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Terence Blanchard Returns to Philadelphia

Posted by:  Ensemble Arts Philly on April 02, 2024

To learn more about Blanchard's journey crafting a jazz-infused opera based on New York Times reporter Charles M. Blow's memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones, read Elizabeth Wellington's story in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Terence Oliver Blanchard is a legendary jazz performer whose portfolio spans over 40 movies, from many of Spike Lee’s films like Malcolm X and Inside Man, George Lucas’ Red Tails, Tim Story’s Barbershop—to over 20 albums, including his self-named album that ranked third on the Billboard Jazz Chart. On Sunday, April 7, he will premiere a suite from his smash hit opera Fire Shut Up in My Bones at Verizon Hall in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Although this concert version of the opera is the first time Fire Shut Up in My Bones is coming to Philly, Blanchard is no stranger to the area. In fact, his career has multiple connections with the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection that go back to the early 2000s. 

The renowned jazz trumpeter first performed in Philadelphia on June 7, 2003, with his show “The Movie Magic of Spike Lee & Terence Blanchard” at The Mann Center. The showcase was filled with discussions on Blanchard's scores and the artistic spirit of Lee’s movies, alongside live performances of select pieces.  

That was the first (but not the last) time that Blanchard would contribute to Philadelphia’s artistic and cultural scene, as he returned to The Mann Center in April 2013 to teach a three-day masterclass for young musicians. He taught 36 high school students from Girard Academic Music Program, Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and West Philadelphia High School lessons on musical composition and improvisational creativity through hands-on tutoring, recitals, and Q&A sessions.  

“So I know that Philly is one of those towns that always has young emerging talent…” said Blanchard in an article in The Philadelphia Tribune, “…I love being a part of it, and love helping some young people get connected to themselves, basically, and hopefully inspiring them to do more and work harder.” 

Philadelphia connections continued to follow the musical maven, even when he wasn’t physically in the city. Our very own Music and Artistic Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conducted Blanchard’s history-making sensation Fire Shut Up in My Bones to a sold-out audience at The Metropolitan Opera in September 2021. This performance, already momentous because it heralded the return of live opera following the Covid-19 pandemic, carried even more importance since it signified The Met’s first staged opera written by a Black composer. When Blanchard’s other opera, Champion, was performed in April 2023, it marked the first time in nearly 80 years that a composer had different operas presented at the Met in back-to-back seasons. Again, Nézet-Séguin served as conductor for what Blanchard describes as an “opera in jazz.” 

In 2022, Blanchard worked with Philadelphia Live Arts to premiere a new show called “Gordon Parks: An Empathetic Lens.” Collaborating with director Andrew F. Scott, the show blended Gordon Park’s legendary photography with Blanchard’s own score to tell an impactful story about poverty and bigotry in America. 

Needless to say, exciting developments happen in Philadelphia’s arts and culture sector whenever Blanchard pays a visit. It seems fitting that Fire Shut Up in My Bones, a “first” in many aspects for America’s artistic landscape, finally comes to Philly, a city also famous for multiple “firsts.” 

Learn more and get tickets at: https://www.ensembleartsphilly.org/events-and-tickets/2023-24/kcp/terence-blanchard/ 

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