Daniel Kidane's latest composition "Woke" opens the Last Night of the Proms

13 September 2019

Daniel Kidane’s new piece “Woke” opened the iconic Last night of the Proms on Saturday when it was performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and their chief conductor Sakari Oramo. You can watch the performance on BBC’s iPlayer here.

Since its premiere at the BBC Proms, "Woke" has received a number of glowing reviews:

“Daniel Kidane’s Woke raised the curtain with a ceremonial blast. Its rhythmic and textural permutations at times sounded like a 1950s film score, at others suggesting a sinister, quasi-militaristic atmosphere.”
Nick Kimberly, Evening Standard
[Woke] launched off in dancing rhythms, the string chords rising and falling in waves under the chirruping winds were not so far from Steve Reich’s minimalism, but the harmonies were darkly suggestive of struggle. Towards the end the music retreated to a lonely place, but revived to end if not in a blaze of glory, at least of hope.”
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph
Woke is a dynamic concert opener, energised by driving percussion rhythms. The large orchestra is skilfully deployed for diverse colours while always retaining a clarity of texture. The music eventually settles into lush, sonorous harmonies”
Gavin Dixon, The Arts Desk.
“Composer Daniel Kidane says he wants to channel his optimism for the future through music, and the result is a brightly coloured tone-poem which the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo’s genial direction that turns into an agreeable aperitif for what is to come.”
Michael Church, The Independent.
“The evening began with a new piece, Woke, by Daniel Kidane, commissioned by the BBC and performed for the very first time. It is a short, vigorous work with a rousing finale but it is not a ‘comfortable’ piece that one can listen to and relax with at the end of a working day. Kidane says himself in the programme notes that behind his urge to create an energetic piece was the wish for a subtle message – for us all to be more ‘woke’, concerning awareness of social and racial justice. He fully achieved his goal and started the Last Night with a bang.”
Margarida Mota-Bull, Seen-and-Heard International
“But I end at the beginning, with Daniel Kidane’s Woke, the title reminding us to be constantly aware of racism, but the music is inherently interesting in itself, kick-started by a wood-block (like a woodpecker) and teeming into life with long-held strings and chattering parts underneath, eventually coming to a unanimous halt before more rat-a-tat-tat pulses reigniting the music, before eventually building to a ringing climax, though not before the modern plastic equivalent of the ancient bullroarer made air. Electrifying and energising.”
Nick Breckenfield, Classial Source
“Uplifting and energising, [Woke] was also designed to leave one thinking about social and racial injustice in the world. This it certainly did, although the overriding sense one was left with was simply that of an immensely skillful composition.”
Sam Smith, MusicOMH

You can watch Daniel talking about the piece as part of the BBC’s Proms Encore programme here (the interview starts at 10m 20s) where he showcases a pair of bullroarers which feature in the piece. You can also hear Daniel in an interview with John Wilson on BBC Radio 3’s Front Row here where he goes into further detail about the background to the piece as well as playing some of the motifs he has used – the interview starts at 9m 35s.

You can also read the articles Daniel has written about the piece for Classical Music here and for the Guardian here.

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