Ewart Clarinet Choir Review – Multidimensional Homage to an AACM Founder

Douglas Ewart. Photo: Lauren Deutsch


Sharing a chat with Douglas R. Ewart as we munched donuts in the pre-opening of “The Freedom Principle” exhibit was actually a serendipitous introduction to his performance later that night, the Douglas R. Ewart Clarinet Choir Homage to Malachi Maghostut


Douglas Ewart (wearing hat) with his fellow artist and AACM member George Lewis (left) with Douglas Repetto (center) explaining their moving musical sculpture installation that is part of The Freedom Principle. Photo: Peter Kachergis


Ewart was there to help introduce his kinetic sculpture that is part of the exhibit, a joint effort with fellow AACM member George Lewis and robotics sculptor Douglas Repetto


Ewart emphasized the use of renewable bamboo in their sculpture installation. Photo: Peter Kachergis


The donuts were good but Ewart spoke for many when he noted the large boxes for single donuts were quite wasteful.  His art work, on the other hand, hoped to make an environmental statement, showcasing the fast-growing renewable resource bamboo.  Artist, musician, environmentalist, more--- Ewart is clearly a multidimensional man with much to say.


Douglas Ewart at the pre-opening of The Freedom Principle exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Peter Kachergis


Multidimensional is a good beginning word to use to describe the performance.  It was not only an homage to a beloved founder of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), Malachi Favors Maghostut, but also a love letter to autodidact historian and philosopher Joel Augustus (J.A.) Rogers.


Rita Warford, photo courtesy of the artist


Picture a spoken word, hums, squeaks and other sound chorus (Poet Sterling D. Plumpp, Rita Warford, Maggie Brown, and Duriel E. Harris) telling the story of J.A. Rogers’ battles with racism with words as his swords, accompanied by a reed chorus (Douglas Ewart, Mwata Bowden, J.D. Parran, and Edward Wilkerson Jr.) that moves from all range clarinets to didgeridoos, with low notes from a bass or cello (Harrison Bankhead), and punctuation by marimbas (Preyas Roy), while a dancer (Ni’Ja Whitson)  evokes movements akin to those some of us associate with the rebellious spirit of Vodou ceremonies.  Meanwhile a video projection  (Floyd Webb) shares snippets of J.A. Rogers’ writings and later introduces pictures of Malachi Favors Maghostut and early AACM days.


Yes, it’s a lot to picture and it is both multidimensional and mesmerizing.


For more than ninety minutes a barefoot Ewart kept the music moving forward to convey the attitude and affect of the narrative.   As he pointed for solos—whether it was Warford to do her signature scat singing or for Roy to make his marimbas sing, or more—a sound tapestry was being painted that engaged and intrigued on multiple levels. 


There is so much here to digest that you could likely experience this performance dozens of times and each time hear and feel it anew.  Luckily there are more AACM-inspired performances now through the fall to accompany “The Freedom Principle” exhibit.  For tickets or information visit the MCA Stage web pages or call the box office at 312.397.4010.


Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

220 East Chicago Avenue

Chicago, Illinois


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