Chicago Sinfonietta presents Laura Karpman's three-time Grammy nominated masterpiece Ask Your Mama

 
Natalia Dagenhart
Updated 1/9/2018 11:02 AM
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  • Conducted by talented world-renowned Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, Ask Your Mama is going to delight Chicagoland with its sincere emotions and outstanding presentation.Courtesy of Chris Ocken Photography

    Conducted by talented world-renowned Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, Ask Your Mama is going to delight Chicagoland with its sincere emotions and outstanding presentation.Courtesy of Chris Ocken Photography

"When peoples care for you and cry for you, they can straighten out your soul," said American poet and social activist Langston Hughes. He devoted his life to straightening out human souls and healing them with his poetry. His deep thoughts cry for those who struggle and face unfairness. Chicago Sinfonietta, the nation's most diverse orchestra, appreciates Hughes and his poetry and is happy to present Laura Karpman's three-time Grammy nominated masterpiece Ask Your Mama, which is based on an iconic cycle of poems by Langston Hughes. This thirtieth anniversary MLK Tribute concert program will take place at 3 p.m. on January 14 at Pfeiffer Concert Hall in Naperville and at 7:30 p.m. on January 15 at Symphony Center in Chicago.

Born in 1902, Hughes is especially popular for being one of the earliest innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry. The beautiful and passionate world of jazz had always impressed him and influenced his writings. It made them sound rhythmic with the repeated sharp syncope and the stress on the main words. His colorful portrayals of black life in America show the truth and the reality of the people of color in this country. Suffering and laughter, love and pain, music and street language -- his poetry has it all. One of his great achievements, the poem Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz, reflects all the aspects of Hughes' bright talent.

Emmy Award-winning composer Laura Karpman was so inspired by this epic 1961 poem that she created a ground-breaking multi-media jazz and symphonic work of the same name -- Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz. It made its World Premiere in 2009 as part of Carnegie Hall's "Honor!" festival showcasing the cultural legacy of African-American musicians. Chicago Sinfonietta is proud to present the Chicago premiere of this three-time Grammy nominated masterpiece.

"What makes this piece so interesting is that Langston Hughes wrote notes about the music he imagined would accompany his words in the margins of the poem," said Jim Hirsch, Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Sinfonietta. "Laura Karpman used these notes and created a one-hundred-five-minute work in twelve movements that encompasses different musical genres, spoken word, special effects, and the voice of Hughes himself. Ask Your Mama features brilliant, world-class soloists including jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon, Broadway star De'Adre Aziza, soprano Janai Brugger, and spoken word artists from Young Chicago Authors. This multi-media work has only been performed three times before and never outside of New York and Los Angeles. It is truly a one-of-a-kind symphonic experience that will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Day in a moving and entertaining fashion."

In her piece, Karpman fulfilled Hughes' musical instructions and demonstrated a vivid mix of opera, hot jazz, German lieder, cha-cha, patriotic songs, post-bop, Middle Eastern music and Afro-Caribbean drumming. This bright kaleidoscope of emotions, motifs, styles and moods will also be amplified by spoken word artists Patricia Frazier and Kee Stein from Young Chicago Authors and the archival audio records. Supported by the brilliant voices of De'Adre Aziza, Janai Brugger, and Nnenna Freelon, Chicago Sinfonietta will take its audience on an exciting journey "through time, place, and verbal expression to trace the currents and tributaries of cultural diasporas, from Africa to the Americas, the South to the North, cities to suburbs, opera to jazz, and spirituals to be-bop to hip-hop."

Presented as a single composition, this unique interdisciplinary creation is certainly going to touch the hearts of the members of the audience in spite of their age, race, religious views and social status and will bring them together. As every Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute concert presented by the Chicago Sinfonietta, this year's two performances are meant to bring people closer to each other, make them understand each other better and demonstrate that we have more similarities than differences. Hope and desperation, dreams and reality -- experience it all with the Chicago Sinfonietta through the brilliant music of Laura Karpman and an iconic cycle of poems by Langston Hughes. Conducted by talented world-renowned Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, Ask Your Mama is going to delight Chicagoland with its sincere emotions and outstanding presentation.

For more information, please call Chicago Sinfonietta at 312-284-1554 or go online at www.chicagosinfonietta.org/mlk. Single tickets are on sale now with prices ranging from $10 to $62 and with special $10 pricing available for students and children.

Natalia Dagenhart

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