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Composer Hannibal Lokumbe's 'Healing Tones' Responds to Violence and Hatred with Love

Jessica Griffin/Philadelphia Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin with Hannibal Lokumbe on stage at Verizon Hall in 2019.

Composer and jazz trumpeter Hannibal Lokumbe wrote Healing Tones as a hymn to Philadelphia in 2019. It's an oratorio-like work that celebrates the healers among us, including midwives, doctors, artists, and musicians.

Healing Tones tells the story of a shaman who seeks death to escape the world's atrocities, but returns to Earth to fulfill his mission to heal.

On Sunday, Oct. 24th at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1 and Monday, Oct. 25th at 7 PM, listen to The Philadelphia Orchestra perform Hannibal's Healing Tones, in a concert that also features Sibelius's Symphony No. 2.

The work opens with the sound of a shofar, in remembrance of those killed in 2018 at the Tree of Life/Or L'Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Hannibal says music is one way to express love, and aims to counter violence and hatred.

"If we attack someone, just like the sick soul that killed the people in Charleston, at Mother Emanuel, and at the Tree of Life, and in New Zealand, if we kill them, it continues because it's not them. It's what they are part of. You have to attack the heart and soul of what a thing is that's causing people so much turmoil. They haven't been loved."

Hannibal's three-year compositional process in Philadephia involved work with inmates, Broad Street Ministries, and meetings with the Doulas of Philadephia, where a mother allowed him to hold her five-week-old baby.

"The healing that came from that—I was reminded something so precious, a spiritual precious. That's what we must seek and, and take care of."

Healing Tones is written for three soloists representing the Creator, the Eternal Mother, and the Shaman, a chorus representing the Ancestors and the Orchestra as the Primordial Force, or the Sun. It's three parts or Veils, explore the Tones of Peace, The Tones of War, and the Tones of Healing.

"I think the greatest compliment to the gift of life is to live life as you feel it should be lived. And for me ... love is everything. "

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.