Charleston-born Edmund Thornton Jenkins’ Rhapsodic Overture receives a thrilling restoration nearly 100 years after it was composed and here is what you should know:

Under the baton of Festival Resident Conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities John Kennedy, the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra presents the US premieres of Rhapsodic Overture (reconstructed by Tuffus Zimbabwe) as well as Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s AIŌN

Bridging Rhapsodic Overture and AIŌN is György Ligeti’s Piano Concerto. Featuring rising-star soloist Julia Hamos on the keys, it’s a dazzling display of the Hungarian composer’s polyrhythmic masterwork.


A Little More…

Edmund Thornton Jenkins, the preternaturally gifted son of the founder of the Jenkins Orphanage Band, left Charleston when he was 20 to study music at the Royal Academy in London, and became well-known there and in Paris, where he found easier success as a Black man. His music merged musical traditions of the Black south and early jazz with the classical traditions of Europe—but from his early death at 32, we can only wonder how much more music he had in him. 

In recent years, Jenkins’ work has begun to reemerge (such as in the Festival’s 2016 presentation of his unfinished operetta Afram ou La Belle Swita). Thanks to his grand-nephew, Tuffus Zimbabwe, we now have a restoration of one of his largest and most important works, the Rhapsodic Overture.


About the Creative Team

JOHN KENNEDY (Spoleto Festival USA Resident Conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities)

John Kennedy has been a change-maker in music for over 30 years, leading acclaimed performances and premieres worldwide of opera, orchestral, ballet, and new music. In recent seasons at the Festival, Kennedy has conducted operas by leading composers of our time including Francesconi, Glass, Lachenmann, Lim, Huang Ruo, Saariaho, and others. Kennedy is a prolific composer whose works have been performed worldwide; his family opera The Language of Birds will have a new production by Canadian Children’s Opera Company in Toronto in June. This summer, he will lead West Edge Opera in the US Premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera Coraline.



Julia Hamos combines her American and Hungarian roots with an adventurous spirit to explore the essence of repertoire ranging from Bach to composers living today. Instinctive artistic expression, a forward-thinking attitude, a joyful physical flexibility at the instrument, and an unyielding fascination with the music she plays makes her an artist to watch. In 2021 she worked with Daniel Barenboim in a series of filmed masterclasses on Beethoven solo piano and string sonatas. At the invitation of Sir András Schiff, she will appear in the Building Bridges series throughout Europe in the 2022/23 season. She currently serves as the assistant to the musicology program at the Barenboim-Said Akademie. She is also currently in the process of recording her first solo CD.



Tuffus Zimbabwe is a pianist, composer, and educator from the Boston area. He studied music at Berklee College of music and New York University. Mr. Zimbabwe is a keyboardist for the Saturday Night Live Band on NBC. He’s also a pianist for the Trilogy Opera Company. Tuffus has roots in Charleston through his grandmother Mildred Jenkins, who was a professional vocalist in the Operatic and Spiritual styles and studied at the New England Conservatory and the Sorbonne in Paris. Mildred Jenkins and her older brother Edmund Thornton Jenkins were children of Rev. Daniel Joseph Jenkins and Lena James who founded the Jenkins Orphanage and internationally renowned Jenkins Orphanage Band. It is an honor to continue this musical legacy and to return to Charleston where it all started.



The Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra serves as a backbone to the Festival’s programming, appearing in many different configurations as part of opera, symphonic, choral, chamber, and contemporary performances. Comprised of early career musicians, the Orchestra is formed anew each year through nationwide auditions. Alumni of the Orchestra can be found in orchestras throughout the world, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Concertgebouw Orchestra, LA Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic, and many others.


Connect on social

Find conductor John Kennedy on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Find composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Find pianist Julia Hamos on Instagram.


Performance Details

Rhapsodic Overture will take the stage at the Charleston Gaillard Center on Friday, June 3 at 7:30pm.

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