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Chorus Polaris


Dave Brubeck's


7:00 p.m., March 17, 2024

(pre-concert discussion begins at 6:00 p.m.)

Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church

511 Groveland Avenue, Minnneapolis, MN 55403

Chorus Polaris, joined by tenor James Ahrens, baritone Elwyn Fraser, and the Laura Caviani Trio presents a concert featuring Dave Brubeck's The Gates of Justice at 7:00 p.m. on March 17, 2024 at Hennepin Ave. United Methodist Church. 


A pre-concert discussion with Pastor Elijah McDaniel III of Fellowship Baptist Church and Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman of Temple Israel will take place at 6:00 p.m. Concert tickets provide admission to the discussion.

A little-known Brubeck piece, and two shorter works by Laura Caviani, “We All Do Better” and “We the People” are also on the program. The Caviani pieces are based on justice-themed texts by Susan B. Anthony and Paul Wellstone. Based in the Twin Cities, Laura Caviani has been performing and recording for over 15 years.

Elwyn Fraser is a composer and singer who lends his skills to corporate events, and organizations like the Sounds of Blackness and the Minnesota Chorale. James Ahrens sings with several theater and choral companies around town, with a repertoire that ranges from the Bach passions to Gilbert and Sullivan.

This performance of The Gates of Justice will be led by Artistic Director Bill Mathis, a nationally known Twin Cities musician, clinician, and conductor.

The featured performers will be accompanied by an orchestra comprised of an eleven-piece brass ensemble and percussion.


Tickets are $20 for adults; and concertgoers under 21 are admitted free. You can purchase tickets here.


The Gates of Justice (1969), is the second large-scale sacred work by Dave Brubeck.  Written in 1969, it was a joint commission by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

The cantata was written to bring together (and back together) Jewish and Black Americans in the wake of the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The natural bond that had forged between them during the civil rights struggle in the early 1960s had weakened and was starting to break down by 1969.

As relevant now as it was in the 1960's

In his original program notes, Brubeck wrote:

"The essential message of The Gates of Justice is the brotherhood of man. Concentrating on the historic and spiritual parallels of Jews and American blacks, I hoped through the juxtaposition and amalgamation of a variety of musical styles to construct a bridge upon which the universal theme of brotherhood could be communicated. ... "

With musical stylings spanning Hebraic modes, classical, jazz, spirituals, and blues, the score for The Gates of Justice calls for a tenor cantor, a Black baritone, an eleven-piece brass ensemble, a jazz trio, and percussion.


Neil W. Levin wrote:

"The Gates of Justice is a cantata based on biblical and Hebrew liturgical texts—together with quotations from Martin Luther King’s speeches, as well as from Negro spirituals and from the Jewish sage Hillel, and with lyrics by Brubeck’s wife, Iola, with whom he collaborated on this and other works. It was a joint commission by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC)—the lay umbrella association of Reform synagogues in the United States—and the College Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati. During the exploratory discussions with the UAHC, Brubeck pointed to the explicit connection between the historical experience of the Jewish people and that of American blacks, and he expressed his conviction that both peoples possess traditional spiritual values with important meaning for contemporary society."


This is not a “Jewish” work, but its message is undoubtedly a Jewish value: the brotherhood of all people. Brubeck took his internationally renowned jazz trio and fused it with the two voices (a cantor and a black baritone). With chorus, an eleven-piece brass ensemble, percussion, and a jazz trio, it often borders on the operatic and dramatic. The universal message of fellowship inspires all people, regardless of age.

All in all, it is a work of profound and timely significance. When he finished the first recording sessions of Gates of Justice, Brubeck mused to the other musicians,

It’s a good thing we’re recording this now, because with the progress of the civil rights movement, it will soon be out of date.” 


Unfortunately, the work of seeking justice for all goes on, as it has for centuries. And this music could hardly be more timely.


Chorus Polaris is proud to present our 2023-2024 season with William H. Mathis as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor.

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