James Newton in Person

19 October 2019, 7 p.m.
Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of Polish Radio, Warsaw

Marcela Wierzbicka-Opalińska – soprano
Dominik Opaliński – bass/baritone
jazz quartet:
Łukasz Żyta – percussion
Maciej Adamczak – double bass
Dominik Wania – piano
Piotr Baron – saxophone
Jerzy Semkow Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra
Wojciech Semerau-Siemianowski – conductor
James Newton – host

James Newton (1953)

Glimpses of the Garden of Eden
Beauty and Strength
The Line of Immortality
Psalm 119 Introduction
Psalm 119 Zain
Psalm 119 Caph
Amazing Grace Version 1
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child 
(arr. James Newton)

phot. Eron-Rauch


James W. Newton Jr. is an extremely versatile American composer, flautist and conductor, also active in the field of jazz music. He is a scholar and holds a distinguished professorship at the University of California in Los Angeles in the Department of Ethnomusicology. Newton has been the recipient of many fellowships and grants, including the Ford Foundation, Guggenheim, National Endowment of the Arts and Rockefeller Fellowships, as well as many prestigious awards in various categories.

This will be the first opportunity for the Polish audience to listen to such a generous selection of Newton’s works during a monographic concert showcasing the versatility of his talent (the composer himself will be present during rehearsals and the concert). Line of immortality for jazz quartet and orchestra is an incredible work, “encoded” with the symbolism of number seven. At the same time, it is the composer’s tribute to God as well as the persons and music styles dearest to Newton’s heart. Newton has always focused on religious inspirations – Psalm 119 for soprano and baritone constitutes the final part of the monumental sacral trilogy, which was composed over the 2005-2017 period and also contains the Mass and St. Matthew Passion. Two versions of the famous Amazing Grace hymn were dedicated to Barrack Obama and the victims of the Charleston church massacre of 2015. Glimpses of the Garden of Eden is a composition from 2016 for French horn and orchestra. The concert will be conducted by Wojciech Semerau-Siemianowski – an acclaimed conductor and pianist. As early as during studies, Semerau-Siemianowski was affiliated with the Grand Theatre – National Opera as assistant conductor and conductor. In 2011–2012, he acted as an art director at the Szczecin Opera, becoming the youngest head of an opera theatre in Poland. Wojciech Semerau-Siemianowski collaborates with many philharmonics and operas both in Poland and abroad.


James Newton, born on May 1, 1953, in Los Angeles (California, USA), is a flautist, composer, arranger and conductor. Over his career, James Newton has written more than 300 compositions. Newton’s pieces have been performed all over the world, from Carnegie Hall to the National Gallery in Berlin. His works span a variety of music genres, including chamber, symphonic, sacral, jazz, electronic, ethno, as well as ballet and modern dance music. Newton is the author of dozens of albums, including solo flute ones.

“The music, which I write, first and foremost reflects my faith, which infuses my artistic life as a composer of sacred music” – said Newton. “Another recurring theme is inspiration from my African-American cultural roots”.

James Newton is one of the most acclaimed jazz flute virtuosos. His recordings with Anthony Davis are among the most characteristic examples of the contemporary Third Stream.

Newton grew up to the sounds of urban blues, rhythm’n’blues and gospel, which his parents used to listen to and play. At the age of 12, he played bass guitar in a local R&B band. At the age of 15, together with a guitarist, he formed a trio playing Jimi Hendrix music. He learnt to play the flute in high school when he simultaneously studied classical music and took lessons from Buddy Collette, a jazz saxophonist and flautist. In the 1970s, together with Arthur Blythe and David Murray, Newton was a member of Black Music Infinity band. At the turn of the 1980s, Newton played in New York with Cecil Taylor and Lester Bowie, and also led a trio with pianist Anthony Davis and cellist Abdul Wadud. In the 1980s and 1990s, Newton frequently collaborated with musicians representing other genres, as well as studied Japanese, Indian and Chinese music. He was also involved in several projects with David Murray, with whom he performed on stage in the 1990s. Besides his jazz activity, Newton regularly performed with classical chamber ensembles and symphonic orchestras. In 1989, Newton published his handbook to flute improvisation (The Improvising Flute).

In 1997, he wrote The Songs of Freedom opera, and in 2006, composed the Latin Mass which had its premiere in February 2007 in Prato, Italy.

As a musician, Newton visited Poland in 2007, when he played with Piotr Baron Quartet during the band’s tour of Poland and Hungary. The quartet performed in the following line-up: Piotr Baron, James Newton, Dariusz Oleszkiewicz and Mark Ferber. In the same year, James Newton performed twice with the Jarek Śmietana band (James Newton, Jarek Śmietana, Wojciech Karolak and Adam Czerwiński).