An extract from the premiere of George King's 'Songs of the Caged Bird', commissioned by manchester jazz festival under its 'mjf originals' scheme. This live performance of the 45-minute song cycle for jazz singer, by George King, Doreen Edwards and the chamber strings of Manchester Camerata, took place at the RNCM on 19 July 2012.

The work sets poems, speeches and historic sermons connected to the civil rights period in African-American culture in the form of a song-cycle, interspersed with original recorded speech samples from the civil rights period. The libretto also includes work by Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes. In this extract, George re-sets the lyrics to 'Strange Fruit' – Abel Meeropol’s poem famously interpreted by Billie Holiday.

A song-cycle for jazz singer is an unusual and under-explored format and one which George has been determined to realise; the subject matter is threaded throughout recent history, and although focussed geographically on a part of the world from which jazz sprung, it still has resonances within the UK and within contemporary culture.

There will be a further performance of the piece with the RNCM strings at the Peoples History Museum on Friday 12 October 2012, as part of the Manchester Weekender.

George is one of the few composer-musicians who successfully straddles both classical and jazz territories. His music has been featured many times on BBC Radio 3 and has been performed across Europe and the US. He is a fine jazz accompanist and soloist and plays with natural swing and a strong sense of well-voiced harmonies.

Doreen is a respected and admired artist whose voice has graced innumerable recordings and performances; this new work gives listeners a chance to hear her centre stage in a memorable festival highlight.

Manchester Camerata is the city’s world-class chamber orchestra. With a reputation for bringing audiences first-class performances that are bursting with vitality, Camerata is truly a product of its creative environment – a twenty first century orchestra in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

mjf originals is a scheme that seeks out and pioneers new jazz. Every year musician-composers from the region are invited to propose ideas for a new work to be unveiled at the festival. The coveted support allows artists to reach new levels and offers mjf audiences an exclusive and memorable experience.

This work was made possible with the generous support of Arts Council England and the PRS for Music Foundation. A collaboration between mjf and Manchester Camerata, with additional support from RNCM.

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