16 July 2020
Musicians from the U.S. and Scotland create SNJO Mandela tribute

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra releases a new arrangement of Sam Cooke’s classic Civil Rights anthem, A Change is Gonna Come as a tribute to Nelson Mandela on Saturday 18th July.


The recording came about when the SNJO’s concerts with San Francisco-based singer Kenny Washington and New York vibraphone master Joe Locke, due to take place in Scotland in April, were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the repertoire selected for a programme of pop, rock and soul classics was the song Cooke wrote in response to several experiences including his entourage being turned away by a whites-only motel while on tour in Louisiana.


With everyone in lockdown, SNJO director Tommy Smith sent all the musicians their parts for A Change is Gonna Come and asked them to record videos of them playing in isolation. Smith then collated the results into one performance and the compilation video will go live on the SNJO website at 10am on Saturday. The performance will receive its first airing on radio on Jazz FM’s Breakfast at the Weekend programme two hours earlier.


“Initially we were just going to make the video available to view for free as our tribute on International Nelson Mandela Day,” says Smith. “But we then had the idea of adding a donate button alongside it so that people can watch and hopefully make a contribution, with all proceeds going to the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation.”


Smith has had a long association with the Foundation. In his early twenties he took part in a concert it promoted in Mandela’s honour during Glasgow’s European City of Culture celebrations in 1990 and he has kept in touch with it since then.


“I was lucky enough to perform with the Association of South African Students Choir, The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Scottish Philharmonic Singers on what was a really moving and inspiring day. The Foundation has had a long-term aim of creating a statue of Nelson Mandela in Nelson Mandela Place, in Glasgow’s city centre, and if we can contribute towards that with this single, it would be a suitable reward for Kenny and all the instrumentalists’ efforts."

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