Almost 150 years after his untimely death, Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be America’s greatest President, as much for his leadership during a time of crisis as for his eloquence and humanity. Among those artists who were inspired to pay tribute to Lincoln during his bicentennial year was Grammy-winning jazz legend, pianist and composer Ramsey Lewis. In the summer of 2009, Lewis premiered a new, large-scale, mixed-media symphonic poem at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois, which had commissioned the work as part of its celebration of the Lincoln bicentennial. Now, public television audiences will have the opportunity to experience Lewis’ vision, as his profoundly moving work PROCLAMATION OF HOPE comes to WTTW on Thursday, April 14 at 9:00 pm.
PROCLAMATION OF HOPE, taped this past November before an enthusiastic audience at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., was composed by Lewis and conducted and arranged by Scott Hall for a 22-piece orchestra -- wind ensemble, rhythm section and voice. The work is organized in eight movements that draw upon jazz, gospel and blues. Each movement was inspired by an actual historical event from or impacted by Lincoln’s life and vision for America, and considers Lincoln’s profound and lasting influence on the United States’ quest to become “a more perfect Union.” The music is performed against visual designer Michael Coakes’ sweeping mixed-media tableau of historic images and photos. University of Pennsylvania music professor Guthrie P. Ramsey, author of Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop, worked with Lewis to provide accompanying written notes.
About Ramsey Lewis
Composer and pianist Ramsey Lewis has been referred to as “the great performer," a title reflecting his performance style and musical selections which display his early gospel playing and classical training along with his love of jazz and other musical forms. A native Chicagoan, Mr. Lewis has three Grammy Awards and seven gold records to his credit, along with three honorary doctorate degrees, the Recording Academy Governor’s Award in 2000 and he was recognized as “Person of the Week” on ABC Nightly News in February 1995. He has performed at the White House and was honored to be one of the Olympic Torch runners during its journey to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in January of 2002. Lewis hosted the 13-part public television series Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis, also produced by WTTW. Lewis’ newest album “Ramsey, Taking Another Look” is set to be released in May 2011, under his new artist-owned record label, Mapenzi Records.
About Scott Hall
Scott Hall has distinguished himself as a trumpeter, composer, arranger, educator and producer of all things jazz. He serves as Director of Jazz Studies at Columbia College Chicago and is continually engaged in all areas of his musical life. As Ramsey Lewis’ arranger, he has collaborated on several Ravinia Music Festival commissions, including Muses and Amusements with the Ramsey Lewis Trio and the Turtle Island Quartet.
About the Soloists
Improvisation is a key element of PROCLAMATION OF HOPE, displaying the spectacular voices of our fine soloists. Dee Alexander provides wordless melodies through her deeply passionate voice. Tenor saxophonist Geof Bradfield plays sensitive melodic harmonies and driving modern musical lines throughout. Alto saxophonist Charlie Young plays the blues from the heart, while Graham Breedlove trumpets exquisite tones and provocative harmonic ideas. Trombonist Jen Krupa cries out the pains of slavery in “The Horrid Picture: A Peculiar Institution.” Joshua Ramos (bass) and Leon Joyce (drums) are the backbone of the rhythm section as well as expressing beauty through their improvisational strides.
Executive Producers for PROCLAMATION OF HOPE are Ramsey Lewis and Nicolette Ferri. Producer is Nicolette Ferri. Director is Steve Purcell. Senior Executive Producer is Frances J. Harth. Arranged and conducted by Scott Hall. WTTW National Productions Executive-in-Charge is Parke Richeson.
PROCLAMATION OF HOPE is generously underwritten by the Ravinia Festival and AARP.
About WTTW National Productions
WTTW National Productions is a division of Window to the World Communications, Inc., the parent company of WTTW11 Chicago, the nation’s most-watched public television station. For more than 50 years, WTTW11 and WTTW National Productions have introduced a wide array of groundbreaking television programming – reflecting the world’s rich and diverse arts and entertainment scene as well as education, politics, public affairs, business and religion – to a national audience. Its landmark innovative series and original productions include the critically-acclaimed performance showcases Soundstage and Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis, Grannies on Safari, CEO Exchange, David Broza at Masada: The Sunrise Concert, MEXICO -- One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless, Retirement Revolution, the animated children’s series WordWorld, and Ebert Presents At the Movies. More information about WTTW National Productions is available at www.wttw.com/national.