May 2013

AfriClassical Features Composer-Conductor Sung Jin Hong

Harlem Sound Project commissions Harlem Fanfare (2013) of One World Symphony’s Sung Jin Hong; World Premiere May 5, 2013 at 4:00p.m.

One World Symphony’s Artistic Director Sung Jin Hong’s Harlem Fanfare (2013) was commissioned by The Harlem Sound Project. It will receive its world premiere performance on May 5, 2013 at 4:00 p.m. at the landmark Church of Intercession on 550 West 155th Street in New York City.

Harlem Fanfare is scored for an orchestra of brass, saxophones, percussion, and timpani, and was inspired by Langston Hughes’s Harlem (Dream Deferred), written in 1951, well known as the source of the title of Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore —
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over —
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

When Kyra Sims, the founder of The Harlem Sound Project, commissioned Harlem Fanfare (2013), I sought literary artists for inspiration, and I immediately gravitated towards Langston Hughes.

Positivity and hope can be immensely powerful, but we don’t live on hope alone. Hughes comments that people are prone to think, “Well, tomorrow will be a better day” — but he asks, “Why will it be a better day?” We must work incredibly hard to pursue our passions and dreams, not just cross your fingers for them. I agree with Hughes’s motto here: LESS HOPE, MORE SWEAT.

The first line of the poem is answered with nothing but more questions. Instead of seeking for best answers, we should encourage better questions. Albert Einstein said: “The most important thing is to not stop questioning... it is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” In Harlem Fanfare, instead of trumpets blaring with pomp and circumstance, they intone questions, and the saxophones respond with more questions. Instead of accepting the platitudes, the entire orchestra of brass, saxophones, percussion and timpani challenges them: WHY?!

Our dreams and passion are what makes us a valuable member of society. The fanfare depicts the frustration of what can happen if we delay or quit on our dreams. Maybe we can’t fulfill our dreams — we have to wait until society changes, until institutions and laws evolve and doors of opportunity open. Perhaps we have to wait so long that our dreams seem dead. A dream deferred doesn’t have to be a dream defeated.

If Harlem Fanfare has a message, it’s to discover and create possibilities. One of many lessons that being a teacher has taught me is that if we’re not prepared to be “wrong” or take risks, we will never be creative or imaginative. Kids tend to have boundless potential because they usually are not aware of what’s “wrong” or what we are “not allowed to do.”

If our dreams are blocked, if things aren’t going our way, instead of shattering with despair or destroying what’s around us, let’s channel that energy and power into our passion. Don’t just sit on our hopes, like Gatsby obsessively staring at Daisy’s green light in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. Use it to fuel our dreams, and build and (re)invent our own path, and turn imagination into reality.

Upcoming World Premieres in May 2013 by Sung Jin Hong

May 5 at 4:00 p.m. at Church of Intercession on 550 West 155th Street in Manhattan
Harlem Fanfare (2013) for brass, saxophones, timpani, percussion, inspired by Langston Hughes’ Harlem (Dream Deferred)
Other works in the program: Henri Tomasi’s Fanfares Liturgiques, Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale
The Harlem Sound Project

May 19 and 20 at 8:00 p.m. at Church of Holy Apostles on 296 Ninth Avenue at West 28th Street in Manhattan
Edge (2013): monodrama for vocal soloist and full symphony orchestra, inspired by Sylvia Plath’s final poem
Other works in the program: Scenes from John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar named Desire
One World Symphony

Composer-Conductor Sung Jin Hong is the artistic director of New York City’s One World Symphony. The New York Times described Hong’s From The Alchemist (inspired by Paulo Coelho’s novel) as transforming “a novel to a lush Mahlerian sound.” Mr. Hong’s upcoming composition commissions include Eyes Wide Shut (inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s final film), a piano concerto, and Harlem Fanfare for Harlem Sound Project. Recent commissioned and performed symphonic works include a symphonic poem The Architect (2012) for Ramakrishna-Vivekananda, Eye of the Storm (2010–2011) and Sidewalk Sketches (2010). His compositions have been performed at the New York International Fringe Festival, Florence Gould Hall, the central New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, Bard College, and Palai Corbelli in Vienna, Austria. Mr. Hong’s guest conducting engagements include Lyrique-en-mer in France, Stadt Wien Konservatorium in Vienna, Royal Northern Conservatory in Manchester, Tulsa Symphony, Tulsa Ballet, Manhattan School of Music, Mannes, Redlands University, Bradley University, Western Illinois University, Great Music for a Great City. Mr. Hong had the honor of being chosen by Kurt Masur to participate in a series of masterclasses and conduct in a concert with Manhattan School of Music Symphony. He made his international recording debut as a conductor with classical music’s largest record label, Naxos.

Kyra Sims is a freelance French hornist, Wagner tubist, and vocalist residing in New York City. A recent graduate from Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Michelle Baker, Kyra is quickly making her mark in NYC. She has played in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall, to the Frederick P. Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center, to Le Poisson Rouge in the Village. She happily brings her horn and voice into any genre that will have her- she enjoys and regularly performs not only classical, but also rock, pop, folk, and jazz styles. She has performed all over the world in countries such as China, Italy, and Greece, and has collaborated with notable artists such as pianist Peter Serkin, bassist Reggie Workman, and the Turtle Island String Quartet. As an orchestral musician, she has played under Kurt Masur at Manhattan School of Music, and Lorin Maazel at the Castleton Festival. In May 2012, Kyra founded The Harlem Sound Project, a concert series that aims to celebrate and uplift local non-profit organizations through music.

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