The simmering sounds of cello, piano, percussion and poetry in Core Ensemble’s “Of Ebony Embers: Vignettes of the Harlem Renaissance” will ignite McKenna Theatre in celebration of the artists from the 1920s arts and cultural movement.
The Florida-based group brings the chamber music theater event to SUNY New Paltz during Black History Month. The ensemble celebrates the lives of Harlem Renaissance poets, such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Claude McKay, through a poetry-inspired theater script and the music of iconic jazz musicians, like Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Mortan.
Core Ensemble’s Managing Director Margot Emery reached out to James Schiffer, dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in July of last year in efforts to bring “Of Ebony Embers” to SUNY New Paltz.
“The show looked very interesting to me,” Schiffer said. “One of the things that I really liked about it is how interdisciplinary it is. The Harlem Renaissance was a renaissance not of just literature but of painting, poetry and intellectual life. A show like this captures the interplay.”
“Of Ebony Embers” was brought to campus as an opportunity to fulfill SUNY New Paltz’s vision point to be an “intellectual and cultural hub in the Hudson Valley for the Hudson Valley,” according to Schiffer.
Multiple departments, including the Office of Academic Affairs, the English and Black Studies Departments and the School of Fine & Performing Arts, saw it as a way to enrich students, faculty, staff and the community.
“The show explores and celebrates the Harlem Renaissance — the poetry, visual art and music of a rich and prolific period in American cultural history — and the struggles and accomplishments of some of its most amazing artists,” Emery said.
According to Emery, the theatrical aspect of the Harlem Renaissance is portrayed through scenes from the lives of the three poets and Aaron Douglas, “the father of Black Art.”
“Of Ebony Embers” will give the New Paltz community the opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of the Harlem Renaissance in McKenna Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 7 from 7 to 10 p.m. That same day, students can learn how the show was created and refined in Student Union 62/63 at 1:40 p.m.
Schiffer said he hopes the show will provide viewers with a deeper understanding of the Harlem Renaissance.
“A lot of learning takes place outside of the classroom,” Schiffer said. “This is a way of combining both instruction and pleasure — it should be a wonderful evening.”