Review: U.K.’s Chineke! orchestra plays works by Black American composers at Royal Festival Hall

Posted on: July 16, 2021

“Chineke! was ahead of the game,” writes Richard Fairman in Monday’s (7/12) Financial Times (U.K.; subscription required). “When it was founded in 2015, the idea of an orchestra made up of mostly Black, Asian and minority ethnic players was hailed as a hugely welcome move in encouraging greater diversity, but few could have predicted how the issue would move center stage five years later. For the past 12 months not only players from racially diverse backgrounds, but also composers have been in the spotlight. American orchestras, in particular, have been playing a lot of previously neglected music composed by African Americans in the first half of the 20th century. Two of the front-runners are William Grant Still (1895-1978) and Florence Price (1887-1953)…. In its latest concert Chineke!, an associate orchestra at London’s Southbank Centre, did the job properly and performed complete symphonies by each.” Matthew Kofi Waldrenhe led the orchestra in Still’s Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American,” and Price’s Symphony No. 3, and pianist Amiri Harewood performed Grieg’s Piano Concerto. “These two uplifting symphonies ask to be played alongside the far better-known music of Gershwin and Copland…. The audience [responded] with enthusiasm.”