Review: Newport Classical world premiere of Okpebholo’s “Crooked Shanks”

Posted on: July 14, 2022

“The Gavilán Brothers, violinist Ilmar with pianist and composer Aldo López, led a fascinating musical odyssey” at Rhode Island’s Newport Classical Music Festival on July 9, writes Stephen Martorella in Monday’s (7/11) Boston Musical Intelligencer. “Newport commissioned American composer Shawn E. Okpebholo for a piece that reflected some of the history surrounding historic Rhode Island…. The result, Okpebholo’s Crooked Shanks, develops a tune of the same name composed in the mid 1700’s by a former slave, Newport Gardner, who resided in Newport…. Gardner … purchased his freedom in 1791…. He composed several tunes, of which Crooked Shanks appeared in books of English dancing-tunes as early as 1768…. Okpebholo’s free adaptation of Gardner’s tune produced a tone-poem of immense beauty infused with Afro-Cuban flavorings. It was written specifically for Aldo López-Gavilán, who performed it with sensitivity and dynamic energy. The Crooked Shanks tune was not easily identified, as its original conception as a dancing tune in 6/8 time was never present. Only the notes of the theme were hinted at, gradually rising out of an impressionistic mist…. The second section [used] Afro-American and Cuban infused rhythms, some associated with ‘rag-time’ music, and building in speed and intensity.”