Acclaimed violinist Diane Monroe has announced premiere performances of her new work, Violin Woman, African Dreams, in November 2019 at the Carriage House of Cliveden, a National Trust historic site in Philadelphia, PA.
Monroe’s musical memoir bridges jazz, classical and traditional African music to reveal an African-American violinist’s trials and triumphs through a career spanning four decades. This story of personal and collective histories will be told through a collage of original music, visual art and spoken word. The evening-length suite will be performed by an ensemble that includes violin, banjo, west African kora and Western String quartet.
“With musical boundaries lessening, artists are ever-more challenged to define our own identities and voices,” said Monroe. “With this work I am challenging myself to not only disrupt musical classifications and hierarchies, but also to examine what it means for me to be an African-American woman.”
For this new piece, Monroe has worked with visual artist and scholar Curlee Raven Holton, drawing inspiration from his paintings and prints, using that inspiration to reflect on her life journey and to write music fueled by her experience as an African-American woman—Monroe employs a quintessentially Western instrument to collapse boundaries between musical styles that often occupy distinct silos. Holton’s artwork will be incorporated into the scenic design for the premiere performances at Cliveden.
Monroe’s other collaborators on the project include renowned string quartet PubliQuartet, internationally recognized master of West African kora and storytelling Yacouba Sissoko, and Ayodele Maakheru, who has played banjo, guitar, and multiple other stringed instruments on Broadway and across the world for over three decades. A rhythm section composed of bassist Lee Smith, hand percussionist Leonard “Doc” Gibbs and drummer Harry “Butch” Reed completes the eclectic ensemble.
“I’m truly thankful to have collaborated with some incredibly talented artists on this project,” said Monroe. “This piece really wouldn’t have been possible without their contribution or without the financial and guiding support I’ve received from The Pew Center for Arts &Heritage.”
Performance dates are as follows: Friday November 15th at 8:00pm (preview night), Saturday November 16th at 8:00pm, Sunday November 17th at 3:00pm, Friday November 22nd at 8:00pm, Saturday November 23rd at 8:00pm, and Sunday November 24th at 3pm. The Saturday shows will feature a post-performance talk-back with the artists, led on November 16th by Joy Bivins, Chief Curator at the International African American Museum (Charleston, SC) and on November 23rd by Philadelphia-based Germaine Ingram, an accomplished performing artist and cultural strategist.
The performance will run 85 minutes, including a 10-minute intermission. Tickets are $25 for the general public and $20 for artists, students, and veterans. They can be purchased on eventbrite. Violin Woman, African Dreams has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.