‘Provocative Pairings’ with a Pair of Poets

Twin Poets

Artistic endeavors which cross boundaries can be highly exciting affairs. This is especially true when composers and poets collaborate, because their art forms naturally flow well together and magic happens. 

Mélomanie and The Twin Poets created that sort of magic at the ensemble’s final concert of its 25th season Sunday, April 8, 2018 at The Delaware Contemporary. The audience contained lots of new faces as well as regulars, who said this was the best Mélomanie concert they’d ever attended. 

The Twin Poets are Al Mills and Nnamdi Chukwuocha. Governor Jack Markell bestowed the shared title of Poets Laureate on them in December 2015, praising them for their artistic excellence and extensive experience in outreach to underserved communities as well as their love of poetry and the spoken word would benefit all Delawareans. 

The brothers told the audience how they developed a love for writing: when they were growing up, their mother made them work out their disputes by writing to each other. 

As adults, their poetry is deeply rooted in their social work. The sons of William “Hicks” Anderson, an activist in the local Civil Rights Movement, an advocate for children and namesake of the community center in West Center City, the twins have carried on their father’s legacy of speaking for the most vulnerable. Selections on this program spoke of street life and the challenges of poverty, absentee parents as well as those who would sooner buy drugs than provide for their children. 

Particularly powerful was Mills’ account of a veteran suffering from PTSD while grappling with the guilt of his wartime deeds, actions his commanders termed “patriotic” at the time. 

The tone as reflected in the music by Mark Hagerty and Jonathan Whitney addressed the cultural, political and social dissonances in American society. Telemann’s Chaconne in E minor added a wistful afterthought. 

There were messages of hope as well. Some poems spoke of the power of education, personal responsibility, self-determination and working toward a dream. 

The twins also presented poems that offered lighthearted takes on parenting, kids hating homework and an adolescent’s ill-fated attempts at romance. 

The program also featured selections from Aegean Airs composed for Melomanie in 2013 by Robert Maggio, chair of the Department of Music Theory, History and Composition at West Chester University. Like Mélomanie’s ‘provocative pairings of early and modern music,’ Maggio’s work draws on compositions from Ancient Greece as well as the pop-folk music the composer heard while on vacation one summer in Greece. 

The program concluded with the world premiere of the twins’ just beautiful United Sounds of America with music by Mark Hagerty adapted from Robert Glasper’s Gone which itself is after Miles Davis. 

See www.melomanie.org and arts.delaware.gov/poet-laureate/