|The Human Revolution Orchestra at Union Chapel in 2015
Photo credit: Roger Thomas
HERBIE HANCOCK, who has led the worldwide celebrations for International Jazz Day, April 30th, since before the first one in 2012, and who will be at the White House for this year’s main event in Washington, has given a personal endorsement to the London-based celebrations which Sean Corby has organized for the Day. Herbie Hancock says of these concerts:
“The Human Revolution Orchestra are making great strides in music towards bringing the peoples of the world together. Sean Corby and Robin Eubanks are of like-minded and compassionate spirit. I happily endorse their efforts and look forward to hearing about the fruits of their accomplishments.”
SEAN CORBY has been the driving force behind the Human Revolution Orchestra. Here he looks forward to this year’s celebration at the Shaw Theatre in Euston Road. Sean writes:
This year will be the fourth time that SGI UK have presented an event in celebration of UNESCO International Jazz Day. On April 30th, the Shaw Theatre in central London will host ‘Ode to the Human Spirit 2016’, a concert featuring The Human Revolution Orchestra and guests.
From humble beginnings in the SGI UK South London Buddhist centre in Brixton, the event has grown to be the main U.K event marking the UNESCO led global initiative, instigated by legendary U.S jazz musician and SGI member Herbie Hancock. Following the inaugural event in 2013, subsequent concerts have included special guests from the U.S such as Bennie Maupin, Marc Cary, and Robin Eubanks and have inspired the emergence of the Human Revolution Orchestra, a large ensemble featuring some of the UK’s finest emerging and established jazz musicians. Importantly, this ensemble is comprised of men and women from various musical, cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.
Though the events, and the orchestra, were founded by Neville Murray and me, who are SGI Buddhists, the majority of the musicians who have participated, and who have shared their time, energy and musical gifts have been people of other faith backgrounds, who share a desire to use music as a means of promoting social change, inter-faith respect, cultural understanding, and the upholding of humanitarian and pluralist values.
Drummer Rod Youngs spoke of his experience as a participant in the events: “Music for me has always been a vehicle for self- expression. It’s a very special way of communicating the human experience and is a means of collaborating with people from different backgrounds, but more importantly, it’s a way of connecting to people in a much deeper and profound way. Indeed, music affirms our humanity and the HRO is the perfect vehicle for this task.
One of the aspects I love about the HRO is its diversity. It’s like a microcosm of London or the world. It has brought together musicians from many different backgrounds and levels of experience that would probably not perform together otherwise. The diverse array of talent makes the group very unique indeed, but diversity and talent are not the only aspects that make it special, the great leadership and the goodwill amongst its members are also very important.
FUNDING SUCCESS, AND THE WORK IT HAS LED TO
In August 2015, the Human Revolution Orchestra was awarded £15,0000 funding to pilot a programme of work that has included performances with special guest Robin Eubanks at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s club and at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
In addition to these concerts, orchestra members will conduct workshops for prisoners at HMP Grendon, an experimental psychiatric prison offering treatment for prisoners with anti-social personality disorders, leading to a concert at the institution on 20th May.
I am inspired by the work of Olivier Urbain, Daphne Arnstein, Dr Billy Taylor, Daniel Barenboim, and others, I’m keen to develop partnerships with various faith-based, cultural and academic organisations in the U.K and internationally in order to deliver work that is artistically excellent and socially valuable, dynamically engaging communities and individuals who could benefit from certain kinds of artistic intervention.
An example of such work is that currently being discussed with partners in Liverpool, a city with a rich cultural and artistic history that has faced great economic and social adversity and witnessed sectarian conflict and racial tensions over many years.
I have met with local artist Curtis Watt, film-maker Derek Murray, Jennifer John, director of choral organization Sense of Sound and representatives of the Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool to develop ideas around working with communities on a programme of work that uses music to explore themes of faith, spirituality and reconciliation.
In 2012, I met percussionist Neville Murray when I was touring with Jah Wobble. I was going through a very difficult time and I was lost, searching for solutions to my seemingly endless troubles. Ultimately, I yearned for something that would affect me spiritually, and help me to bring about changes to the way I felt, thought, and behaved.
Neville introduced me to this Buddhism and despite several attempts to evade attending a local discussion meeting I eventually went along. I really had no idea what to expect but felt at ease chanting straight away. The diversity of those in attendance also made me feel secure and more confident that I was in the right place.
Even though the outcome of the particular situation I was facing was not altered by my practice, and was extremely traumatic, I responded to it very differently than I believe I would have done had I not met Neville and started to practice Buddhism. To be entirely truthful, had I not been introduced to Buddhism at that time, I would probably not be here now.
Shortly after receiving Gohonzon, I saw that Herbie had instigated UNESCO International Jazz Day. Aware that Herbie is an SGI member, I just felt that we should do something to celebrate the day. Also, except for a few people such as Paul Pace at Ronnie Scott’s and Seb Scotney, there was no real acknowledgment or recognition of the day amongst the UK jazz fraternity. I assumed that this was perhaps due to a degree of cynicism in certain quarters, and that maybe it was not seen as being a commercially lucrative opportunity, or even that a significant event marking the day might be seen as conflict of interest by promoters producing other jazz events around that time.
Neville introduced me to the SGI UK directorate and we presented them with a proposal.
THE 2012 EVENT…
The first event was profoundly moving. The energy in the concert space was beautiful, vibrant and sincere. Many of the musicians, used to performing for quite staid and reserved jazz audiences were inspired by the reception they received and by the wonderful connectivity between the audience and performers. It was how it should be!
A number of those who participated told me afterwards that they thought I should keep the big band together and develop it. This was not something I had thought of prior to that night, though I had started to develop a vision for how and why the event could be grown.
|Robin Eubanks and Sean Corby at the 2015 concert.|
..HAS LED TO ANNUAL CELEBRATIONS
Since then, through developing both the annual event, and the Human Revolution Orchestra, I have without doubt grown in confidence and found a real sense of purpose in directing this project. SGI talk about unleashing one’s potential through faith and I really feel I have been able to evidence this. Of course, devils arise, my own negativity, doubt, egotism, fear and anger have shown themselves, but gradually over time I have been able to recognize these tendencies in myself and attempt to transform them. Even those things that have proven frustrating and demoralizing whilst building this project have been dealt with through reflection, prayer, and a deep-rooted desire to resolve such conflict with love. It’s easier said than done, but it’s possible.
THE FUTURE AND THE POTENTIAL
There is so much potential for the orchestra and our annual event to create value and make a very significant impact musically and socially. Without the support of SGI UK and the tremendous amount of good will from the musicians and several others from the music world, this would never have come in to fruition. I am deeply grateful.
In the next 24 months, I am determined to see the Orchestra awarded funding for compositions and record an album of pieces based on the Buddhist concept of The Ten Worlds, for us to deepen connections with like-minded artists in the U.S and Europe, develop work in with Min-On in Japan and make a real contribution to the field of arts and conflict transformation.”
HUMAN REVOLUTION ORCHESTRA
Trumpets: Noel Langley, Quentin Collins, Yazz Ahmed, Mickey Ball, Sean Corby
Saxes: Martin Speake, Scott Garland, Tori Freestone, Jessamy Holder, Dai Pritchard
Trombones: Harry Brown, Jonny Enright, Nathaniel Cross, Richard Henry
Bass: Larry Bartley
Piano: Rupert Cox
Drums: Rod Youngs
Guitar: Shirley Tetteh
Percusion: Neville Murray and Graeme Evelyn
Voice: Liane Carroll and Randolph Matthews
Note: Quentin Collins has stepped in for regular Byron Wallen, Tori Freestone for Denys Baptiste and Rupert Cox for Simon Purcell.