Umoja – Anthem of Unity

for Orchestra

Commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra

Valerie Coleman

Duration: 10'
Instrumentation:2+picc,2+corang,2+bass,2 / 2,2,1+bass,1 / timp,3perc,hp,pno,str
SKU:TPB001-01-7016

Conductor's Score

$90.00

Score & Parts

Full score and parts set is available by rental only. Please submit our rental inquiry form to get started:

Rental Inquiry

In its original form, Umoja, the Swahili word for Unity and the first principle
of the African Dispora holiday Kwanzaa, was compose a simple song for women’s
choir. It embodied a sense of ‘tribal unity’, through the feel of a drum circle, the sharing
of history through traditional “call and response” form and the repetition of a memorable
sing-song melody. It was rearranged into woodwind quintet form during the genesis of
Coleman’s chamber music ensemble, Imani Winds, with the intent of providing an
anthem that celebrated the diverse heritages of the ensemble itself.

Almost two decades later from the original, the orchestral version brings an expansion and
sophistication to the short and sweet melody, beginning with sustained ethereal passages
that float and shift from a bowed vibraphone, supporting the introduction of the melody
by solo violin. Here the melody is a sweetly singing in its simplest form with an earnest
reminiscent of Appalachian style music. From there, the melody dances and weaves
throughout the instrument families, interrupted by dissonant viewpoints led by the
brass and percussion sections, which represent the clash of injustices, racism and hate
that threatens to gain a foothold in the world today. Spiky textures turn into an aggressive
exchange between upper woodwinds and percussion, before a return to the melody
as a gentle reminder of kindness and humanity. Through the brass led ensemble tutti, the
journey ends with a bold call of unity that harkens back to the original anthem.
Umoja has seen the seen the creation of many versions, that are like siblings to one another,
similar in many ways, but each with a unique voice that is informed by Coleman’s ever
evolving creativity and perspective.

“This version honors the simple melody that ever was, but is now a full exploration into the
meaning of freedom and unity. Now more than ever, Umoja has to ring as a strong and beautiful
anthem for the world we live in today.”

Umoja - Philadephia Orchestra - WomenNOW Celebration

Score Preview