Hannibal Lokumbe: Dear Mrs. Parksby Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson
Hannibal Lokumbe is a classical composer and jazz trumpeter also known by his first name only: Hannibal. In his classical compositions, Hannibal composes music that celebrates the African-American experience on its own terms, and in a wholly serious manner; it is not jazz-derived so much as it is Pan-African-American in spirit. Hannibal's previous effort, African… See more details below
Hannibal Lokumbe is a classical composer and jazz trumpeter also known by his first name only: Hannibal. In his classical compositions, Hannibal composes music that celebrates the African-American experience on its own terms, and in a wholly serious manner; it is not jazz-derived so much as it is Pan-African-American in spirit. Hannibal's previous effort, African Portraits (1995), was released by Nonesuch with much fanfare, but was ultimately criticized for eclecticism and over ambitiousness. "Dear Mrs. Parks" was a 2005 commission from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and, if anything, the eclecticism is held in check; although the instrumental forces are still very large, with four soloists, two choruses, and an expanded orchestra with an added battery of percussion, "Dear Mrs. Parks" (2009) has a very singular purpose in mind. It is a cantata in 10 movements on Hannibal's own text in the form of letters addressed to Rosa Parks from four different characters, portrayed by soloists Janice Chandler-Eteme, Jevetta Steele, Kevin Deas, and child soprano Taylor Gardner. The chorus fulfills numerous functions; interacting with soloists, hovering as angels in the background, or assuming the foreground role of the vox populi. The music is often very still and focuses on supporting Hannibal's text, though it comes alive with rich and riotous percussion in movements such as "For We Have Walked the Streets of Babylon" and "Like Luminous Rain." Overall, the character of the music has a strong African flavor, based in modes, utilizing drones, and employing an underlying rhythmic funkiness, yet opting for a modified, Western-styled recitative in some sections. Parks is celebrated as an icon rather than a person; this is in keeping with the Western tradition of honorific cantata texts written for ancient gods or noblemen, and combined with the African sound of Hannibal's music such treatment is effective and moving. This Naxos recording is edited together from the premiere performances at Orchestra Hall held in Detroit; the audience is present and quite involved and vigorous applause is heard at the end of livelier movements. In Dear Mrs. Parks, Hannibal has achieved the serious statement that he has sought to make in a standard concert work that enjoys a kind of contextual integrity yet still contains enough splash to captivate a predominantly African-American audience and to bring them into the concert hall; certainly this is readily apparent from the recording, where the approval from the crowd is most enthusiastic. Based on the good foot forward Hannibal has put with Dear Mrs. Parks, it seems unlikely that Hannibal will this time snatch defeat from the jaws of triumph much as was the case with African Portraits; that, and this disc, are both wonderful things to behold.
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- Naxos American
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