Chi-chi Nwanoku wants diversity in classical music’s very white world to become routine business. That is why she founded Chineke!, the UK and Europe’s first majority black and minority ethnic orchestra.
Every orchestra that steps onstage to give a classical concert ends up making music. Very few of them end up making history.
Chineke! orchestra is one of those few. As the UK and Europe’s first majority black and minority ethnic (BME) orchestra, it has been making history since its inaugural concert two years ago in September 2015 when it brought 62 BME musicians from 31 nationalities together at the Southbank Centre in London.
The orchestra is based in the UK, and its members unite for each concert. On September 16, they will open Birmingham Symphony Hall’s classical season before heading to Ghent, Belgium, three days later.
This past August 30, when Chineke!’s performers filled their orchestral chairs at London’s Royal Albert Hall, the orchestra also became the youngest ensemble to debut at Britain’s premiere classical music festival, the BBC Proms. Britain’s Guardian newspaper called it “arguably one of the most important concerts that the Proms have ever hosted.”
That’s because the world of classical music is very white. In most of the venues where Chineke! performs, its concert marks the first time a majority-ethnic orchestra – rather than a majority-white orchestra – fills the hall with symphonic strains. From classical ensembles to the audiences that attend their concerts, from orchestra boardrooms to leading music conservatories, BME individuals are few and far between.
“I can count on the fingers of one hand how many musicians of color I had worked with in the United Kingdom,” Chineke!’s founder and Executive and Artistic Director Chi-chi Nwanoku said. The double bass player has an electric energy that defies her petite size, and she channels it into Chineke!’s goal of making the word of classical music more diverse and giving BME instrumentalists a place where they feel they belong.
Click on the link below to read up more on Chineke!