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Kean University

Ars Vitalis at Kean University Presents the Music of Trent Johnson

Music composer Trent Johnson, a headshot

The critically acclaimed Ars Vitalis: The New Jersey New Music Forum at Kean University will present a concert of chamber music arrangements of scenes from the opera Kenyatta by composer Trent Johnson, including a panel discussion with the composer and librettist Richard Wesley. 

The concert takes place on Thursday, November 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Kean University’s Enlow Recital Hall. Admission is free.

Ars Vitalis, an arts initiative at Kean University, showcases the works of prominent living composers. Concerts feature pre- and post-concert events with the invited composers offering the audience an opportunity to meet the people behind the music. Since its inception in 1999, Ars Vitalis has hosted over 30 renowned composers including Pulitzer Prize, Academy Award, and Grammy winners.

Johnson, a composer, organist, pianist and conductor, is the assistant director of music of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City, assistant artistic director of Musica Viva NY, and the music director and conductor of the Oratorio Singers of Westfield.

Kenyatta premiered on November 19, 2017, at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Commissioned by Trilogy: an Opera Company, the opera takes the audience on a captivating journey through the life of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and the gripping political conflict with Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. 

Kenyatta is a dazzling synthesis of European and African musical elements masterfully brought together to illuminate a pivotal time in Kenya’s history,” said Matthew Halper, DMA, artistic director and professor of music composition at Kean.

Performing artists in the concert include Patrick Blackwell, bass-baritone, as Kenyatta; Sam McKelton, tenor, as Odinga; George Johnson III, tenor, as the Kenyan man; Trent Johnson, piano; James Musto, djembe; Manuel Carro, djembe; Stephen Myers, timpani; and the Kean University Chorale, Rachel Carlson, director.

The Eugene and Shelley Enlow Recital Hall is located on Kean University’s East Campus, 215 North Avenue in Hillside, New Jersey.

For more information, visit the Kean Stage website or call (908) 737-SHOW (7469).