Chineke!, Europe’s first majority-Black and ethnically diverse orchestra, led by conductor Andrew Grams, will make its inaugural North American tour this month performing in six cities across Canada and the U.S.
Tour cities and dates for the series are as follows:
- Ottawa, Canada, National Arts Centre, March 16
- Toronto, Canada, Koerner Hall, March 18
Presented by The Royal Conservatory of Music
- New York City, David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, March 20 (U.S. debut)
Co-presented by Lincoln Center, The Juilliard School, and the New York Philharmonic
- Boston, Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory, March 22
Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston
- Worcester, Mass., Mechanics Hall, March 23
Presented by Music Worcester
- Ann Arbor, Michigan, Hill Auditorium at University of Michigan, March 25
Presented by University Musical Society
The U.K.-based ensemble was founded in 2015 by double bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku CBE. Their North American tour was originally scheduled to take place three years ago in March 2020, but was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Chineke! describes their dual purpose as “broadening performance opportunities at a high artistic level for Black and ethnically diverse classical musicians who are underrepresented in top-tier orchestras, as well as performing repertoire by composers past and present who have been similarly overlooked. Also central to the orchestra’s mission is a commitment to education and community engagement with similarly diverse students and audiences, to encourage future study and participation in music.”
“Chineke! is thrilled to be able to finally make its North American debut!” says Chi-chi Nwanoku CBE, the orchestra’s founder and artistic director. “We’ve been looking forward to this tour for years, and it will be a privilege for us to perform this repertoire for audiences in both Canada and the States. We’re proud of what we’ve created and built with this ensemble and can’t wait to share it beyond Europe!”
“Chineke! is particularly grateful to United Airlines for its generous support of this tour, without which it would not have been possible.”
Joining the orchestra on tour are three renowned soloists: pianist and composer Stewart Goodyear in Ottawa and Toronto—where he currently serves as inaugural Artist in Residence at The Royal Conservatory of Music—and Boston; Principal Clarinet of the New York Philharmonic Anthony McGill in New York; and acclaimed violinist Elena Urioste in Worcester and Ann Arbor.
Tour repertoire will range from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, to less well-known Black composers from the late-Romantic period British-Sierra Leonian composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and American composer Florence B. Price.
Living Black composers to be featured are Stewart Goodyear, whose own work, Callaloo—which he recorded with Chineke!—is featured on three programs, and a work by GRAMMY®-nominated composer Carlos Simon.
The Chineke! Orchestra performs in an estimated 40 concerts each year in the UK, including at many major UK Festivals and at St. George’s, Bristol, and Warwick Arts Centre where Chineke! has residencies. In London, Chineke! is a Resident Orchestra at Southbank Centre, performing regularly at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Royal Festival Hall.
Abroad, Chineke! has undertaken major tours to Europe and Australia. CD recordings by the orchestra have been released since 2017, and in 2022, the Chineke! Records label was launched in association with Decca Records.
Other current initiatives by the Chineke! Foundation include Chineke! Voices: launched in 2022 to shine a spotlight on the extraordinary 16th-century composer Vicente Lusitano, with a recording to be released in 2023, and the Chineke! Junior Orchestra, who made its debut European tour in 2022 with an opening concert at the Lucerne Festival.
In each of their concerts Chineke! performs works by Black and ethnically diverse composers from all over the world who have been unjustly neglected throughout history.
Nwanoku says: “My aim is to create a space where Black and ethnically diverse musicians can walk on stage and know that they belong, in every sense of the word. If even one child feels that their colour is getting in the way of their musical ambitions, then I hope to inspire them, give them a platform, and show them that music, of whatever kind, is for all people. And I want audiences to feel welcome, regardless of ethnicity.”