Celebrate the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein in our signature festival concert featuring his most treasured works. The program includes excerpts from On the Town, Peter Pan, Candide, and Gershwin's jazz-infused Rhapsody in Blue, a seminal composer in his own right who was a significant influence for Bernstein.
The Mann Center will present the world premiere of a newly commissioned work South Side, Symphonic Dances by acclaimed American composer Darin Atwater. An artistic force in the broadest and most creative sense of the word, Atwater's career has encompassed the roles of composer, conductor, pianist, record producer, film composer, entrepreneur, educator, and arts advocate. As Founder and Artistic Director of Soulful Symphony, Atwater has blended American music into many dazzling fusions, traversing genres and literally reinventing the symphony orchestra in America.
South Side, Symphonic Dances
is based on the eternal tale in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
and Bernstein's romantic musical update West Side Story
. South Side, Symphonic
Dances represents the tragedy and triumph of African-American youth who navigate the complexity of urban living. The war between rival teenage gangs in Bernstein's West Side Story
is replaced with the metaphoric rival "gang" of oppressive forces and structures of subordination, including racism, economic/educational disparities, injustice, media bias, etc. South Side, Symphonic Dances
attempts to storyboard our collective struggles and the power of story, music, and culture, transcending boundaries of geography, class, and race - all of the universal concepts that are present in all cultures.
These objectives are stylized and coded within the music. From spirituals to hip-hop/rap, there is a connection between coded musical communication and resistance. African-American music is a form of political, economic, and ideological empowerment. South Side, Symphonic Dances will advance this tradition by transmitting sonic perspectives on important social issues - a model of freedom through sounds, words and movements in the body coded by the black community, all speaking to the "figurative nature in black culture" (Henry Louis Gates). "With Bernstein as a springboard, South Side, Symphonic Dances is an attempt to extend his themes of 20th-century integration and multiculturalism," Atwater says. "I hope to create an exciting score wrapped around contemporary social and racial tensions. When you commit to such heroic ambitions, you create inspirational works, transform communities and ultimately bring people together."