Part of: Visionary Sounds
Experience celebrated jazz artist Wynton Marsalis’s first (and to this point, only) string quartet, At the Octoroon Balls, performed by members of St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble.
Infused with the vibrant spirit of his birthplace, New Orleans, At the Octoroon Balls explores the fusion of identities that define the city’s essence. The historic balls of the 19th century, though now largely believed to be apocryphal, were said to have provided a backdrop where young women of mixed African and European heritage mingled with affluent gentlemen, orchestrated by their matchmaking mothers.
Marsalis translates this inspiration into an evocative soundscape, echoing the diverse sounds heard on the lively streets of New Orleans. In his words, “At the Octoroon Balls there was an interesting cross-section of life. People from different stratums of society came together in pursuit of pleasure and fulfillment.”
The musical history of New Orleans weaves together West African rhythms, traditional spirituals, ragtime, and blues with European dances, ballads, and instruments. From this blend, jazz emerged as a testament to the beauty of diverse cultures and sounds converging, ultimately reshaping the trajectory of musical history. In his captivating string quartet, Marsalis skillfully narrates a story that mirrors the vibrant mosaic of New Orleans, unfolding through seven movements that evoke various people, places, and scenes.
Underwriting for OSL’s 2023-2024 Visionary Sounds has generously been provided by Alden Toevs
String Quartet No. 1, "At the Octoroon Balls"