May 12, 2023
New Jersey Symphony World Premiere Commissions

The New Jersey Symphony presents two world premiere commissions in June: Chen Yi’s Landscape Impression, inspired by two ancient Chinese poems, and Farah (Joy) for Voice and Orchestra by Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), the Symphony’s Resident Artistic Catalyst.

Due to an administrative error at the Symphony, the DBR work was misidentified in an earlier press release as “We Shall Not Be Moved: Symphonic Scenes and Samples,” a New Jersey Symphony commission that had its world premiere at the Season Finale concert in 2022. This season, the New Jersey Symphony presents the world premiere of DBR’s Farah (Joy) for Voice and Orchestra, also commissioned by the Symphony.

June 9-11: Daniel Bernard Roumain's Farah (Joy) for Voice and Orchestra 

In his program note (reproduced below), Daniel Bernard Roumain describes his inspiration for Farah (Joy) and tells the story of how this new 11-minute work came to be.

Farah is the second work commissioned by the wonderful New Jersey Symphony in my position as their first Resident Artistic Catalyst. My ongoing collaboration with the orchestra continues to provide opportunities for me to explore my interest in and concern for our communities, and to respond artistically to the events that occupy our national discussions.

Working with the brilliant librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, we both agreed we wanted to center joy. After years of creating work that centered protest (with a clenched fist and determined mind), we felt it was time to create work that centered our proclamations for the people and places that we love — and to do this with an open hand and a determined heart.

Farah means ‘joy' in Arabic, and the very first words of Bamuthi’s libretto speak to us directly: 

      Remember me a Black girl named for Joy, oriented forward toward an eastern star.

I always find Bamuthi’s words musical and delightfully rhythmic, and with this opening sentence, the score poured out onto the page in an endless and elaborate set of variations based on an initial theme set to these first few words. The orchestra, under the meticulous direction of Music Director Xian Zhang, is a true partner to the singer, and each section of the ensemble has an opportunity to collaborate with the voice in a myriad of ways: lush, romantic textual settings; a military march; a brief set of inventions and musical rounds; and a closing meditation with 'call and response' between the voice and strings. The work ends with everyone holding a single note as it fades into the ether.

This work was composed for my friends in the New Jersey Symphony and the voice of the incomparable Becky Bass. [Ms. Bass hails from St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, and is also a renowned steel drummer and actor and a two-time New England Urban Music Award winner.] Becky and I met in Providence, Rhode Island, years ago in a series of collaborations and performances, brought together by the presenter Kathleen Pletcher under the auspices of the presenting organization FirstWorks.

As a Black, Haitian-American composer, I am fortunate to live and work within communities of care. And I have questions. What are the things worth protesting? How do we proclaim our love for one another? Where is the evidence of our joy, and how is it centered within our lives? The answers to these questions occupy my mind and are, at this moment, best expressed in Farah.

To joy!

Daniel Bernard Roumain, composer and violin | Becky Bass, vocalist

The New York Times described Daniel Bernard Roumain as “About as omnivorous as a contemporary artist gets.” The composer’s collaborators include Philip Glass, Bill T. Jones, Savion Glover, and Lady Gaga. DBR—known for his signature violin sounds infused with myriad electronic, urban and African American music influences—is a composer of chamber, orchestral and operatic works. DBR earned his doctorate in Music Composition from the University of Michigan and is currently Institute Professor and Professor of Practice at Arizona State University. In his role as Resident Artistic Catalyst at New Jersey Symphony, DBR is at the forefront of the Symphony’s efforts to meaningfully increase diversity, equity and inclusion.

DBR’s Farah (Joy) opens the concert and is followed by superstar violinist Joshua Bell performing Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. The orchestra brings the evening—and the season—to a rousing finish with Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

Concert Details
Friday, June 9, 8 pm (Newark / NJPAC)
Saturday, June 10, 8 pm (Red Bank / Count Basie Center for the Arts)
Sunday, June 11, 3 pm (Newark / NJPAC)
Xian Zhang, Conductor
Joshua Bell, Violin
Becky Bass, Vocalist
New Jersey Symphony

Daniel Bernard Roumain Farah (Joy) for Voice and Orchestra (World Premiere, New Jersey Symphony Commission)
Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1
Stravinsky The Rite of Spring
New Jersey Symphony Event Page


Chen Yi, composer 

June 1-4: Chen Yi’s Landscape Impression

New Jersey Symphony’s penultimate Centennial Season world premiere, Landscape Impression, by Chen Yi, takes place June 1-4 in Newark, Princeton and New Brunswick. The music is inspired by two ancient Chinese poems by Su Dong-Po (aka Su Shi, 1036-1101), written in 1072 and 1073. The two sister poems are entitled Landscape and The West Lake.  

Landscape (1072)
Like spilt ink dark clouds spread o'er the hills as a pall / Like bouncing pearls, the raindrops in the boat run riot. / A sudden rolling gale comes and dispels them all, / Below Lake View Pavilion sky-mirrored water's quiet.

The West Lake (1073)
The glittering waves delight the eye on sunny days, / The dimming hills give a rare view in rainy haze. / The West Lake looks like the fair lady at her best, / Whether she is richly adorned or plainly dressed.

Chen Yi is the first woman to have received a Master of Arts degree in music composition from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and she is widely recognized for transcending musical and cultural boundaries in her blending of Chinese and Western traditions. Dr. Chen is a cultural ambassador who has introduced hundreds of new compositions and a large number of musicians from the East and the West to music and educational exchange programs in the US, the UK, Germany, and Asian countries.

The concert opens with Chen Yi’s new work, which is followed by Stravinsky’s Suite from Pulcinella, and concludes with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto featuring Randall Goosby.

Concert Details:
Thursday, June 1, 1:30 pm (Newark / NJPAC)
Friday, June 2, 8 pm (Princeton / Richardson Auditorium)
Saturday, June 3, 8 pm (Newark / NJPAC)
Sunday, June 4, 3 pm (New Brunswick / State Theatre New Jersey)
Xian Zhang, Conductor
Randall Goosby, Violin
New Jersey Symphony

Chen Yi  Landscape Impression (World Premiere, New Jersey Symphony Commission)
Stravinsky Suite from Pulcinella
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
New Jersey Symphony Event Page

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