The Emigrants

World Premiere at the Queens Museum

December 8, 2018 at 5pm


The Emigrants

Queens-based musicians who contributed to the interviews in  The Emigrants : top (left to right): Alvaro Rodas, Harold Gutierrez, Hikaru Tamaki; bottom (left to right): Rafael Leal, Nivedita Shrivraj, Yoko Reikano Kimura.

Queens-based musicians who contributed to the interviews in The Emigrants: top (left to right): Alvaro Rodas, Harold Gutierrez, Hikaru Tamaki; bottom (left to right): Rafael Leal, Nivedita Shrivraj, Yoko Reikano Kimura.

Featuring the world premiere of a new documentary chamber music work by composer George Tsz-Kwan Lam, performed by the cello-percussion duo New Morse Code.

Also featuring performances by Queens-based musicians Duo Yumeno and Rafael Leal, with special guest Jeffrey Ernst.

December 8, 2018 at 5pm
Queens Museum

This is a free event and is open to the public.
Directions to the Queens Museum at Flushing Meadows Corona Park


Can a piece of music help us explore and better understand the people who chose to leave their homeland and come to the United States to find new beginnings? George Lam’s new documentary chamber music work The Emigrants explores the stories of seven emigrant musicians living or working in Queens, focusing on their move to the United States, and how music continues to be an integral part of their lives today.

The Queens Museum presents the world premiere of composer The Emigrants, for cello, percussion, and recorded oral history, on Saturday, December 8, 2018 at 5pm. Admission is free. The Emigrants will be premiered by the ensemble New Morse Code (Hannah Collins, cello and Michael Compitello, percussion). This special concert will also feature Queens-based musicians Duo Yumeno (Yoko Reikano Kimura and Hikaru Tamaki) and Rafael Leal, who are featured on the recorded interviews that are part of The Emigrants.

The individuals who contributed their voices to The Emigrants include (pictured above):

  • Harold Gutierrez, composer (Colombia)

  • Rafael Leal, percussionist (Colombia)

  • Yoko Reikano Kimura, koto, shamisen and singer, member of Duo Yumeno (Japan)

  • Alvaro Rodas, percussionist and music educator (Guatemala)

  • Nivedita Shrivraj, Carnatic musician (India)

  • Hikaru Tamaki, cellist, member of Duo Yumeno (Japan)

  • Chris Yip, NYPD sergeant and pianist (Hong Kong)


Composer’s Note

The United States is often called “a nation of immigrants” and rightly so; our history has been defined by people from other places who have risked much to build a new life here. Recent discussion of immigration highlights the experiences of foreign nationals who have decided to stay: how they can stay, if their stay is legal, and what the ramifications of their stay are. Less common, however, is the discussion of immigrants’ departure from the home they left behind; few, in other words, speak of immigrants as emigrants.

The Emigrants is a documentary chamber music work for cello, percussion and digital playback. The project began by collecting oral history interviews with the emigrant musician community of New York City’s borough of Queens, one of the most ethnically diverse urban areas in the world. The new work includes these individuals’ voices as part of the score itself, combining spoken word with instrumental music. The goal is to create a work that, through a documentary process, invites a dialogue between the audience, the musicians (both live and recorded), and the stories.

I teach at York College, The City University of New York, where our student body includes emigrants from numerous countries and cultures. I am an emigrant myself, having left Hong Kong and moved to Boston in 1992 when I was 11 years old. As a new student at an American middle school, classical music became a lifeline that bridged the gap between my experiences in Hong Kong and the United states. I started studying the violin in Hong Kong when I was six, and when I started sixth grade upon my arrival in Boston, I immediately joined the school band. Classical music became my shelter from the foreign, and music eventually became my profession in my new homeland. Through The Emigrants, I look to document similar stories from other individuals through a work of documentary music.

- George Tsz-Kwan Lam, composer


Supported by the Queens Council on the Arts and the City University of New York


This performance is made possible in part by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Fieldwork for The Emigrants is also supported by a PSC-CUNY Award, jointly funded by The Professional Staff Congress and The City University of New York

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