If you attended the world premiere of brea(d)th in May 2023 then you know the power of this work—of Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s libretto tightly woven with composer Carlos Simon’s evocative music; of the 150-singer chorus that punctuates the orchestra’s notes and Joseph’s poetry. At turns solemn, bluesy, heart-rending and dissonant, brea(d)th is, in the words of Simon and Joseph, “inspired by the enduring presence of George Floyd the Ancestor, asking America to consider an equitable future.”
On September 1, the British record label Decca Classics released a recording of brea(d)th, which was recorded over the course of the three live performances at Orchestra Hall from May 18-20, 2023. Decca’s release helps ensure that this crucial work will be available to a global audience for years to come.
The Minnesota Orchestra commissioned brea(d)th in 2021, following the murder of George Floyd. Over the next two years, Simon and Joseph made several trips to the Twin Cities, working closely with the Minnesota Orchestra to connect 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.
Of the ambitious work, Simon and Joseph wrote: "We come to the resilient and root-rich Twin Cities as outsiders, but we composed this work from within the walls of Black emotion, curiosity and dignity. The piece explores a historical timeline that stretches from the pre-colonial to the present condition, and perhaps further, into a post-pandemic America." Read their full artist statement here.
The world premiere concerts were led by Jonathan Taylor Rush and featured the work's own librettist, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, as spoken word artist. The Minnesota Orchestra was joined by the Minnesota Chorale, Twin Cities Choral Partners and vocal ensemble 29:11.
For those wishing to watch the performance, a broadcast of the May 19 concert can be viewed on demand with a subscription to the Orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall.