George Mensah Essilfie
“Hope for the Shackled” was composed in 2018 for the 32 Bright Clouds project and received its World Premiere in Washington DC on January 24, 2019. It is connected to Beethoven’s Sonata no. 16 in G major, Op.31 No. 1.
The piece is dedicated to those living with psychotic disorders and being physically bound up within faith-based
camps in Ghana rather than receiving appropriate medical attention. The composer donates the commissioning fee towards to a psychiatric hospital in Accra.
George Mensah Essilfie (b. 1967) is an Art Music composer from Ghana, West-Africa.. He mostly employs an intercultural approach to his music compositions. Living in the Caribbean, the UK and the USA, Mensah Essilfie pulls resources from all these experiences and experiments with the fusion of elements that define Western Art music and Ghanaian traditional music.
Known as GME, he started composing at the age of 9. In 1994, he won the World Peace Prayer Society songwriting contest organized by World Peace Prayer Society in conjunction with the UN.
In 1996, under the auspices of the British Council, Ghana, he was invited by the British Choral Institute to attend the Easter music school for Music educators in the UK.
His songs have been used for several music competitions in Ghana and performed at the Verdi Music Festival in Berlin, Germany. George holds degrees in Education from University of Education, Ghana, and in Sacred Music with an emphasis in Music Composition from Lutheran Theological Seminary - Capital University, in Columbus, OH.
His interests include West African instrumental and choral music, folk songs and military cadences. His digital creations with West African symbols were exhibited at the McConell Arts Center in Worthington, OH. USA in Feb. 2011 as part of the Black History month activities and received excellent reviews.
GME founded the Winneba Youth Choir, Ghana. He became the music director for the Osagyefo Theatre Company, Luton, UK. from 2003 - 2005. He is currently the Music Director for the North America Ghana United Methodist Church Choirs Association
GME donated the proceeds from his “Otomfo Concert” in 2015 to the Accra Psychiatric Hospital in Ghana. This was used to renovate one of the restrooms at the facility. He has plan to donate to another psychiatric hospital in Ghana soon.
HOPE FOR THE SHACKLED is in seven sections numbered from A - G, followed by a Coda. The work is connected to Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 16 in G major, Op. 31 No. 1 and explores the similarities between Beethoven's unique opening rhythm and African traditional rhythms. The African rhythms used in this piece are guided by the bell pattern of the Agbadza dance. This is an Ewe ensemble that used to be a war dance but has evolved into a recreational dance and performed during social events. This transformation from a military usage to a recreational one is in line with Beethoven’s desire for the world to be one as written at the end of his Missa Solemnis.
African Pianism is employed in most of the sections. The melodies were based on the bell pattern which is the time reference for the rhythmic patterns played by the other instruments of the ensemble. "African Pianism" resonates in the middle sections of the piece, and is a term coined by Akin Euba (a Nigerian composer, musicologist, and pianist) to describe an approach to piano composition that explores the fusion of African and Western elements. The piece has a free model, but a motivic dialogue is introduced and developed in each section. Call and response, canonic utilities, and the opening of the Beethoven Sonata are interspersed and varied at the middle sections in the Agbadza rhythm in 6/8. These elements are discernable despite the change of time signatures. The repeated notes and the lack of a key signature for the piece represent the confusion that sometimes comes with psychotic disorders. The piece ends with a Coda that bursts with a Bossa Nova rhythmic pattern.
HOPE FOR THE SHACKLED In this modern age, psychotic disorders can be improved by modern medicine. The composer, through the 32 Bright Clouds Project, adds his voice to the several campaigns aiming to foster greater awareness of this. Beethoven inscribed on the manuscript, “Von Herzen – möges wieder zu Herzen gehen” (From the heart – may it in turn go to the heart). In light of this, the composer dedicates this piano piece to those living with psychotic disorders and being physically bound up within faith-based camps rather than receiving appropriate medical attention.