[Flutist Julietta Curenton will give her solo debut in one of three concerts Saturday in Astral's Spiritual Voyages Festival. (Joanna Williams)]
Feb. 16, 2012
David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Classical Music Critic
“The one-day festival's three programs - at 1, 4, and 8 p.m. at Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square - are putting much of Astral's young-artist roster, not to mention its staff, in foreign territory. How it goes down with Philadelphia audiences - historically conservative, if surprisingly progressive of late - is 'a big question mark,' said Vera Wilson, Astral Artists founder. 'It's a bit of a risk, but that's what we do.'
“The two-year project, supported by the Knight Foundation and Philadelphia Music Project, was the brainchild of Julian Rodescu, Astral's artistic director. Before his sudden death at 58 in October, Rodescu already had worked to bring Astral's young artists out of concert halls and into clubs, and welcomed into the organization soloists who didn't play the usual classical-music instruments.
“The Spiritual Voyages Festival was his boldest endeavor yet. The impetus was the flutist Julietta Curenton, who wanted to play more African American repertoire. And indeed, her solo recital debut - the second of Saturday's three concerts - has music by William Grant Still among such modern European works as Henri Dutilleux's Sonatine.
“The first and third programs will stray furthest from traditional classical concerts. The 1 p.m. performance mixes the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Chancel Choir, composer/pianist Evelyn Simpson-Curenton (longtime Philadelphia cultural leader and the flutist's mother), Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra founder Jeri Lynn Johnson, poems by Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes, as well as works by African American composers such as George Walker and Alvin Singleton.” [George Walker (b. 1922) and William Grant Still (1895-1978) are featured at AfriClassical.com]