Review: Florida Orchestra’s world premiere of Ahmed Al Abaca’s “Ode to Liberty”

Posted on: June 1, 2022

“The composer stood tall before the crowd of nearly 2,000, as people jumped to their feet and filled the Mahaffey Theater with applause,” writes Lauren Peace in last Wednesday’s (5/25) Tampa Bay Times (FL). “Dressed in flowy black pants, a white collared shirt, gold dangling earrings and silver-toed boots, Ahmed Al Abaca looked out into the audience for The Florida Orchestra’s final show of the 2021-22 season…. It was the world premiere of the 38-year-old’s newest work, titled ‘Ode to Liberty,’ … written specifically for The Florida Orchestra…. Just 20 minutes earlier Al Abaca had felt waves of anxiety. ‘I had never gone on stage as my true self like that,’ said Al Abaca, whose pronouns are they/them…. ‘Ode to Liberty’ [was] inspired by Russian writer Alexander Pushkin’s poem, which shares a title… That a piece written by a young, Black, queer composer debuted in Florida could be taken as a political statement in itself. This year, the state passed legislation prohibiting instruction related to gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade…. [The work’s final movement] ‘The People Joyous, Their Freedom Vernal,’ is … ‘to remind us of our strength and what we’re capable of,’ … Al Abaca said.”