The Kennedy Center


Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran—Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration

Sunday, April 14, 2019 8:00 PM

Jazz The Human Journey

Jason and Alicia Hall Moran's deeply personal new concert experience explores the Great Migration of six million African Americans from the rural South to northern cities and beyond. The duo draw upon their own family lore and the fascinating stories of how Black Americans brought the Blues to Chicago, Bebop to Kansas City, Motown to Detroit, Soul to Philadelphia, and rap and Hip Hop to NYC, and more. Featuring Grammy®-winner Smokie Norful, Grammy®-nominated operatic tenor Lawrence Brownlee, and more.

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Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran and mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran’s deeply personal new concert experience examines the Great Migration—the major demographic shift following emancipation in which millions of African Americans left their homes in the South for the North, West, and beyond. These men and women brought their unique musical tastes and awareness with them, as well as new concepts of instrumental excellence with African American rhythms.

With other extraordinary performances scheduled at Carnegie Hall and the Chicago Symphony Center, the Morans will explore their own family lore and the stories of the historical movement with music spanning classical to Broadway, rhythm and blues to gospel, work songs to rock ‘n’ roll. The performance also features Grammy®-winning vocalist Smokie Norful, Grammy®-nominated operatic tenor Lawrence Brownlee, Grammy®-nominated woodwind quintet Imani Winds, and more.

The Great Migration (1917-1970) fostered the growth of a new urban, African American culture. Places like Harlem, Detroit, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles became the centers of the Black experience artistically, politically, and economically. Africans Americans who were disenfranchised and outcast in the South found new spaces for themselves that have had a lasting impact on American culture.

“For Alicia and me—this is personal, this is therapy. This concert is a reflection on where we are 50 years after the end of the Great Migration,” says Jason Moran. “We are using the music as a description of the moment. We want people to hear how the movement of people—whether through the terror of fleeing oppression or the optimism of seeking new opportunities—is an important theme in the Black American narrative.”

The evening’s compositions will include: the traditional spiritual “Two Wings”—arranged by lyric tenor and composer Roland Hayes—showcasing the Morans’s artistic range at the intersection of classical and jazz; “Cane”—written by Jason Moran and commissioned for Imani Winds—sharing Jason’s family history over the last century;  the spiritual,  “There’s a Man Going ‘Round Taking Names,” performed by Brownlee and Moran and included on the soundtrack of  Ava DuVernay’s 2016 critically-acclaimed documentary 13th. Other songs will include James P. Johnson’s famous piano piece “Carolina Shout,” Jason Moran’s original composition “Gentle Shifts South,” and a roster of songs that chart the movement of African American culture during this period.    

Two Wings celebrates the enormous influence of the black community; what it left behind, the spirit it brought with them, and the essential art it continues to inspire.

Learn more about the Great Migration here.

This event is part of The Human Journey,collaboration between the Kennedy Center, National Geographic Society, and the National Gallery of Art. The Human Journey invites audiences to investigate the powerful experiences of migration, exploration, identity, and resilience through the lenses of the performing arts, science, and visual art.

Watch and Listen

Jason Moran on "Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration" | The Kennedy Center