Duke Arts Presents Collaborates with Trinity Faculty for Four Performances in April

Musical collisions, living monuments, immersive choreography and celebrations of tradition are all part of the performance experience at Duke.

The arts and humanities faculty in Trinity College of Arts & Sciences are gifted creatives, as well as respected educators and researchers. This month, several of them have joined with Duke Arts Presents to present four performances across multiple art forms.

Aaron Shackelford, the director of programming for Duke Arts says, “Duke Arts Presents brings world-class artists to campus for a wide array of innovative arts experiences. One of the real privileges of being at Duke is that sometimes these amazing artists are literally next door. Presenting artists from around the world includes the talented faculty who already work right here on our campus.”

Tsitsi Ella Jaji
Tsitsi Ella Jaji, the Helen L. Bevington Associate Professor of Modern Poetry. (Shaun King/Trinity Communications)

Songs in Flight

Songs in Flight draws on the history exposed in “Freedom on the Move,” a database of “runaway ads” from early United States newspapers curated by Cornell University in 2019.

With a song cycle composed by Shawn Okpebholo and texts and poems curated by Tsitsi Ella Jaji, the Helen L. Bevington Associate Professor of Modern Poetry in the Department of English, three prominent African American musicians bring these stories to life.

Jaji’s expertise is in African and African American literary and cultural studies, with special interests in music, poetry and black feminisms. She grew up in Zimbabwe surrounded by song and, with a New Directions Fellowship from the Mellon Foundation, she returned to her roots to examine classical vocal music by Black composers. Jaji also partnered with the Department of Music to discuss her work, Songs in Flight.

April 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Hayti Heritage Center

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Gabriel Richard and Felwine Sarr will be accompanied by pianist Alejandro Santoyo and kora player Yacouba Diabate. (Photo courtesy of Duke Arts)


Together, French classical violinist Gabriel Richard and Senegalese songwriter Felwine Sarr juxtapose the sung repertoire of West African classical music, Afrobeat and Baroque European music with electrifying results. Resonance will be a multilingual poetic experience, with texts and poetry punctuating the duo’s scintillating music-making.

Gabriel Richard is an Associate Research Professor of Romance Studies at Duke. In addition to teaching in Romance Studies, he has been First Violin for numerous orchestras and quartets and regularly tours Europe, Brazil and Japan. He also teaches in the Music Department's Chamber Music Program.

Felwine Sarr, Anne-Marie Bryan Distinguished Professor of French and Francophone Studies, is a philosopher, economist, poet and musician. He has published three previous musical compositions: Civilisation ou Barbarie (2000), Les Mots du Récit (2005), and Bassai (2007).

April 5 at 8 p.m.
Baldwin Auditorium
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Michael Klien
Michael Kliën, Professor of the Practice of Dance. (Photo courtesy of Duke Scholars)

11th Organ II

This work is part of a new social choreography project from Professor of the Practice of Dance Michael Kliën: “11th Organ: Equipping the Imagination for the Project of Social Reconstruction”

Kliën does not have a typical approach to dance. He believes our bodies are used to sense the “psychic structures” that shape and dictate our beliefs and actions, and that our wellbeing cannot be separate from the world around us. Kliën sees his work as functioning on a political level, digging into the structure of socialization and addressing climate concerns.

11th Organ is an open matrix of intellectuals, artists, and concerned citizens dedicated to fundamentally reimagining our wounded world. The 11th Organ engages a poetics of relations, an intimate weaving of diverse minds to churn the psychic soil. Fearlessly embracing the unknown, the 11th Organ expands the social imagination to envision and reveal new ways of being.

April 11 at 7:30 p.m.
April 12 at 8 p.m.
Rubenstein Arts Center, Von Der Heyden Studio Theater
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John Brown featuring Nnenna Freelon
Vice Provost for the Arts and Professor of the Practice in Music John V. Brown ​​​​​​will join vocalist Nnenna Freelon for this special event. (Photo courtesy of Duke Arts)

The John Brown Big Band Featuring Nnenna Freelon 

Vice Provost for the Arts and Professor of the Practice in Music John V. Brown convenes an all-star group of local jazz talent with national credentials. The John Brown Big Band will join forces with Grammy-nominated vocalist and Durham native Nnenna Freelon for this special one-night-only event.

Coming together in celebration of the North Carolina jazz community and to push the tradition forward, these local artists of national prominence perform fresh arrangements of jazz standards.

Bassist, composer, educator and actor John Brown made it his mission to participate in public and private school educational residencies through the North Carolina Arts Council. Brown is not only the Vice Provost for the Arts but also the Director of the Jazz Program at Duke. He founded Jazz @ the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, a weekly live jazz jam session open to the campus and community.

April 19 at 8 p.m.
Reynolds Industries Theater
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