Oberlin Conservatory’s signature large ensembles, the Oberlin Orchestra and Contemporary Music Ensemble, will present weekly concerts in historic Finney Chapel throughout the 2021-22 academic year.
Called “Fridays at Finney,” the series represents a shift from the traditional rotation of each ensemble presenting a total of five or six performances per semester. Most concerts—including the first installment this Friday, October 15—will include performances by both ensembles, while others will feature either the Oberlin Orchestra or Contemporary Music Ensemble.
Each performance begins at 7:30 p.m. and most of them will be approximately one hour in duration, some without intermission. This is a departure from previous concerts that typically ran closer to 90 minutes.
The new format arose out of a strategic shift in the conservatory that is a fundamental facet of the campus’ One Oberlin initiative: At the heart of it is an emphasis on more—and more diverse—repertoire, greater flexibility in terms of ensemble sizes, and increased performance opportunities for students.
In particular, the new format also reflects the conservatory’s intentional shift in repertoire selection to be less reliant on works from the traditionally recognized Western canon and more focused on newer works by composers of wide-ranging cultural backgrounds and experiences. The shift aligns with the conservatory’s Racial Equity and Diversity Action Plan, which was introduced in September 2020.
“With all the things that happened after the death of George Floyd, we opened our eyes—as everybody did—and took a deep look into what it is we can do to give a voice to those who are not widely represented in our field,” says Raphael Jiménez, professor of conducting and director of Oberlin orchestras. “It opened the door for us to extend the gamut of the repertoire we cover.
“More important, the page was turned in terms of our relation to the classical music canon. We are more comfortable seeking repertoire that we know can provide the same pedagogical outcomes but that doesn’t necessarily have to draw from the same sources that have been our custom for centuries. We know we can accomplish our mission and at the same time give opportunities to young voices and voices of underrepresented composers.”
Among the dozen Fridays at Finney programs that make up the fall semester schedule, some 70 percent of the repertoire was written by living composers, and nearly 40 percent is by composers of color. Alongside works by Beethoven, Haydn, Ravel, and other traditionally recognized masters, audiences will hear the music of 20th and 21st century composers from around the world.
This week’s first concert even includes a world premiere: a performance of Carlos Simon’s Graffiti, a work co-commissioned by Oberlin. Also on the program is Dallas Arts District Fanfare by Quinn Mason, warp & weft by Sarah Gibson, A Simple Prayer by Oberlin alum Richard Danielpour ’78, Onward by Brian Raphael Nabors, and Gift by Zhou Tian.
Learn more about future programs using the online events calendar.
Please note: Through October 18, all Oberlin College and Conservatory students, employees, and guests are required to wear masks indoors and outdoors, regardless of vaccination status. Learn more about Oberlin’s COVID-19 policies and precautions on the ObieSafe website.
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