Composers Datebook®

Hannibal Lokumbe's "African Portraits”

Hannibal Lokumbe (b. 1948) African Portar Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Daniel Barenboim Teldec 81792

Composers Datebook for November 11, 2019


November 11, 2019


At Carnegie Hall in New York City on today’s date in 1990, a new work by the American composer and jazz trumpeter Hannibal Lokumbe had its premiere performance by the American Composers Orchestra. November 11th also happens to be the birthday of its composer, who was born Marvin Peterson, in Smithville, Texas, in 1948, but now goes by the name Hannibal.

The new work was an oratorio titled “African Portraits,” which traces the story of slavery in America and black culture's contributions to American music. It’s scored for orchestra, jazz quartet, blues guitar, chorus, gospel singer, plus African storyteller and African instruments. In composing this work, which in Biblical terms he calls his personal “burning bush,” Hannibal drew inspiration from a variety of sources, ranging from the spirituals he listened to while working in the cotton fields of Texas to the drums of the Masai people in Africa, with whom he lived for a time.

A critic for the Washington Post described the work as follows:

“The dramatic power conveyed by "Portraits" is cumulative. It's derived from the drums and the chants, the procession of blues, jazz and gospel refrains, the symphonic sweep and narrative form, the great compression of time, anguish and triumph. It's a listening experience you'll not soon forget.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Hannibal Lokumbe (b. 1948) African Portar Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Daniel Barenboim Teldec 81792

On This Day


  • 1872 - German-born American conductor of the Chicago Symphony (and occasional composer) Frederick Stock, in Jülich;


  • 1936 - English composer Sir Edward German, age 74, in London;

  • 1945 - American songwriter, Jerome Kern, age 60, in New York City;

  • 1979 - Ukranian-born American film music composer Dimitri Tiomkin, age 85, in London;


  • 1727 - Handel: opera “Riccardo Primo, re d’Inghilterra” (Richard the First, King of England), in London at the King’s Theater in the Haymarket (Gregorian date: Nov. 22);

  • 1866 - Brahms: String Sextet in G, Op. 36, in Boston, at a concert by the Mendelssohn Quintet Club; The European premiere occurred in Zürich, Swizterland, a few days later, on November 20;

  • 1889 - R. Strauss: tone-poem "Don Juan," in Weimar, with the composer conducting;

  • 1890 - Brahms: String Quintet No. 2 in G, Op. 111, in Vienna, by the Rosé Quintet;

  • 1898 - Coleridge-Taylor: oratorio "Hiawatha's Wedding Feast," in London;

  • 1899 - Leslie Stuart: operetta "Floradora" in London; This operetta was tremendously popular in England and America for many seasons, but is seldom heard today;

  • 1906 - Ethel Smyth: opera "The Wreckers" (under its German title "Strandrecht") in Leipzig;

  • 1923 - Bloch: Piano Quintet, in New York, with Harold Bauer piano, at the first concert of the League of Composers;

  • 1952 - Stravinsky: "Cantata," by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra conducted by the composer;

  • 1999 - Corigliano: "Vocalise," for soprano, electronics and orchestra, by Sylvia McNair, with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Kurt Masur;

  • 2004 - Augusta Read Thomas: “Dancing Galaxy” for wind ensemble, in Boston, Ma. by the New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble.


  • 1898 - Shortly after it was finished, the painting “Nevermore” by Gaugin is purchased by the English composer Frederick Delius; The painting was inspired by Poe’s famous poem and is now in the collection of London’s Cortland Gallery;

  • 1922 - The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) begins daily radio transmissions; The BBC had been formed on Oct. 18, 1922, broadcast its first orchestral concert on Dec. 23, 1922, and on Dec. 24 its first radio play, “The Truth About Father Christmas.”