Claflin University Lyceum Series To Present “Langston Hughes Project – Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz”

Dr. Ronald C. McCurdy

The Claflin University Lyceum Series will present “The Langston Hughes Project: Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz,” a multimedia concert by Dr. Ronald C. McCurdy on Wednesday, February 14 at 7 p.m. in the W.V. Middleton Fine Arts Center.  Admission is free and open to the public.

“The Langston Hughes Project” is Hughes’ kaleidoscope of jazz and poetry which features “Ask Your Mama,” Hughes’ homage to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at home and abroad at the beginning of the 1960s. It is a twelve-part epic poem which Hughes scored with musical cues drawn from a variety of genres including blues, Dixieland, gospel, boogie woogie, bebop, progressive jazz, and Afro-Cuban mambo music.  Hughes died in 1967 before his “creative masterwork” was ever performed.

The multimedia presentation features a jazz quartet, spoken-word and images from the Harlem Renaissance.  The concert performance links the words and music of Hughes’ poetry to topical images to people, places, events, and the works of the visual artists he admired or collaborated with over the course of his career, such as Aaron Douglas, Romare Bearden, Richmond Barthe, Palmer Hayden, and Jacob Lawrence. Together the words, sounds, and images recreate a magical moment in our cultural history, which bridges the Harlem Renaissance, the post-World War II Beat writers’ coffeehouse jazz poetry world, and the looming Black Arts explosion of the 1960s.

McCurdy premiered the orchestral version of the concert in 2008 with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra with rapper and television actor, Ice-T.

McCurdy is professor of music in the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California (USC). Prior to his appointment, he served as director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at USC. He was professor of music and chair of the Afro-African American Studies Department and director of jazz studies at the University of Minnesota. In 1997, McCurdy served as visiting professor at Maria-Sklodowska – Curie University in Lublin, Poland. In 2001 he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Kansas, where he served for seven years as director of jazz studies. During his tenure, the University of Kansas jazz program gained national and international prominence by performing at music conferences and festivals throughout the world.

McCurdy earned his undergraduate degree at Florida A & M University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Kansas.  He is a consultant to the Grammy Foundation’s educational programs and director of the National Grammy Vocal Jazz Ensemble and Combo.  McCurdy has performed with a multitude of famous jazz artists, including Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Arturo Sandoval, Ramsey Lewis, Mercer Ellington, Dr. Billy Taylor, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, and Dianne Reeves.

For more information contact Dr. Peggy S. Ratliff at 803-535-5233 or send email to pratliff@claflin.edu.

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