Uri Caine [piano]
The Catto Freedom Orchestra
André Raphel [conductor]
The Nedra Neal Singers
The Philadelphia Choral Ensemble
Barbara Walker [solo vocals]
Mike Boone [bass]
Clarence Penn [drums]
A production of Winter & Winter © 2020
Mixed and mastered by Adrian von Ripka.
Hymn to Freedom
In a deeply impressive and magnificent synthesis of gospel, jazz and contemporary music, Uri Caine tells the moving story of Octavius Catto.
Octavius Catto: “We shall never rest at ease, but will agitate and work, by our means and by our influence, in court and out of court, asking aid of the press, calling upon Christians to vindicate their Christianity, and the members of the law to assert the principles of the profession by granting us justice and right, until these invidious and unjust usages shall have ceased.”
Uri Caine: “Growing up in Philadelphia, I heard the story of Octavius Catto (February 22, 1839 – October 10, 1871) but did not know more of the details until I read the inspirational and moving biography of Octavius Catto Tasting Freedom written in 2010 by Daniel Biddle and Murray Dubin. The book describes the events of Octavius Catto’s life and also paints a vivid picture of the discrimination and violence against the African-American community in Philadelphia as well as the struggles and achievements of Catto and his fellow activists to help end slavery, create educational institutions and pass the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.
Catto was born to free African-American parents in South Carolina in 1839. He moved to Philadelphia in 1844 and attended the Institute for Colored Youth (ICY) that later became Cheyney University. He excelled as a student and graduated in 1858. Later he returned to the school as a teacher of literature, math, Greek and Latin. He also became involved in politics and the civil rights struggle. In 1863 he led the fight to allow African-Americans to join the armed forces and fight in the Civil War, and in 1864 he was elected the secretary of the Pennsylvania Equal Rights League. Catto was tragically murdered by Frank Kelly in Philadelphia in 1871 during the riots on Election Day at the age of 32.”