The Chineke! Foundation was founded in 2015 by double bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku CBE to provide career opportunities for young Black and ethnically diverse classical musicians in the U.K. and Europe. Chineke!’s mission is, “championing change and celebrating diversity in classical music.”
The past seven years has seen an extraordinary increase in Chineke!’s activities and impact. Chineke! Voices was launched in 2022, shining a spotlight on the extraordinary 16th-century composer Vicente Lusitano, the recording of which will be released in 2023. The Chineke! Junior Orchestra also commenced its debut European tour in 2022 with the opening concert of the Lucerne Festival. The Chineke! Orchestra now gives around 40 concerts each year in the U.K. including at many major U.K. festivals and at St George’s, Bristol, and Warwick Arts Centre where Chineke! has residencies. In London, Chineke! is a Resident Orchestra at Southbank Centre performing regularly at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Royal Festival Hall.
Abroad, Chineke! has undertaken several major tours to Europe and Australia and will be making its debut tour to North America in March 2023. This evening’s concert is the orchestra’s first appearance in Canada. Several CD recordings have already been released since 2017 and in 2022 Chineke! Records was launched in association with Decca Records.
In every concert Chineke! proudly performs works by Black and ethnically diverse composers from all over the world who have been unjustly neglected throughout history. They champion composers from the 16th-century Vicente Lusitano, through to the 19th/20th-century Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and perform, commission, and record works by living Black composers.
Chi-chi Nwanoku says: “My aim is to create a space where Black and ethnically diverse musicians can walk on stage and know that they belong, in every sense of the word. If even one child feels that their colour is getting in the way of their musical ambitions, then I hope to inspire them, give them a platform, and show them that music, of whatever kind, is for all people. And I want audiences to feel welcome, regardless of ethnicity.”
The aims of the Chineke! Foundation and Orchestra are ambitious. In the words of the conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, “Chineke! is not only an exciting idea but a profoundly necessary one. The kind of idea which is so obvious that you wonder why it is not already in place. The kind of idea which could deepen and enrich classical music in the U.K. for generations. What a thrilling prospect!”