Epic music project brings Southampton's migrant and refugee stories to life

Apr 15, 2021

The virtual performance of Mayflower 400: Voyages of the Heart by Tunde Jegede, premiered on Friday 23 April, 2021.

This powerful work by renowned composer, producer, cellist and kora virtuoso Tunde Jegede was commissioned by Turner Sims Southampton and Southampton City Council as part of the Mayflower 400 programme.

The ensemble music project was inspired by the stories of Southampton's migrant and refugee communities, collected through the City Archive and a new National Lottery Heritage Fund-supported oral history project.

Tunde Jegede describes the piece as, "about heritage, journeys, migration and the transitory sense of home and identities… [asking] pivotal questions of our perception of culture, memory, race and how we see the world."

Supported by funding from Arts Council England, Southampton City Council and the University of Southampton, the piece involved 25 musicians from a range of backgrounds and disciplines including Gospel singers, an operatic choir, a Gaelic singer, and an Indian classical music vocalist.

Instruments included a string quartet, Irish folk violin and flute, guitar, Sitar, Oud, Tabla, drums and bass.

The piece beautifully blended these varied styles together to create a multi-layered musical journey which is reflective of Southampton’s multicultural population.

Cllr Kaur, Cabinet Member for Culture and Homes, said: "It's vital to share all Southampton stories, as these stories have shaped who we are and form an important part of our city's identity.

"As we bid for UK City of Culture 2025, we aim to be able to tell more Southampton stories for people near and far."

Caterina Loriggio, Mayflower 400 Southampton Anniversary Director, added: "It is fantastic to conclude our Mayflower 400 year with such a unique and uplifting project.

"Throughout the programme we have been celebrating Southampton as a city and a community made from journeys and migration, this truly heartfelt commission presents us with the hardships, struggles, fortitude and triumph of so many people who, for generations, have made Southampton their home and in doing so, not only inspires, but also reminds us of our commonality."

Kevin Appleby, Concert Hall Manager at Turner Sims Southampton, said: "Tunde Jegede has created an extraordinarily powerful, memorable and relevant work in response to the commission opportunity.

"I’m hugely grateful to all the project funders, in particular Southampton City Council and Arts Council England, for making the commission possible, and am excited by the prospect of the work being brought to life by an incredible team of performers.

"Many of them have their roots in Southampton and are based here, reflecting the vibrancy of the city's diverse music scene."

The piece will be recorded at Southampton's leading concert hall, Turner Sims, and will be premiered as an online performance, on Friday 23 April.

Tickets are available, directly from Turner Sims, here at a variety of pay-what-you-can price points.

After the premiere event, an online programme will run for two local community choirs and local choirs and schools will have free access to over 20 songs from the piece.

Tunde Jegede has been developing resources especially for community use throughout this project to inspire local musicians to explore multiple musical genres. A chance to be a part of this poignant work and enjoy a legacy project from Mayflower 400 Southampton.

Pictures by Rachel Adams

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