Born in New York City in 1968, composer-singer-producer Charles Farmer Coleman (civil rights leader James Farmer was his Godfather) has led an
extraordinary musical life that began as a boy soprano at the Metropolitan
Opera and most recently triumphed when his Violin Concerto No. 1 was
world premiered at the Constella Music Festival in Cincinnati to ecstatic
reviews. (See the "News" page)
fell in love with grand opera at the age of 8. In 1980 he joined
the Metropolitan Opera’s children’s chorus singing
all of the traditional children’s roles at the Met and the
New York City Opera for the next four years including Feodor in
“Boris Godunov” with the late basso Martti Talvela.
After a brief apprenticeship in musical composition at the Turtle
Bay Music School he entered the Manhattan School of Music where
he earned his Masters Degree studying with composers David Noon
and Eric Lundborg. At Manhattan he met Kristjan Jarvi with whom, he and Gene Pritsker, founded The Absolute Ensemble. Coleman was named
Composer-in-Residence of the Ensemble in 1997.
The Absolute Ensemble
has come to symbolize a special blend of modern classical music;
a synthesis of jazz, rock and traditional music, probably best
expressed in Charles Coleman’s “Absolution,”
written in 1999 and recorded on ENJA NOVA, a CD that was nominated
for the “Best Small Ensemble Performance” Grammy in
As of this writing Charles Coleman has written 90 compositions
starting with “Five Songs of Mother Goose” for Soprano
and Piano which was published by Vanguard Music in 1993. “Young
Words” for Chamber Ensemble was commissioned in 1995 by
Litchfield Performing Arts of Connecticut and was choreographed
and performed by the Pilobolus Dance Company. "Elegy” for
String Orchestra (1995), “West Side Nocturne” for
Solo Piano (1997), “Tracks” for Chamber Ensemble (1998)
and “Pastorale” for Flute,
Cello and Guitar (1999) followed, and
“Monologue Blue” for Jazz Violin and Chamber Orchestra had its world premiere in Tallin,
Estonia in August of 1998.
After his funky
“Rut Strut” for Chamber Ensemble was performed in
the New York Public Theatre’s Joe’s Pub in 2000, Coleman
received a commission to write a major symphonic work celebrating
the opening of The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s 2001-2002
season with its new Music Director, Paavo Jarvi.
for Full Orchestra – a furious walk through the streets
of Coleman’s native Manhattan, was first performed on September
14, 2001 in Cincinnati, three days after the destruction of the World Trade Center. Actually, "Streetscape" had been composed in an apartment four blocks north of the WTC.
In May of 2007, Coleman spent five weeks as the resident composer of the Cincinnati Symphony teaching, composing and lecturing as part of "Music Alive," a program that partners with the "Meet the Composer" Foundation.
His new symphony, "Deep Woods," world premiered on Thursday, May 3, 2007 at the CSO Music Hall. The performance got stunning reviews (see News Page).
During that same period Coleman's "Lime Factory" had its American premiere in Cincinnati (also see News Page for reviews). After returning to New York following the Cincinnati experience, Charles opened his new chamber opera, "Redemption," Off-Broadway.
Earlier, Coleman's “Latarnia”
for Bassoon and Chamber Orchestra and “The Lime Factory”
for Full Orchestra had their world premiere with the Symphony Orchestra of
the Norrlands Opera in Sweden and the Ulster (Ireland) Symphony. (See News Page for review.)
The composer also has a series of orchestrations to his credit.
Among them are “The Last Confession” by Arthur Kapp
which was performed by the Detroit Symphony and Frank Zappa’s
“Uncle Remus”, the Beatles “Come Together”,
Jimi Hendrix’ “Manic Depression” and Compay
Segundo’s “Chan Chan” ...all performed by the Absolute
(above: Streetscape opening night ticket.
The Premiere was three days after 9/11/01. "Streetscape",
written in Lower Manhattan, 4 blocks from Ground Zero, was powerfully
In his short career, Coleman’s work as a composer, orchestrator
and producer has appeared on many CDs, notably “Absolute
Mix” (CCn’C 00702) which won the German Record Critics
Award in the year 2000. He has served as the producer of four
Finally, he works from time to time as a professional baritone.
His triumphant Violin Concerto No. 1 which world premiered in Cincinnati
on Oct. 11, 2013 may very well be (as Jenelle Gelfand of he Cincinnati
Enquirer said) the classical debut of "the music of today".