• By: Kat Walcott

Majority-Black orchestra Chineke! to perform in Ottawa with Canada’s Stewart Goodyear

Photo: Chineke! Orchestra

Founded in 2015 by award-winning English double bass player Chi-chi Nwanoku CBE, the Chineke! Foundation has done a lot in the last eight years. Their goal was to provide European and U.K.-based classical musicians of colour career opportunities in a historically white-dominated field. Along the way, the foundation created one of the most sought-after and acclaimed musical ensembles of the last decade.

The Chineke! Orchestra is the very first orchestra in Europe composed primarily of Black musicians. In fact, upon its debut in 2015, it was solely made up of Black, Asian, and other ethnic minorities. It has since included white musicians, making it the most diversely mixed orchestra in Europe, perhaps even the world.

In advance of Chineke!'s North American tour, which kicks off here in Ottawa on Thursday, March 16, we chatted with Stewart Goodyear. The Canadian pianist and composer told us what he loves about the orchestra and what audiences can expect at the Ottawa and Toronto concerts.

ABOVE: Canadian pianist and composer Stewart Goodyear. (Photo: Anita Svonar)

Ottawa Life: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got involved with Chineke! Orchestra?

Stewart Goodyear: Music has been my heartbeat since I was born. I come from a family of music lovers, and received so much support for my dream of being a classical musician and pianist. I first collaborated with Chineke! in the summer of 2018, where we performed a concert at Southbank Centre in London. Since then, it has been such a huge pleasure working with these musicians, and I look forward to every opportunity.

Ottawa Life: Chineke! Orchestra's inclusivity and diversity is something that's unfortunately still quite rare to see in classical music spaces. Why is what Chineke! brings to the table so important?

Stewart Goodyear: The brainchild behind Chineke! is Chi-Chi Nwanoku, a musician extraordinaire and an advocate for inclusivity and equality. The idea that people from all racial backgrounds feel like they belong in the classical music world, and receive opportunities to share their gifts, is finally being embraced.

Ottawa Life: Congrats on the upcoming tour. It's long-awaited, having been postponed three years because of the pandemic. How have you been preparing?

Stewart Goodyear: As a soloist, I put my all into the preparation for every concert. It is such a blessing to have the opportunity to play for different audiences, and bringing people together through music is a responsibility I take very seriously. I am particularly excited about performing Callaloo – A Caribbean Suite for Piano and Orchestra in Ottawa and Toronto. Both cities I consider my home, and I am delighted to introduce my piece there. It feels fantastic.

Stewart Goodyear & Chineke! Orchestra perform live in concert at the National Arts Centre this Thursday, March 16th. Visit the NAC website for full details and to purchase tickets.