ClassicsOnline Home » LOKUMBE, H.: Dear Mrs. Parks (Chandler-Eteme, Steele, Deas, Rackham Symphony Choir, Brazeal Dennard Chorale, Detroit Symphony, Wilkins) > Review List

LOKUMBE, H.: Dear Mrs. Parks (Chandler-Eteme, Steele, Deas, Rackham Symphony Choir, Brazeal Dennard Chorale, Detroit Symphony, Wilkins)

Composer(s):Lokumbe, Hannibal
Genre Classical Music
Category Choral - Secular
Catalogue 8.559668
Label Naxos
Quality   320kbps
Download and Stream

Dear Mrs Parks features a massive ensemble comprised of full orchestra plus two choirs and four vocal soloists. Influenced by blues, jazz, African music and Gospel music, it pays homage to Rosa Parks in the form of imaginary letters to the civil rights heroine. Hannibal Lokumbe’s career in music spans over four decades. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a Bessie award, the NEA, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He has composed works for the Kronos Quartet, the Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit and Houston symphonies.


Review By The Smithville Times,January 2010

…Lokumbe saw the release of his new work dedicated to 1959s civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, titled, “Dear Mrs. Parks. The work was commissioned and premiered by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Previously, Lokumbe also wrote a musical piece dedicated to slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers and performed by several symphonies.

Review By Mark Stryker,Detroit Free Press,December 2009

In 2005 the Detroit Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere of Hannibal Lokumbe’s “Dear Mrs. Parks,” a sprawling, hour-long oratorio based on fictional letters of gratitude to the civil rights hero. The orchestra revived the work in March for its Classical Roots concerts led by former resident conductor Thomas Wilkins, who also led the 2005 premiere. The recent performances have now begat a CD…scored for orchestra, choir and vocal soloists, “Dear Mrs. Parks” had a galvanizing impact in the concert hall. There was a compelling sense of ritual at the world premiere. The pulsating percussion connected the dots between Mother Africa and jazz, the plaintive choral melodies tapped into a wellspring of emotion and the sheer exuberance of the

But recordings are different animals, and while some passages retain their power, the overall sweep of the piece doesn’t make the same impression on CD. The episodic nature of the writing, the opening spoken prayer by the audience and even the applause between movements all leave a disjointed feeling that was covered up by the ecstatic nature of the live performance.

Lokumbe (born Marvin Peterson in 1948) made his reputation as a trumpeter in progressive jazz circles in the ’70s, but since 1990 he’s become known as a composer of large orchestral works on African-American themes. “Dear Mrs. Parks” is steeped in African and African-American idioms, from the prayerful melodic contours of spirituals and work songs to call-and-response strategies drawn from blues and jazz and an extended timpani solo—brilliantly improvised by Brian Jones—and played over a half-dozen other drums that suggest a tribal ceremony.

The work unfolds in cresting choral passages, simple but effective orchestration and vocal soloists who adopt various personas. Lokumbe’s text is bathed in mysticism and hope. Wilkins leads a strong, enthusiastic performance and the soloists and chorus—soprano Janice Chandler-Eteme, mezzo-soprano Jevetta Steele, bass Kevin Deas, children soprano Taylor Gardner and the combined Rackham Symphony Choir and Brazeal Dennard Chorale—all sing with distinction.



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