5 Minutes with Chineke! Chamber Ensemble’s Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE

Interviews, Classical

‘Celebratory, inclusive, exciting.’ That is what Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, Founder, Artistic & Executive Director of the Chineke! Foundation and ensemble performer (double bassist), of The Chineke! Chamber Ensemble has to say about their upcoming Brighton Festival event.

We caught up with her before they perform Schubert’s beloved Trout quintet alongside two folksong arrangements by the remarkable American composer Florence Price on Wed 19 May.

Where did the inspiration come from for your event?

We are performing chamber music repertoire by Florence B. Price, the African American composer whose work is garnering renewed interest both in the United States and Europe in recent years after its ‘rediscovery’.

The repertoire Chineke! performs always highlights at least one work by a composer of Black and ethnically diverse heritage, especially those composers who seldom feature in the ‘canon’ of classical music. 

For this concert, we are focusing on Florence B. Price. We want to bring greater attention to her phenomenal body of work, and these particular pieces from ‘Five Folksongs in Counterpoint’ -Shortnin’ BreadandDrink to me with thine own eyes- are wonderfully accessible introductions to those approaching her music for the first time.

We are performing these two lesser-known pieces of repertoire alongside one of the most familiar, timeless works of chamber music - Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet. It’s something that I always gravitate to, a work that embodies energy, vitality, joie de vivre.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about Chineke! ?

In addition to championing the works of Black and ethnically diverse composers, Chineke! gives a platform to outstanding musicians of ethnically diverse heritage, and those on the Brighton Dome stage in the Chineke! Chamber Ensemble really does embody the idea that classical music is enriched by diversity and inclusivity.

I want to pay tribute to all our musicians past and present for leading the way and providing inspirational role models for the next generation of musicians.

What do you hope people will take away from your event?

I hope that audiences will immerse themselves in the magic of the performance and go away hungry to know more about the music of Florence B. Price! She left such a treasure trove of music behind and now the world is just awakening to her genius. I also hope that our rendition of Schubert’s ‘Trout’ will give listeners a new insight into this well-loved piece of music, allowing them to experience it from a different angle, in a way.

How are you feeling about returning to Brighton Festival?

It's a huge privilege to return to the Brighton Festival with the Chineke! Chamber Ensemble and having Lemn Sissay curating this year’s Festival is just fantastic. We had such a wonderful welcome to the Dome when we came to play as the Chineke! Orchestra back in 2019 with soloist Stewart Goodyear. I only have good memories of this venue and absolutely love coming to Brighton!