JBU Lyceum Series: Music Theater Piece on Harlem Renaissance

Siloam Springs, Ark (January 30, 2001) — The John Brown University Lyceum Series presents OF EBONY EMBERS on Sunday, February 11 at 2:00 p.m. in the University's Cathedral Sanctuary. This new music theater piece - subtitled Vignettes of the Harlem Renaissance - celebrates the music and poetry of African Americans in New York City during the 1920s.

The program is free and open to the public and should be of particular interest to musicians, historians and literature/poetry enthusiasts. Of Ebony Embers was conceived by members of the Core Ensemble -- celloist Andrew Mark, pianist Hugh Hinton and percussionist Michael Parola -- and features a script by actor/playwright Akin Babatunde. Saundra McClain, Executive Director of Troupe New York, provides literary collaboration and stage direction.

Mr. Babatunde will perform in the production with the Core Ensemble onstage. The trio provides musical foreground and background and appear as supporting characters in the script. Music selections include works by African American composers ranging from jazz greats Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk to concert music composers Jeffrey Mumford and George Walker.

This music theater piece examines the lives of three outstanding but very different African American poets who helped shape the Harlem Renaissance -- Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Claude McKay. The history is seen through the eyes of the great painter and muralist Aaron Douglas. Babatunde recites poetry by Langston Hughes and other luminaries of African American literature in his performance.

The Core Ensemble has garnered national recognition for its efforts to commission new chamber and multi-genre works. The Boston Globe hailed the Core as "often formidable, always intelligent, ultimately compelling." The Massachusetts Institute of Technology named The Core winner of the Edward McDermott Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2000.

Akin Babatunde has been a resident company member at Trinity Repertory Theater in Providence RI, the Alley Theater in Houston, TX and the Dallas Theater Center. He is nationally known for his regular appearances on Public Television's children's program Wishbone. The Dallas Observer noted that "Babatunde's characters step forward and tell the story. His moments onstage are affecting, demonstrating the most powerful special effects are still the human heart and soul."

Of Ebony Embers was commissioned by the Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, FL, and the Duncan Theatre/Palm Beach Community College in Lake Worth, FL.

Additional support is received from the A.D. Henderson Foundation; Target Stores; the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs; the Florida Humanities Council; the Aaron Copeland Fund for Music; and the BMI Foundation, Inc. Touring during the 2000-01 season will take the work to 30 venues in 17 different states. For additional information on Of Ebony Embers, call 479-524-7265.

John Brown University is a private university with an enrollment of more than 1,500 students from 46 states and 30 countries. JBU is a member of the Arkansas Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. JBU competes in the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC), one of three conferences within NAIA's Region VI.