A widely sought-after and award-winning composer, Shawn E. Okpebholo has been described by Augusta Read Thomas as “…a beautiful artist …who has enormous grace in his music, and fantasy and color.” Okpebholo maintains a dynamic career as a composer, including performances on five continents. He was awarded a two-year residency with the Chicago Opera Theater (2021-2023 seasons) and has had performances by many celebrated artists and ensembles and have been featured on six commercially released albums, including his first album solely devoted to his music, Steal Away, a collection of re-imagined Negro spirituals.
Okpebholo has given masterclasses at many academic institutions worldwide, including two universities in Nigeria. His compositional and research interests have been a gateway for ethnomusicological fieldwork in both East and West Africa: studying the music of the Esan people in southern Nigeria, the Akambe people in the Machakos region of Kenya, and South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda. His field research has resulted in two chamber works, two symphonic works, transcriptions, and academic lectures.
Words Like Freedom is a nine-movement song cycle for soprano and piano is based on a collection of poems by Langston Hughes. Okpebholo was drawn to Words Like Freedom “because of how he beautifully captured so much of what it means to be Black and, more broadly, human in a rich and timeless way: Freedom, Creation, Humility, Wonder, Protest, Oppression, and Happiness”.
Haneline – Reimer will premiere, Words Like Freedom, at the African American Art Song Alliance in February of 2022 in California.