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Arts & Culture

'Musical Bridges' Connects Classical Music To Issues Of Race And Equity

Bethanie Hines
Norfolk Chamber Music Festival
Composer Daniel Bernard Roumain's "Twin Stars: Diamond Variations for Dae'Anna" was written in response to the killing of Philando Castile in 2016.

The Norfolk Chamber Music Festival has launched an initiative that uses classical music as a conduit for conversations about race and diversity.

The festival’s Musical Bridges project will commission new works for chamber music that address the role of art and society.

“As an art form, classical music is not really an alive, vibrant art form if all we are doing is playing music of the past,” said Melvin Chen, deputy dean of the Yale School of Music and director of the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. “Moving forward, we have to do everything that we can to make sure that classical music is involved in the kind of conversations that we’re having.”

Musical Bridges’ first commission is by Black Haitian American composer Daniel Bernard Roumain. Twin Stars: Diamond Variations for Dae’Anna is a chamber music piece written for piano quintet and two singers, with a libretto by poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph.

Roumain said the work is a reflection on the killing of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in 2016 by a police officer in Minnesota.

“It speaks to not only what happened on this earth and in those twin cities, but he’s speaking to the celestial, he’s speaking to the soul stuff, the black matter,” said Roumain. “It gives it a very literal opportunity for the audience to hear and understand this event, what happened, but also to aspire to something.”

Twin Stars gets its virtual world premiere this Friday evening at 7:30 online at norfolkmusic.org.

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