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Wynton Marsalis will join Tulsa Symphony to present 'All Rise' at BOK Center
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Wynton Marsalis will join Tulsa Symphony to present 'All Rise' at BOK Center

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Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will perform “All Rise” with the Tulsa Symphony at the BOK Center June 6.

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will join the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra and Festival Chorus to perform Marsalis’ epic work, “All Rise,” in a special concert at 3 p.m. June 6 at the BOK Center, to commemorate the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Tickets for the event will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 15, and can be purchased at tulsasymphony.org and bokcenter.com.

This will be the first concert event the BOK Center has hosted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Guest conductor David Robertson will conduct the performance, with the chorus under the leadership of Damien L. Sneed.

“All Rise” is the first work Marsalis composed on a symphonic scale. It was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, which premiered the massive, 12-movement work in December 1999. Two years later, the work was performed and recorded with the Los Angeles Philharmonic just days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“When I was writing ‘All Rise,’ Kurt Masur, conductor of the New York Philharmonic, told me, ‘The line between civilization and barbarism is much thinner than you think.’ That’s why with everything that you do, you have to decry barbarism and the reduction of people.” Marsalis said in a statement.

In the liner notes of the 2002 recording, Marsalis writes that “All Rise” was inspired by the blues, which he describes as “an attitude toward life, celebrating transcendence through acceptance of what is and proceeding from there in a straight line to the nearest groove.”

The 12 movements are divided into three sections, Marsalis writes, adding each section “expresses different moments in the progression of experiences that punctuate our lives,” from birth to maturity.

Musically, “All Rise” makes use of a cornucopia of musical idioms, including American blues, Argentine tango, Brazilian samba, Russian neo-classicism, gospel-tinged choral singing, New Orleans parade music, ancient African chant, 20th century symphonic modernism, and rural Southern dance forms.

In a 2003 review of a performance of the work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Globe music critic Richard Dyer wrote that “generosity and authenticity of feeling ... pervades the music. There is something wonderful in every movement, and the cumulative impact is irresistible.”

When the work was first performed in London, John Fordham wrote in The Guardian, “The swinging and improvised sections intertwine seamlessly with sweepingly sophisticated strings parts; the musical idioms range from choral arrangements to barn-dance hoedowns; emotional ambiguity is nicely balanced against holy-rolling optimism. All this makes the two-hour epic one of Marsalis’ lifetime landmarks.”

Phil Armstrong, project director of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, which is co-sponsoring this event, said, “We are so grateful to have Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz in Tulsa for the Centennial. Processing tragedy and trauma is complex. For me, music has always been an emotional outlet, and I hope this experience provides just that to Tulsans during this important week of remembrance, resilience and hope.”

Keith C. Elder, Executive Director of the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, added, “We are glad to bring this moving work and these internationally recognized artists to the Tulsa community to commemorate the tragic events of 1921. It will be an evening where the power of music will be used to unite and heal our community.”

Marsalis was the first artist ever to win Grammy awards in the same year in the jazz and classical categories. As a composer, he has written music for his own ensembles, as well as scores for dance works by such choreographers as Peter Martins and Twyla Tharp, and he earned the 1997 Pulitzer Prize in music for his oratorio, “Blood on the Fields.”

Marsalis began his association with Lincoln Center in 1987. In 1996, Jazz at Lincoln Center was installed as new component of Lincoln Center, putting jazz on a equal footing with the other art forms represented by the center: the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera and New York City Ballet.

Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has performed several times in the Tulsa area over the past two decades, beginning with a 2002 concert at the Tulsa PAC, which was part of the center’s 25th anniversary celebration.

Marsalis and the orchestra performed 2011 at the Broken Arrow PAC, and returned to Tulsa in 2015, to perform a benefit concert for the music education program Sistema Tulsa.

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