Titled “I Dream a World: The Harlem Renaissance and Beyond,” the festival will be led by the New World Symphony’s (NWS) artistic director and conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas.
The Harlem Renaissance was centered in New York City between the 1920s and 1930s. This cultural movement marked a revival of African American music, dance, art, fashion, literature, theater, and politics.
The “I Dream a World” festival aims to celebrate the history and influence of the movement, which was also pivotal in establishing the authority of Black artists over the representation of Black culture and experience in America.
Taking place at the New World Center in Miami Beach, Florida, this festival will include orchestral music concerts, discussions, recitals, and poetry readings. Chamber music sessions will be led by Thomas in collaboration with musicologist Tammy Kernodle.
Other festival collaborators will include pianist Michelle Cann, conductor Thomas Wilkins, and poets P. Scott Cunningham and Kevin Young. An exhibition curated by Christopher Norwood and a film presented by the American Black Film Festival will also feature at the event.
Funded by the NWS Collaborations Fund, NWS Fund for New Ventures, and Bank of America, this festival “models a more holistic approach to expanding the context of who is ‘heard’ in the American concert hall,” as stated by Kernodle in the press release.
“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,” she continued. “If arts organizations are truly going to advance change and embody this notion of inclusion, then they must go deeper.
“The [Harlem] Renaissance was such an important cultural movement and too often the public context focuses on the literary movement that took place in Harlem,” she added.
However, the movement included more, such as music, visual arts, and dance, extending to major American cities and internationally, well into the late 20th century. According to Kernodle, the festival’s programming is such that “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,” Kernodle concluded. “It is advancing the type of community-building that the intellectuals and artisans that birthed the Renaissance employed.”
The festival’s closing performance is free to attend and will feature works by William Grant Still, Florence Price, Duke Ellington, James Johnson, and William Dawson.
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