For Symphony Orchestra, Choir and Jazz Soloists

We are happy to welcome proposals for the US premiere of Ed Sarath’s composition His Day is Done, for symphony orchestra, choir and solo improvisers.

The work—which can be heard in its entirety here — sets to music Dr. Maya Angelou’s poem of that title, which she wrote and dedicated to Nelson Mandela in 2014, shortly after his passing. The music embodies the boundary-crossing programming that increasingly defines the symphony orchestra world. Interweaving classical, jazz and a broader range of influences, incorporating improvisation in carefully designed passages (within a largely composed-notated work), His Day is Done directly translates the racial justice visions of two iconic visionaries into sound.

His Day Is Done Performance

The piece was premiered in South Africa in December 2022, to highly enthusiastic acclaim by performers and audiences alike.

Conductor Gareth Williams, who led the inaugural performance of the Imbumba Freedom Orchestra and Choir through the work, called the piece a “game changer in the orchestral world’s quest to expand its horizons. Stretches all kinds of boundaries, while still rich in melodic material–no one can get the melodies out of their heads!”

Eddie Clayton, who conducted the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, described the composition as a “wonderful masterpiece,” with the performance “among the most memorable in his career.”

Guest soloist Regina Carter, recently anointed NEA Jazz Master, described His Day is Done as an “epic work that needs to be performed widely for both musical reasons and also due to its racial justice message in light of the vast inequality and discrimination that still exists in the world.”

The work will receive its Brazilian premiere in July 2023 at the Amazonas Green Jazz Festival, performed by the Amazonas Symphony Orchestra and Choir.


We are happy to make available several performance options.

  •  Most basic is programming His Day is Done as the second half of a concert (the work is five movements, roughly 35 minutes).

Also available is a broader framework that includes the above, plus:

  •  A short residency with the guest soloists, who would present improvisation workshops for classical musicians, convene discussions on the arts and racial justice, and do community outreach

A yet broader package is also available that replicates the South Africa performances, where:

  •  Guest artists perform during the first half of the concert, along with Education Africa’s famed Marimba Hubs (His Day is Done is thus performed on the second half).


The year 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s passing, 2024 the 10th anniversary of Maya Angelou’s. We hope you will consider being part of the initial consortium that premieres the work in the USA.

For information about booking a performance, contact Monica Felkel at monica@monicafelkelcreativepartners.com


We take great pride in not only the diverse horizons of the music but the diverse racial, gender and geographic demographics of our guest soloists. Following is the soloist roster for the South African performances.

 Regina Carter (USA), violin

Gayelynn McKinney (USA), drums

Chantal Willie-Peterson (SA), bass

Ulagh Williams (SA), piano

Siya Makuzeni (SA), trombone/voice

Mark Stone (USA), percussion

Dizu Plaatjies (SA), percussion

Albert Ssempeke Jr (Uganda), percussion

Ed Sarath (USA), flugelhorn

Read more about this piece

Score available on request for prospective conductors and ensembles.

Poem by Maya Angelou, dedicated to Nelson Mandela
Used by permission of Caged Bird Legacy, LLC

Following are thoughts on the general context of the piece, as well as possibilities for workshops/presentations (e.g. (improvisation for classical musicians, racial justice, mind-body practices) that might accompany any given performance.

General context
As inspiring as Mandela’s heroic leadership in the name of racial justice was during his epic lifetime in South Africa, it is also profoundly timely now in America given our nation’s newfound awareness of this centuries-old and elusive imperative.

Setting Angelou’s words to music around this theme has enabled me to interweave longstanding musical and extramusical interests in a single work. The uniting of influences—as well as practitioners—from jazz, the broader Black American Music pantheon, European classical music and a wider global palette has long been central to my music and my teaching, for which His Day is Done is an ideal format.

The piece also exemplifies important facets of my activist vision that I believe are key to navigating the complexities of racial justice healing.

One involves full acknowledgement of the “ravages of racism,” to invoke a few words from the poem, as an essential part of the healing process. Hence, as foregrounded in Movement III, Mandela’s “twenty seven years of imprisonment” as a sobering reminder of the devastating lapses in basic human rights and decency of which governments and societies are capable.

Second is an optimistic, celebratory spirit that illuminates a new era of collective human flourishing which, while as of yet elusive across much of the globe, Mandela taught humanity to believe is possible. Indeed, Nelson Mandela’s capacity to forgive his oppressors and emerge as a national and global leader against all obstacles warrants Angelou’s characterization of him as a “great courageous man,” the words that provide a fitting ending to the work.

Following are brief descriptions of possible presentations (including those offered by guest soloists) that might accompany performances of the work.

    • Improvisation workshops for classical musicians. Designed for accomplished orchestral performers who seek to broaden their creative horizons. Inasmuch as His Day is Done offers several optional improvisatory opportunities for orchestra and/or choir members, the workshops might be offered in preparation for these passages.
    • Racial justice workshops and/or panel discussions that connect overarching activism with the musical world. Might include examination of the ramifications of Maya Angelou’s poem His Day is Done for current racial justice conversation and action.
    • Music School of the Future seminar, addressing the complexities yet exciting possibilities inherent in broadening the horizons of how today’s musicians are prepared.
    • Afro-Euro Synapse, an initiative of the Alliance for the Transformation of Musical Academe (ATMA) that celebrates the co-evolutionary possibilities yet to be fully harnessed from the confluence of Black American Music and European classical traditions. (https://atma.jazzcosmos.com)
    • Arts-driven spirituality/consciousness presentations that illuminate the capacities inherent in the arts, particularly when conjoined with mind-body practices, to promote personal transformation in conjunction with activist-driven growth.

Guest artist roster
A roster of top artists is being assembled from which guest soloists and (if desired) guest conductors may be chosen for any given performance. It is also possible for guest artists to be drawn from the local community as a means for strengthening ties between performing arts organizations and the immediate communities they serve.

For more information, contact:

Ed Sarath

Email: sarahara@umich.edu

Phone: 734-272-1063

For more information, contact Ed Sarath at sarahara@umich.edu


0:00 Title
0:16 Movement I
7:44 Movement II
17:22 Movement III
26:47 Movement IV
32:56 Movement V

Below are audio links from computer software: