Guest conductor Damien Sneed leads the orchestra in paying homage to the rich heritage of black composers, including Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, and Duke Ellington.
This concert features some of the most beautiful American orchestral compositions created by African Americans. The first part of the program incorporates two well-known African American female composers, Florence Price (1887 – 1953) and Margaret Bonds (1913 – 1972), honoring the American musical art form created by the enslaved, the spiritual. Price’s Colonial Dance (unknown) reflects dance, which was an integral part of African American life and American life more generally around the time she composed it. And Price’s Concert Overture No. 1 (unknown) is based on the spiritual Sinner, Please Don’t Let This Harvest Pass. Bond’s Montgomery Variations (1964) is a symphonic theme and variations in 7 movements based on the spiritual I Want Jesus To Walk With Me. The second half of the program highlights the indigenous American musical genre, jazz featuring music by James P. Johnson (1894 – 1955), William Grant Still (1895 – 1978), David Baker (1931 – 2016), Duke Ellington (1899 – 1974) and the guest conductor, Damien Sneed (1979 – present). Yamekraw (1927), originally composed by highly influential jazz and stride pianist James P. Johnson, was later orchestrated by William Grant Still, “Dean of African-American Composers,” for a Carnegie Hall Concert. Baker’s Jazz Suite for Clarinet and Orchestra: Three Ethnic Dances (1993) is a brilliant fusion of jazz and classical music reminiscent of a stellar film score. And finally, the world premiere of Sneed’s A Symphonic Homage to The Duke (2024) will end the evening in a sizzling tribute to one of America’s greatest composers, Duke Ellington.
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