Chineke! Foundation and Sphinx Organization are proud to present their digital collaboration Music Across the Ocean – a transatlantic concert performance recorded in lockdown. The five movements of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Othello Suite will be released daily on YouTube and Facebook from Wednesday 20th May at 3pm BST to Sunday 24th May.

72 musicians of the Chineke! Orchestra and Sphinx Organization and 9 conductors recorded their individual parts in their homes in the UK, USA and in Europe. Simon Weir of Classical Media then edited the multi-screen footage to create the unified sound of one ensemble.

Searching for ways to support freelance musicians in the lockdown period, Chineke!’s Founder Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE reached out to Afa Dworkin, President and Artistic Director of Sphinx Organization in the United States. 

“I felt it was so important, at a time like this when we are forced to be so separate from each other, that we should come together again with our instruments and perform not just for ourselves, but for as large an audience as possible. Music brings us together as we all know. I have been so fortunate to have worked with the Sphinx Organization and been inspired by their mission for over a dozen years now, and Aaron and Afa have continued to urge me forwards, giving me the confidence I needed to create Chineke!, the first orchestra of its kind in Europe that’s giving a platform to support junior and professional musicians from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.”  

Although many Sphinx musicians have previously come to play in Chineke! concerts, this is the first joint endeavour the sister organisations have embarked upon – a collaboration facilitated by digital media. Afa S. Dworkin said:

“To give voice to solidarity – artistically and philosophically – is important now more than ever, when the pandemic is affecting our communities of colour in a disturbingly disproportionate manner. I feel that this project amplifies the voices of our artists and emphasises that excellence and inclusion are to be celebrated, which just gives renewed meaning to our individual and collective work.”

Each film of the five individual movements will be released online daily from Wednesday 20th May until Sunday 24th May (3pm BST / 10am EST) and available to view on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on the Chineke! And Sphinx channels.

Both orchestras share the same mission to promote diversity and inclusion within classical music. Founded in 1997 in Detroit, Michigan, Sphinx has been a trailblazer in enhancing minority ethnic representation in classical music in the United States, putting platforms and structures in place that support musicians from African-American & Latinx backgrounds, providing performance opportunities and competitions to give them greater visibility within the industry. 

Emulating this mission, Chineke! was founded in 2015 to provide performance opportunities for established and up-and-coming black and minority ethnic (BME) musicians. Chineke!’s mission is “championing change and celebrating diversity in classical music” which it achieves through its work with the professional Chineke! Orchestra, Chamber Ensemble, the Chineke! Junior Orchestra and a thriving Learning & Participation programme. Chineke!’s work was recognised by the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2019 with a Gamechanger Award for inspirational and transformative work breaking new ground in classical music.