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Philadelphia Freedom Festival

gospel meets symphony


February - July 2014

Curated by Nolan Williams, Jr., CEO of NEWorks Productions and Festival Artistic Director for the Mann.

Past Events

Octavius Catto Story: A Philadelphia Freedom Fighter
Connecting Arts-N-Schools 
February–April 2014

These workshop/performances were presented in four participating Philadelphia schools and integrated with the history, literature, and arts curriculum. Each participating school received two copies of Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and The Battle for Equality in Civil War America courtesy of Temple University Press.

Let Freedom Sing
Community Jubilee
Saturday, February 22, 2014 | 2:00PM–4:00PM
Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

Invited ministers and their choirs participated in a church meeting revival offering a praise and worship opportunity for the entire community. The program consisted of negro spirituals, sacred music born out of the African Diaspora experience, praise dancers, and special words from several special guest ministers. Refreshments were served after the event during a Meet & Greet with the ministers. Tours of the Richard Allen Museum were also available.

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Taste of Freedom
Catto Awards Luncheon
Friday, March 28, 2014 | 11:30AM–2:00PM
Union League of Philadelphia, Lincoln Hall

In celebration of Women's History Month, the Mann was pleased to honor local African American women who made distinguished contributions to their professions and communities.

Freedom of Composition 
Master Class
Friday, April 18, 2014 | 2:00PM–4:00PM
Curtis Institute of Music, Lenfest Hall

Music students from Philadelphia universities were invited participants in this Master Class/Meet the Artist session facilitated by Uri Caine, composer of the commissioned work The Passion of Octavius Catto, which had its world premiere performance at the Mann Stage Finale Concert.

Let Freedom Ring
Scholarly Panel Discussion
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 | 4:00PM–6:00PM
Temple University, Mitten Hall

Broadcast live by 900AM-WURD, this engaging discussion joined a diverse set of voices from Philadelphia's academic and activist communities to reflect on the life and impact of Octavius V. Catto.  A performance by Cheyney University Concert Choir followed.



Let Freedom Speak — Voices of Our Children 
Catto Youth Freedom Project  
Friday, May 16, 2014 | 10:00AM–11:00AM
Church of the Advocate

400 Philadelphia students were invited to attend an engaging, celebratory program featuring local young spoken word artists and city-wide choirs. This event was in partnership with Art Sanctuary's Celebration of Black Writing and was open to participating schools only.

Youth Rap battle at the Mann

Freedom Rap Session
Youth Freedom Panel Discussion 
Saturday, June 7, 2014 | 1:00PM - 3:00PM
Crescendo Restaurant

The Mann invited local hip-hop artists and scholars who have experienced & studied racism in Philadelphia discussed how the power of music is reflected in their words. Performances by: Nina "Lyrispect" Ball & Hip-Hop Krewe. This event was in partnership with Art Sanctuary.


Gospel Meets Symphony Featuring Marvin Sapp and The Philadelphia Orchestra
Festival Finale Concert
Saturday, July 19, 2014 | 8:00PM
The Mann's Main Stage

World premiere performance of a commissioned work by Philadelphia composer Uri Caine featuring The Philadelphia Orchestra; Dr. Marvin Sapp, guest soloist; Barbara Walker, soprano; André Raphel, conductor; Nolan Williams, Jr., conductor; a 300-voice gospel choir; and praise dancers. A pre-concert event on PECO Plaza featured Catto re-enactor Robert Branch, Enon Children's Choir, and the "Trailblazers to Freedom Digital Interactive Media Traveling Trunk," presented in partnership with the African-American Museum in Philadelphia.

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Freedom Youth Jamboree
Young People's Concert Series 
Monday, July 28, 2014 | 11:00AM
The Mann's Main Stage

This free children's concert featured "Catto at the Bat," an original "baseball en pointe" piece by The Rock School for Dance Education, and negro spirituals performed by the Philadelphia Boys Choir. Four Greenfield Performance Treasures Workshops followed, featuring the Philadelphia Boys Choir.


The Philadelphia Freedom Festival was supported by:

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage
The Knight Foundation
The Presser Foundation
The Lomax Family Foundation
New Music USA
The Pennsylvania Abolition Society