialogue, collaboration and community. Through engagement with this historical past, I hope that we can collectively cultivate visions of unity, understanding and social change that will frame our future.
This festival is funded in part by the NWS Collaborations Fund, the NWS Fund for New Ventures and Bank of America.
I Dream a World Festival Events
O, Miami is offering a series of single-day intensive workshops to students at five Miami-Dade schools, from elementary to high school levels: Theodore R. and Thelma A. Gibson Charter School, Miami Norland Senior High, Morningside K-8 Academy, The SEED School of Miami and St. Mary’s Cathedral School. The workshops are being led by teaching artists Gabrielle Alexis, Darius Daughtry, Arsimmer McCoy and Marnino Toussaint and will focus on the importance of song as both subject and formal approach in Black American poetry, beginning with iconic poems from the Harlem Renaissance, and tracing forward to contemporary Black poets’ work in the ode form. On February 1, these same teaching artists will present their own poetry, and a few choice verses from the students, at a reading preceding Kevin Young's appearance at NWS.
Exhibition: Interludes of Harlem: Poetic Illustrations of Langston Hughes featuring Jacob Lawrence
Christopher Norwood, curator and founder of Hampton Art Lovers at the Historic Ward Rooming House, will curate an exhibition of art which contextualizes the Harlem Renaissance and the American Great Migration that ushered in the first Black arts movement. This exhibition will be on display at the New World Center throughout the festival.
Tuesday, February 1, 2022, 6:30 PM ET, at New World Center (Truist Pavilion and Performance Hall)
Poet Kevin Young and Dr. Tammy Kernodle explore topics and themes of the Harlem Renaissance through poetry and music. The Ambassador Chorale of Florida Memorial University, an HBCU (Historically Black College and Universities), will join the NWS to perform choral settings of works by William Dawson and Moses Hogan as well as traditional gospel songs. Soprano Michelle Bradley will perform art songs by composers including William Grant Still, Florence Price and Margaret Bonds. The performances will be preceded by a 60-minute poetry reading by notable Miami-based poets and students, curated by P. Scott Cunningham, Founder of the O, Miami Poetry Festival.
Wednesday, February 2, 2022, 7:30 PM ET at New World Center (Truist Pavilion)
This concert is a collaboration between the New World Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, The Curtis Institute of Music, Michelle Cann and students from her studio at Curtis. The February 2 performance will feature works of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Florence Price, Jelly Roll Morton, Hazel Scott, Irene Britton Smith, Fats Waller, Helen Eugenia Hagan and Mary Lou Williams. This project also launches a website, entitled 36 Keys which augments selections from the concert with other recorded performances of piano-centric music of Black composers. This reference site includes biographical information about the composers and video-recorded artist statements. While the composers represented on this concert are from the Harlem Renaissance era, performances and website content will expand to include Black composers from different historical eras. Pianist and musicologist Dr. Samantha Ege (Lord Crewe Junior Research Fellow in Music at Lincoln College, University of Oxford) will serve as an advisor to the website.
Thursday, February 3, 2022, at 7:00 PM ET (Truist Pavilion)
NWS Fellows will present a vibrant multidisciplinary chamber program connecting the Harlem Renaissance’s artistic legacy to today. In tracing the musical roots of contemporary composers, we can follow their lineage not only to 1920s Harlem but also to companion artistic movements across the country. Developed under the guidance of MTT and musicologist Dr. Tammy Kernodle.
Friday, February 4, 2022, at 7:30 PM ET (Truist Pavilion)
The ABFF presents a special screening of Netflix’s award-winning film starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman about a fiery blues singer who joins her band for a turbulent recording session in 1920s Chicago.
Saturday, February 5, 2022, at New World Center (Performance Hall, WALLCAST® concert in SoundScape Park, and streamed live on NWS.edu)
Michael Tilson Thomas and Thomas Wilkins lead the New World Symphony in a performance of orchestra and chamber music by the great composers of the Harlem Renaissance. This concert will be preceded by a talk curated by FIU Associate Professor Shawn Anthony Christian and Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab fellow Nathaniel Cadle. This presentation—drawn from books, magazines, photographs and ephemera—explores how authors and visual and performing artists created a vision of Black modernity that extended beyond New York to become a national and global movement.