Minnesota Orchestra Commissions New Work by Black Artists

The commission was a result of brainstorming ways to create change after the murder of George Floyd in 2020

Composer Carlos Simon (Photo credit: Terrance Ragland)


The Minnesota Orchestra announced the commission of a major composition for orchestra and choir by composer Carlos Simon and librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph.

Entitled "brea(d)th," the piece will receive its world premiere May 18-20, 2023 with conductor Jonathan Taylor Rush, vocal soloists, the Minnesota Chorale, and Twin Cities Choral Partners.

“One of the ways that we make sense of what is happening in the world is to see it through the creative lens of contemporary artists,” says President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns. “In the summer of 2020, in the days after George Floyd’s killing and the unrest that followed, the Orchestra was grappling with how to respond to these tragedies through music and how to use our artistic voice to join the call for change, and the idea of a new work was born—to commission a new composition that addresses broad social justice themes.”   

Simon and Joseph will make visits to Minneapolis over the next year to create the composition in consultation with community members most affected by the tragic events. The collaborators embrace what they call “the aspiration of racial equity through music-centered community healing.” 

As current composer-in-residence at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Carlos Simon was a Sundance Composer Fellow in 2018. His output ranges from concert music to film scores, influenced by jazz, gospel, and neo-romantic influences. The Orchestra will also perform his An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave in three October 2022 concerts led by Donald Runnicles.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph is a 2017 TED Global Fellow and serves as vice president and artistic director of social impact at the Kennedy Center. He has written the librettos for the works We Shall Not Be Moved and The Just and the Blind.

The news of the commission was part of the Minnesota Orchestra's 2022/23 season announcement. The season will feature many other living composers such as Adolphus Hailstork, Kaija Saariaho’s, Hannah Kendall, Outi Tarkiainen, and Eleanor Alberga’s Tower.