BROAD STAGE — What does an Asian-American youth orchestra, a West African drum ensemble, and a punk-folk-country-protest musician all have in common?
The answer is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, best known for its fourth movement, “Ode to Joy.”
Billy Bragg, the punk, folk, country and political singer-songwriter, is premiering his new version of “Ode to Joy” for North America at the Broad Stage this Saturday. It is the third time his rendition has ever been performed.
In 2007, the British pop singer was commissioned to translate the German words of “Ode to Joy.” It was premiered by the London Philharmonic in 2008 at the Royal Festival Hall in the presence of Queen Elizabeth.
Until a 1996 soccer game between England and Germany, Bragg did not focus much of his attention to Beethoven’s creation despite its messages of brotherhood and peace. The symphony is set to the words of the German poem “An die Freude” written in 1786 by Friedrich Schiller.
“The teams marched onto the pitch to ‘Ode to Joy’ and I thought, ‘That’s not fair! Beethoven’s a blooming German,’” Bragg told the Los Angeles Times. “But in that context, Beethoven wasn’t being a German, he was being a European. And so was I. That’s what I was thinking of when I wrote the lyrics: People brought together by culture, by reconciliation.”
When Bragg wrote his version of “Ode to Joy,” he concentrated on what he felt was an important line in Schiller’s poem: “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” (“all men become brothers”).
The concert is a celebration of the Ninth Symphony and its message about connection and communication across all borders. In this way, various multicultural groups perform their versions of different parts of the symphony.
In addition to the Asia America Youth Orchestra playing the piece under the direction of David Benoit, Bragg will perform and conduct a sing-along of “Ode to Joy.” The performance also features jazz singer Dwight Trible, bluegrass vocalist Susie Glaze, folk and blues singer/guitarist Ernest Troost, a West African dance and drum group called the Dafra Drum Ensemble, a 30-piece Oaxacan brass ensemble called Banda Philharmonica and pianist/organist Justin Bischof.
Tickets can be purchased at www.beethovenbragg.com for $55, $75 and $100. Proceeds benefit Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, L.A., which encourages communities of faith to help fight poverty. For more concert information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (310) 430-1954. The Broad Stage is located at 1310 11th St. The concert begins at 7 p.m. on Aug. 29.