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Derek Bermel joins a jazz orchestra and a classical orchestra to show how music should be more accepting of differing styles and ideas / Interlude

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In recent years, migration has meant the vast movement of peoples across West Asia and Europe and the Americas, seeking shelter from military action or economic inaction. At the turn of the 20th century, in America there was also a great migration, but this was movement by an internal group, heading from the south to the north.

American painter Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) created his 60-part Migration Series and it brought him fame at age 25. He was showing the great migration of America's black population in the early 20th century from the farming, rural south, to the north's urban centers. The migration happened by train and brought jazz to Chicago and the Harlem Renaissance to New York.

This two-year project, done between 1940 and 1941, involved the creation of the captions and preliminary drawings and then preparing 60 boards, with the aid of his wife, artist Gwendolyn Knight. Because he was working in water-based tempera, and not in oil, and to keep the colours consistent across the paintings, each color was applied to each of the 60 canvases at one time, requiring him to keep all 60 paintings active.

The American composer Derek Bermel (b. 1967) was commissioned by Wynton Marsalis, as head of Jazz at Lincoln Center, for a piece that combined the ensembles of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the American Composers Orchestra. His Migration Series for Jazz Ensemble and Orchestra (2006).

As befits a work such as this, written for such a varied ensemble, Dermel puts everything into the mix: classical forms and structures, jazz, blues, American folk music, just for a start. Just as in Lawrence's panels, people are on the move.

Lawrence captured an extraordinary time in America – where black southerners collectively took a stand against the life they had and migrated to a place where they could start again. In his music, Bermel joins a jazz orchestra and a classical orchestra to show how, even in music, our lines should be much more fluid and accepting of other styles and ideas.

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