October 18, 2014
Anyone who's tried to do it will tell you, getting a new arts venture off the ground is hard work and fraught with risk.
For the venture to succeed, it needs an organizational structure, people to help, donors and a visionary leader. It also needs a business plan and budget, access to venues, marketing initiatives and the ability to conduct financial transactions.
Not to mention enough interested patrons to justify the enterprise.
So it is something of a marvel that the Colour of Music Festival, which celebrates the contributions of black musicians and composers, is about to kick off for the second time, this year bigger and better organized than the well-received inaugural festival in 2013.
The unstoppable Lee Pringle, founder and president of the CSO Gospel Choir and CSO Spiritual Ensemble, is the driving force behind the festival. His primary collaborator is New York-based music director Marlon Daniel, who takes charge of programming and secures many of the musical participants.
Last year, the festival shined a bright light on Joseph Boulogne, otherwise known as Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, an 18th-century African-French composer, as well as several 20th- and 21st-century black composers such as William Grant Still, Nathaniel Dett and Trevor Weston. The big blockbuster concert featured the Mozart Requiem.
This year, the event is more ambitious, culminating in an Oct. 26 performance of the Verdi Requiem at Memminger Auditorium.
Pringle and Daniel have scheduled Masterworks concerts, a chamber music series, matinee recitals, a piano series, an organ series and a "community symposium" featuring four public lectures. Special events include concerts by the Fisk University Jubilee Singers and the Morehouse College Glee Club, as well as a chamber music concert to be held at East Cooper Montessori School in the I'On neighborhood.
A large orchestra has been assembled and guest artists booked. (Next year, auditions will be required to get into the orchestra and chorus.) Guests include the KAJ Trio and the Elliott family of Canton, Ohio; singers Valerie Jones Francis, Icy Monroe and Darnell Ishmell; pianists William H. Chapman Nyaho, Everett N. Jones III and Mikael Darmanie; organists Wayne A. Barr, Anthony Williams, Isaac Brunson and Nathaniel Gumbs; and lecturer Wayne S. Brown, president and CEO of the Michigan Opera Theatre, who will offer the keynote address on "Black Classical Music Administrators."
Other lectures include Louise Toppin's discussion of black female composers; Trevor Weston's presentation on Charleston's contribution to classical music; and Karen Chandler's talk about Charlestonian Edmund Thornton Jenkins.
Patrick McCoy, a writer for Washington Life Magazine, will moderate the symposium series.
The goal, Pringle said, is to dedicate a week "to highlight something that's never shown," or at least rarely noticed: the many black musicians with active careers in classical music.