The North American premiere of Billy Bragg’s version of “Ode to Joy,” the choral finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony will take place Saturday, August 29th at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. The Asia America Youth Orchestra will perform the piece under the baton and musical direction of David Benoit. At the concert Bragg will perform and lead the audience in a sing-along of the choral. Commissioned in 2007, Bragg translated the German words of “Ode to Joy,” (found in the fourth movement of The Ninth), for a new generation. It was first premiered with the London Philharmonic in 2008 at the Royal Festival Hall before Queen Elizabeth (see Bragg’s article: http://tiny.cc/PthAF - “How the Queen Charmed the Pants off me: Confessions of an old Leftie”). A prolific songwriter and social activist, Bragg’s discography also includes punk, folk, country and protest songs. In 1995 Bragg was requested by Nora Guthrie to write music for unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics. The songs were later released on two LPs with Wilco and Natalie Merchant.
Beethoven had long wanted to set German poet/philosopher Friedrich Schiller’s poem about universal brotherhood, “Ode to Joy” (“An die Freude”) to music. (The poem was first published in 1786 in Schiller’s own literary journal, Thalia.) When Beethoven premiered The Ninth Symphony in 1824 it was the first example of a major composer using voices in a symphony. The Ninth Symphony has become a vehicle for inspiration, as documented in Filmmaker/Producer Kerry Candaele’s film Following the Ninth (to be released in 2010). The Ninth played over makeshift speakers during the 1989 protest in Tiananmen Square, as student leader Feng Congde stated “to create the ambiance of solidarity and hope…” Conductor Leonard Bernstein chose The Ninth to perform in East Berlin six weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In Japan “The Daiku” (“The Great Nine”) is performed as an annual ritual of national release and exaltation.
In keeping with The Ninth’s spirit of international connection the concert will feature an eclectic array of multicultural groups who will perform their versions of different parts of the symphony. Performers include: Banda Philharmonica - a 30 piece Oaxacan Brass Ensemble, made of young men and women from Los Angeles; jazz singer Dwight Trible –vocalist with the Pharoah Sanders Quartet; critically-acclaimed Bluegrass vocalist Susie Glaze – “…an important voice on the California bluegrass scene” (Bluegrass Unlimited); Kerrville Folk Festival’s 2009 New Folk Winner, singer-songwriter Ernest Troost – who combines folk and Piedmont blues style guitar pickings in his songs; Dafra Drum Ensemble - a multicultural group that performs dance and drumming from the Djeli/Griot tradition of West Africa; The Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project from Burkino Faso and pianist Justin Bischof – an internationally acclaimed conductor, concert pianist and organist. He is one of the few artists of his generation who presents complete concerts of improvisations on both organ and piano.
Tickets can be purchased at www.BeethovenBragg.com and are $55, $75 and $100 - proceeds benefit Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, L.A. The Eli & Edythe Broad Stage is located at 1310 11th Street in Santa Monica and can be reached at (310) 430-1628. For additional ticket/concert information email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beethoven Billy Bragg Ninth is produced by Battle Hymns Productions’ Kerry Candaele and Danny Feingold. Betto Arcos is the Artistic Director. Feingold is the Communications Director with LAANE, a nationally recognized leader in the effort to reduce working poverty. Betto Arcos is the host of KPFK’s Global Village show on Tuesdays.
The concert is co-sponsored by Brave New Films, Austrian Consulate of Los Angeles, German Consulate of Los Angeles, California Nurses Association (CNA), LA Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), TheLEK.com, Mogo Media, The Horizon Institute, Los Angeles Council Member Eric Garcetti and Santa Monica Council Member Richard Bloom.