HGN: New chamber orchestra works to reflect the city’s diversity
Opera Memphis will perform with a new chamber orchestra, one with members chosen to reflect the demographic diversity of the city’s residents.
The PRIZM Chamber Orchestra will debut as part of Opera Memphis’ production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5.
PRIZM Ensemble founder Lecolion Washington was inspired by the diversity of Opera Memphis’ 2015 production of “The Magic Flute” and began a series of discussions on how to create high quality art while continuing to support the nonprofit’s core values of diversity, opportunity, and access.
PRIZM Ensemble has been an important figure in music education for the past 12 years and has engaged students from Orange Mound, Whitehaven, Germantown, Midtown, South Memphis, and Collierville during its annual camp, international chamber music festival and in-school programming
Opera Memphis has worked with PRIZM Ensemble in the past, including on a chamber opera at one of PRIZM’s summer festivals. Washington said that the collaboration was a natural fit.
Opera Memphis General Director Ned Canty said that the themes of “The Marriage of Figaro” are very relevant to what the PRIZM Chamber Orchestra is trying to accomplish.
Being that Opera Memphis is the only opera company within three hours of driving distance from the city, Canty said that it was important that people in the area feel like the organization is inclusive.
This performance is another way to engage the whole Memphis community, in addition to already-established Opera Memphis programming such as 30 Days of Opera, which features pop-up performances at venues around the city and county.
At 31 members, PRIZM Chamber Orchestra is the largest group of musicians that PRIZM Ensemble has ever put together. Around 19 of the orchestra musicians originate from outside of Memphis and most of them are new to PRIZM.
Washington said that as the camp and international musical festival grows, he hopes to bring members of this orchestra back to Memphis to participate in PRIZM Ensemble’s youth development programs.
Several of the musicians will be performing and working with students around the city at De La Salle Catholic School and White Station Middle School. Musicians will also be performing in residence at the Orange Mound Gallery.
Canty said that Opera Memphis hopes to do another opera with the orchestra during PRIZM’s musical festival next summer.