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Thursday April 27, 2023

The Minnesota Orchestra Presents the World Premiere of brea(d)th, a Commission by Carlos Simon and Marc Bamuthi Joseph

In concerts conducted by Jonathan Taylor Rush May 18-20, the Minnesota Orchestra and spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph will make the much-anticipated debut of brea(d)th alongside 150 choral singers

The program includes two additional works written more than a century apart: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Petite Suite de Concert and Wynton Marsalis’ Tuba Concerto

Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the Minnesota Orchestra approached nationally renowned composer Carlos Simon to commission a new work that would honor the ongoing struggle for racial justice in Minnesota and beyond. Simon worked closely with frequent collaborator and celebrated librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph to create a new composition, titled brea(d)th, which features Joseph performing his original text. The Orchestra, alongside the Minnesota Chorale, Twin Cities Choral Partners and 29:11 International Exchange will present the work’s world premiere with a program under the baton of Jonathan Taylor Rush. The associate conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Rush will make his Orchestra Hall debut in these concerts.

The program will be performed at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday, May 18, at 11 a.m., Friday, May 19, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, May 20, at 8 p.m., with standard ticket prices ranging from $25 to $99. Choose Your Price tickets are available to all concertgoers for select seating sections ($5 minimum ticket price). Free tickets are available for young listeners under the age of 18 thanks to the Orchestra’s Hall Pass program. For more information, visit minnesotaorchestra.org/hallpass.

The performance on Friday, May 19, will be broadcast live on YourClassical MPR and Twin Cities PBS (TPT-2), and streamed live for free through the Orchestra's website and social media channels. The broadcast will subsequently be released for on-demand viewing with a digital subscription to the Orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall.

The music of Kennedy Center composer in residence Carlos Simon has become a staple in the Minnesota Orchestra’s repertoire in recent years, including his An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave and Fate Now Conquers. In preparation for writing brea(d)th, Simon and Joseph made two trips to the Twin Cities, connecting with local artists, activists and community members. The pair took a pilgrimage to George Floyd Square where, among others, they met with Angela Harrelson, George Floyd’s aunt, which allowed them to learn more about Floyd’s personal life. In her program note accompanying the piece, Shekela Wanyama—a doctoral student in choral and orchestral conducting, and a singer with the Minnesota Chorale who is assisting the choir in its rehearsals for brea(d)th—wrote: “Details gleaned from the visits appear throughout brea(d)th, weaving a powerful connection between the expanse of African American history and the conditions of Floyd’s life and death.”

As Simon and Joseph write in their artist statement, “brea(d)th is a classical work, inspired by the enduring presence of George Floyd the Ancestor, asking America to consider an equitable future.” Read their full artist statement at minnesotaorchestra.org/breadth-artist-statement. In addition, Simon, Joseph and Wanyama offered insight into the compositional process and what concertgoers can expect in a recent interview. View that video at minnesotaorchestra.org/stories/a-work-that-yearns.

To open the program, Rush will lead the Orchestra in a performance of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Petite Suite de Concert. Written by the British composer in 1911, the light-hearted suite includes charming melodies, soaring woodwinds and lively percussion. Though Coleridge-Taylor composed an extensive number of works before his untimely death at the age of 37, his legacy is similar in its arc to many other Black composers who have been historically ignored by major Western classical institutions only to be increasingly programmed in recent seasons as ensembles begin work to rectify their roles in systemic racism. The Petite Suite de Concert featured in these concerts will be the 12th piece by Coleridge-Taylor performed by the Minnesota Orchestra since 2016.

The program includes Wynton Marsalis’ Concerto for Tubist and Orchestra, which will be performed by Steven Campbell, the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal tuba since 2005. Marsalis, a famed trumpeter and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, has won nine Grammy Awards in both jazz and classical music. The concerto was commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra and premiered by that ensemble in 2021, featuring soloist Carol Jantsch. Influenced by a range of musical traditions from classical to boogaloo, the four movements of Marsalis’ kaleidoscopic concerto showcase the virtuosity of the tuba, which is often neglected as a solo instrument; of note is a passage in which the soloist plays the tuba and sings simultaneously, and a blistering finale that nods to bebop saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker. Campbell has performed several times as soloist with the Orchestra, including in the 2018 world premiere of James Stephenson’s low brass concerto Pillars, Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Tuba Concerto in 2015 and Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist’s Landscape in 2011.

Building additional programming around the premiere of brea(d)th, teaching artists and youth apprentices from Juxtaposition Arts will create a multi-media installation for the Orchestra Hall lobby inspired by Simon and Joseph’s composition; the exhibit will be on view from Thursday, May 11 to Saturday, May 20. In addition, Garrett McQueen, classical musician and director of artist equity for the American Composers Orchestra, will host a pre-concert interview before each concert with Simon and Joseph that explores the process of creating brea(d)th.


About the Performers

Jonathan Taylor Rush

Hailed as a rising talent in the conducting world, Jonathan Taylor Rush brings passion, unique interpretation and a refreshing energy to the orchestral experience. In fall 2021, he was promoted as associate conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra after serving as that ensemble’s assistant conductor. In 2018, he was a Project Inclusion Conducting Fellow with the Chicago Sinfonietta and in 2019 was named its assistant conductor. With the Chicago Sinfonietta, Rush worked alongside music professionals and fellow conductors to help redefine classical music by encouraging diversity in orchestras across the United States.

At age 22, as winner of the 2018 Respighi Prize in Conducting, Rush made his professional orchestra debut with the Chamber Orchestra of New York at Carnegie Hall. He continues to conduct both nationally and internationally, with notable debuts including concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta, Reno Chamber Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Nairobi Philharmonic. More: jonathanrush.com.

Carlos Simon

Described by the Los Angeles Times as a composer who “refashions musical history as excitable new realms with an unmistakable musical purpose essential for our times,” Carlos Simon is a multifaceted and highly sought-after composer and curator. His music ranges from concert music for large and small ensembles to film scores with influences of jazz, gospel and neo-romanticism. He is the current composer in residence for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, with his work being commissioned and performed by the world’s best orchestras and instrumentalists. 

Simon’s work spans genres, taking great inspiration from liturgical texts and writers such as Terrance Hayes, Colson Whitehead, Lynn Nottage, Emma Lazarus, Isabel Wilkerson, Ruby Aiyo Gerber and Courtney Lett, as well as the art of Romare Bearden. The Washington Post wrote of Simon, “If Simon has inherited anything from his lineage, it appears to be a desire to build bridges between worlds, and use music to illuminate them.” More: carlossimonmusic.com.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph

Marc Bamuthi Joseph is a 2017 TED Global Fellow, an inaugural recipient of the Guggenheim Social Practice initiative and an honoree of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship. His opera libretto, We Shall Not Be Moved, was named one of 2017’s “Best Classical Music Performances” by The New York Times. His evening-length work created in collaboration with composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, The Just and The Blind, was commissioned by Carnegie Hall and premiered to a sold out house at Carnegie in March 2019. His upcoming opera Watch Night is inspired by the forgiveness exhibited by the congregation of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and will premiere in New York in fall 2023.

While engaging in a deeply fulfilling and successful artistic career, he also serves as vice president and artistic director of social impact at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. His community development philosophy, called “The Creative Ecosystem,” has been implemented in dozens of cities across the U.S. and is the subject of several critical writings, including one of the seminal essays in Cultural Transformations: Youth and Pedagogies of Possibility, published by Harvard Education Press. He is the founding program director of the non-profit Youth Speaks, and is a co-founder of Life is Living, a national series of one-day festivals which activate under-resourced parks and affirm peaceful urban life. More: bamuthi.com.

Steven Campbell

Steven Campbell has performed several times as soloist with the Orchestra in subscription concerts and at Young People’s and Family Concerts, and performs often with his Orchestra colleagues in the Uptown Brass quintet. He is also a frequent presence in the Orchestra's chamber music series, presenting in recent years Victor Ewald’s Brass Quintet No. 3 and Paquito D’Rivera's Four Pieces for Brass Quintet, among others.

A native of Texas, Campbell studied at the University of Houston with David Kirk and at New England Conservatory with Chester Schmitz. He has been a member of the Milwaukee Symphony, New Mexico Symphony and Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia in Spain, as well as a frequent guest of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra and Seattle Symphony, among others. He has given master classes and lectures in the U.S. and abroad and is on faculty at the University of Minnesota. More: minnesotaorchestra.org.

Minnesota Chorale

The Minnesota Chorale has served as the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal chorus since 2004 and is in its 28th season under the leadership of Kathy Saltzman Romey. Founded in 1972, the Chorale is Minnesota’s preeminent symphonic chorus, with a roster of over 200 singers. Best known for its work with the two major orchestras of the Twin Cities—including collaborations with the Minnesota Orchestra in performing, recording and international touring—the ensemble is equally dedicated to programs that build and enrich community. The Chorale continues to explore new artistic directions and collaborative opportunities, while earning the highest critical acclaim for its work on the concert stage. More: mnchorale.org.

29:11 International Exchange

The members of the musical ensemble 29:11 come from the areas of the Cape Flats in Cape Town, South Africa. They have been trained by world-renowned musician Camillo Lombard and are currently under the direction of Brendon Adams, co-founder of New Hope International Exchange. They performed at Orchestra Hall most recently in 2019 performances of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and the 2022 presentation of Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed. More: 2911intl.org.


Minnesota Orchestra Classical Concerts



Thursday, May 18, 2023, 11 a.m. / Orchestra Hall

Friday, May 19, 2023, 8 p.m. / Orchestra Hall*

Saturday, May 20, 2023, 8 p.m. / Orchestra Hall


Minnesota Orchestra

Jonathan Taylor Rush, conductor

Marc Bamuthi Joseph, librettist and spoken word artist

Steven Campbell, tuba

Minnesota Chorale

Twin Cities Choral Partners

29:11 International Exchange, choir


COLERIDGE-TAYLOR Petite Suite de Concert
MARSALIS   Tuba Concerto
SIMON brea(d)th [World premiere, libretto by Marc Bamuthi Joseph]


Tickets: $25 to $99 [Choose Your Price tickets are available for select seating sections ($5 minimum ticket price). Free tickets available for young listeners under age 18, thanks to the Hall Pass program.]


* The performance on Friday, May 19, will be broadcast live on Twin Cities PBS (TPT-2) and YourClassical MPR, and streamed live for free through the Orchestra's website and social media channels. The broadcast will subsequently be released for on-demand viewing with a digital subscription to the Orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall. 



Tickets and subscription packages can be purchased now at minnesotaorchestra.org or by calling 612-371-5656. For groups of 10 or more, call 612-371-5662.

The Hall Pass program makes free tickets available for young listeners ages 6 to 18 for select Classical and Symphony in 60 concerts, and all kids under 18 for Family concerts. This program is sponsored by Cynthia and Jay Ihlenfeld. For more information, visit minnesotaorchestra.org/hallpass.

The This Is Minnesota Orchestra digital concert series is made possible in part by a generous lead gift from Kathryn and Charles Cunningham. Digital subscriptions are available for purchase; the $60 annual household subscription can be purchased at minnesotaorchestra.org/digital-concerts

With these concerts we gratefully recognize Al and Kathy Lenzmeier for their generosity as lead sponsor.

The Minnesota Orchestra is grateful to The Daniel N. and Constance B. Kunin Fund for supporting the commissioning of brea(d)th.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. 

All programs, artists, dates, times and prices subject to change.


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