While rooted in African tradition, the Bernard Woma Ensemble bridges Western orchestral music with the music and dance of West Africa. The ensemble'scombination of the gyil African xylophone and other African percussion with Western orchestral instruments takes their unique music beyond its traditional context and into a global musical landscape. The group is a touring ensemble that features innovative new compositions for the gyil, as well as traditional West African repertoire.
Led by the Ghanaian composer and percussion virtuoso Bernard Woma, the ensemble is equally at home playing alongside a full orchestra, performing in an intimate concert venue, or taking part in a large festival. In the Bernard Woma Ensemble, Mr. Woma is joined by his musical protégés Mark Stone and Kofi Ameyaw and at times guest dancers from Ghana. The group has been featured in concert venues and universities throughout the United States including a sold-out performance at Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The Bernard Woma Ensemble can be heard on the Jumbie Records recording "Bernard Woma in Concert."
In 2008, The Bernard Woma Ensemble performed the world premier of "Gyil Jumbie Concerto", the first-ever concerto for gyil and orchestra. In 2009, they again performed this genre-bending work with the Minnesota Orchestra as part of their "Percussion Spectacular" Young People's Concerts. The group's thrilling combinations of classical and African musical traditions have been met with great excitement. Jim Bartsch, Director of Education for the Minnesota Orchestra wrote, "Mr. Woma's presentations at the concert as well as in schools were met with incredible enthusiasm from everyone." A Carnegie Hall performance of Mr. Woma's music was described as "rhythmically vital" by the New York Times. The Ensemble continues to break new ground in the orchestral world and was commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra in 2011 to compose and perform a second concerto for gyil and orchestra. Writing for the Times Union, Priscilla McLean described the premiere of Gyil Yeru Concerto as, “The tour-de-force of the evening, a dynamic, exciting concerto....So successful was this that amid a standing ovation, the Woma ensemble played an encore, to loud acclaim”. This year the Bernard Woma Ensemble will perform these works with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Berliner Symphoniker.