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Langston Hughes Celebration in Reno

Like Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin, poet Langston Hughes (pictured) confessed his love for jazz with his pen, scribing poems that helped fuel the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and spread the word about the joys of syncopation and swing. Were Hughes still alive, he’d turn 100 this year, thus the University of Nevada, Reno will present “A Centenary Celebration: The Langston Hughes Project with the McCurdy Wright Consort,” part of the school’s Performing Arts Series.

The project is a multimedia performance of spoken word poetry, music (by a jazz quartet) and visual images that will recreate Hughes vision of the global struggle for freedom in the early 1960s. John Wright, professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Minnesota, will deliver Hughes’ words with an animated spirit in front of paintings and photographs by African American artists Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks and Romare Bearden. The music, developed and to be performed in part by Ronald McCurdy, professor of music at the University of Southern California, is drawn from Hughes’ 1960 homage to the Newport Jazz Festival, “12 Moods of Jazz,” and is based on musical cues suggested by Hughes himself.

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