This five-month festival was a celebration of the human spirit's boundless capacity for good, imagination, creativity, and freedom. With its emphases upon Russian and South African cultural traditions, Firebird: Spirit Rising explored new innovations in the areas of art, theater, music, and dance.
Presented by The Mann Center and NEWorks Productions
(PHOTO CREDIT: Jordan August)
African American Museum in Philadelphia
Free Library of Philadelphia
GLA Charter School
History Making Productions
KIPP Du Bois Collegiate Academy
Moore College of Art & Design
Multicultural Arts Exchange
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Wednesday, July 20 | 8:00 pm
Mann Center, Main Stage
with The Philadelphia Orchestra, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Janni Younge of South Africa's Renowned Handspring Puppet Company; Cristian Măcelaru, conductor
The festival signature concert featured the North American and world orchestral premiere of Firebird: Reimagined, a multidisciplinary interpretation of Igor Stravinsky’s classic score for the 1910 ballet. This performance linked South African and Russian traditions and integrated music, literature, and the disciplines of dance, movement, and puppetry.
South Africa's multi-Grammy® Award-winning singing group Ladysmith Black Mambazo filled the first half of the program performing vocal selections that reflected central themes of The Firebird story, including the power of good conquering evil and the journey towards freedom. Their performance set, curated by Nolan, also included the premiere of two inventive settings of the Russian folk songs embedded in Stravinsky's Firebird, arranged by Williams, that uniquely blended South African and Russian folk traditions. Two Philadelphia-based singers were selected to perform these commissioned arrangements with Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Andrew Lawson and neo-soul recording artist Zeek.
The evening was anchored in the second half by The Philadelphia Orchestra performing Igor Stravinsky’s full orchestral 1910 ballet score for The Firebird accompanied by a re-imagination of the original Ballets Russes staging with South African dancers performing with larger-than-life puppets inspired by the artistry of the Broadway sensation War Horse and created by Janni Younge of South Africa’s renowned Handspring Puppet Company.
Friday, April 1, 2016 - Sunday, July 31, 2016
Free Library of Philadelphia Parkway
The Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia Parkway Central Library curated a display that utilized Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird as a case study and a catalyst for an examination of multiculturalism in the arts. Patrons explored the archetypal mythological roots of The Firebird in world cultures, discovered how art movements like primitivism and musical movements like jazz are demonstrative of cross-cultural interchange and synthesis, and, finally, observed the firebird’s continued presence in popular culture.
Monday, May 23, 2016 - Tuesday, May 24, 2016
The Philadelphia Zoo
Two days of festival programming provided immersive South African and Russian experiences cultural for several thousand Philadelphia school students at The Philadelphia Zoo. Both programming days also included the showcasing of animals from Russia and South Africa, scavenger hunts and guided tours of the McNeil Avian Bird Center.
A Celebration of the music, dance and storytelling of South Africa!
Firebird Urban Youth Suite feat. KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy
Attendees experienced this "Firebird Fusion," a commissioned hip-hop suite performed by scholar artists (singers, musicians, rappers and dancers) from the KIPP Du Bois Collegiate Academy. This work was conceived by Nolan and directed by Michael Schaller, music instructor at the KIPP Du Bois Collegiate Academy.
South African Folk Sing
Musicologist Suzette Ortiz led an interactive sing-alongs of traditional South African folk songs.
Pronounced in-dah-bah (Indaba is a Zulu term that means gathering).
Griot Kim Graham led storytelling sessions of South African fables, stories, and poems.
Performance ensembles roved the Zoo grounds initiating pop-up performances throughout the day
Russian Piano Classics!
Celebrated pianists Lance Wiseman and Regina Shenderovich performed classical works of Russian composers who were contemporaries of Igor Stravinsky.
Eastern-Euro Folk Sing
Celebrated artist Jay Sand led interactive sing-alongs of traditional Russian folk songs.
Dancers from the Dancesport Studio performed visually stunning waltzes, along with other forms of traditional Russian dance.
Russian Fairy Tale Birds on Display
The enchanting paintings of Russian fairy tale birds by artists Tatiana Slavina and Halima Miha were featured.
Live Firebird Painting
Visual artist Anastasia Balabnova brought the Firebird to life on canvas.
Presented in partnership with The Philadelphia Zoo.
Sunday, July 10, 2016 | 2:00 pm
Northeast Regional Library
Firebird: Spirit Rising Family Day was an immersive experience of Russian culture, music, and cuisine showcased throughout the halls of the Northeast Regional Library, the second largest library in the Philadelphia Free Library System.
This free, family event was headlined with a musical concert by clarinetist Igor Begelman and bassoonist Larisa Gelman of Astral Artists. The day also featured presentations and performances curated in partnership with the Multicultural Arts Exchange, including:
Presented in partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia, Astral Artists, and the Multicultural Arts Exchange
Tuesday, June 14, 2016 | 10:00 AM
Written and composed by Mbongeni Ngema
Original arrangements by Mbongeni Ngema and Hugh Masekela
Directed by Eric Ruffin
Music Directed by Mongezi Ntaka
Choreography by Jakari Sherman
Over 5,000 students from the tri-state region (PA, NJ, DE) attended this free cSarafina! is a musical inspired by the 1976 Soweto Student Uprising when more than 10,000 South African youth boldly defended their right to an education that affirmed their cultural identity and heritage. 40 years later, the inspiring story of these brave South Africans students and martyrs comes to life in this stellar Howard University Department of Theater Arts production, acclaimed by DC Metro Arts as a "stunning production" of "excellence on a grand scale" and "profound educational purpose."
Presented in partnership with NEWorks Productions, Howard University Department of Theatre Arts, and the Friends of Theatre and Dance at Howard University
Independence Blue Cross, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Pitcairn, Merck, USLI, and Wells Fargo
To better curate the Firebird: Spirit Rising festival, Nolan traveled to South Africa from December 31, 2015 to January 8, 2016 to meet with Janni Younge of South Africa’s renowned Handspring Puppet Company at her studio in Cape Town and to rehearse with multi-Grammy® Award-winning singing group Ladysmith Black Mambazo in their hometown of Durbin.
SIDEBAR: Nolan also conducted extensive research on South African freedom songs and subsequently produced The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage concert program "Cry, the Beloved Country" on Saturday, February 13, 2016, as part of the series he curated for The Kennedy Center, Music: A Force For Mending.