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Philadelphia Orchestra Composer-in-Residence Hannibal Lokumbe to Dedicate Healing Tones to Tree of Life Congregation

March 19, 2019

Tree of Life shooting survivor Audrey Glickman to play shofar

during world premiere performances

(Philadelphia, March 19, 2019)—Hannibal Lokumbe will culminate his three-year tenure as Philadelphia Orchestra composer-in-residence with the world premiere of Healing Tones, March 28-30, in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, conducted by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The piece will be dedicated to the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the wake of the tragic shooting that occurred there in October 2018. Audrey Glickman, a survivor of the attack, will play the shofar during the three world premiere concerts.

“The thread of hatred that is woven into the fabric called humanity stretches from the basement of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston to the temple of Tree of Life in Pittsburgh,” said Hannibal. “It’s the same thread that creates the same garment, which then becomes a cloak that keeps us from seeing the true beauty of a human being.”

Audrey Glickman was leading the morning service in the Pervin Chapel at Tree of Life when a gunman carried out a mass shooting inside the synagogue. In remembrance of the 11 lives lost in the attack, Glickman will play the shofar, a musical ram’s horn that is used in Jewish religious ceremonies, to open and close the first movement of the piece that explores the concept of healing through a powerful combination of music and text. 

Hannibal began his journey to Healing Tones with the idea of engaging Philadelphians to create a “hymn for the city.” Over the course of three years, he worked directly with groups such as the Doulas of Philadelphia, inmates of the Philadelphia Detention Center in Holmesburg, and Broad Street Ministry to gain insight that shaped and informed the composition.

The newly completed work pays homage to Hannibal’s ancestors and focuses on healing communities that are experiencing trauma, homelessness, and divisiveness. The narrative of Healing Tones addresses the accumulated violence of centuries of cultural oppression, and the desperate need for healing and peace. It takes the form of dialogues between the Everlasting (or Creator-God, voiced by a mezzo-soprano), the Eternal Mother (soprano), and the Shaman (tenor). The chorus, made up of Philadelphia community members in both Morgan State University Choir and Philadelphia Heritage Chorale, represents the Ancestors, symbolized by the moon, and the orchestra and conductor are the Primordial Force, or the sun. Costumes and makeup are a pivotal component of the performances, accentuating the cultural and spiritual representation of each role. Organic fabrics, earth tones, and simplistic styles will be worn to pay respect to the shamans of the world.

“Many of the tones in this composition were derived from remarkable encounters,” said Hannibal. “It is a gift of reverence to them and to the other living shamans known as midwives, doctors, artists, musicians, and all who work with passion for the physical and spiritual liberation of humanity.”

Hannibal, a composer and accomplished jazz trumpeter, has served as The Philadelphia Orchestra’s composer-in-residence since the 2016-17 season. His long history with the Orchestra began in 1997 with a performance of his oratorio African Portraits. He was also one of eight composers commissioned to create works honoring the Orchestra’s Centennial Celebration. The resultant work, One Heart Beating, premiered in 1999. The Orchestra also commissioned and premiered Hannibal’s spiritatorio One Land, One River, One People in 2015.

Throughout his tenure, Hannibal reached many different communities of Philadelphia through music and dialogue. He hosted a series of Composer’s Umbrella workshops as an outlet for artists of all backgrounds to collaborate and workshop new music. His work has been performed during the Orchestra’s annual free Martin Luther King, Jr., Tribute Concert as well as special chamber performances for various groups around the city, including the Philadelphia Prison System’s Detention Center in Northeast Philadelphia, St. Francis de Sales School, and Christ Church Neighborhood House. His chamber music has also been presented at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the National Museum of American Jewish History, and the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

Hannibal Lokumbe is the Music Alive Composer-in-Residence, made possible thanks to Music Alive, a national residency program of the League of American Orchestras and New Music USA. The commissioning of the world premiere of Healing Tones is made possible through generous support from Carole Haas Gavagno and the CHG Charitable Trust.


Hannibal Healing Tones

March 28 at 7:30 PM––Thursday evening––Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

March 29 at 8:00 PM—Friday evening—Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

March 30 at 8:00 PM—Saturday evening—Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts


Yannick Nézet-Séguin Conductor

Karen Slack Soprano (Eternal Mother)

Funmike Lagoke Mezzo-soprano (The Everlasting)—Philadelphia Orchestra Debut

Rodrick Dixon Tenor (Shaman)

Morgan State University Choir

     Eric Conway Director

Philadelphia Heritage Chorale

     J. Donald Dumpson Artistic Director

Hannibal                      Healing Tones—Philadelphia Orchestra Commission—World Premiere

Sibelius                       Symphony No. 2

Healing Tones is Hannibal’s homage to the pre-Columbian nations of the Americas and to his great grandmother, a Cherokee shaman and survivor of the Trail of Tears. The three-movement oratorio is a creation story with an original text by the composer, and is inspired by his own personal spirituality. The work features three main characters—the Everlasting, the Eternal Mother, and a Shaman—accompanied by orchestra and full chorus. Healing Tones is the culmination of Hannibal’s three-year immersion in our community as The Philadelphia Orchestra’s composer-in-residence. The text and music are reflections of his many interactions with Philadelphians of all backgrounds. Hannibal has served as a unifying presence in community centers, schools, shelters, and prisons. In his own words: “I want to set people’s spirits free with this work. Just as it sets me free.”


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