Monday, January 10, 2011

Birmingham News: “Adolphus Hailstork's 'Dream, Child. Hope' inspired by children's poetry”

[Adolphus Hailstork]

Published: Sunday, January 09, 2011, 8:00 AM
In fulfilling a commission for the Alabama Symphony's annual tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., composer Adolphus Hailstork could have taken a well-established route. He might have focused on the tragedies and triumphs of the civil rights era -- the uphill battles, the struggles, the violence, or the contributions of the concert's namesake. Instead, the 69-year-old composer turned to the poetry of Birmingham children. He was surprised, even overwhelmed, by the insight he found for "Dream, Child. Hope," a work for orchestra and chorus.

"Strongly affected by the Birmingham bombing that killed four children at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963, Hailstork addressed his feelings about the incident in a 1983 work for band and piano, titled 'American Guernica.' After receiving the ASO commission and visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in 2009, he was drawn to a different approach -- the impact of the civil rights movement on children's hopes and dreams. 'In the case of the Birmingham bombing, those children's hopes and dreams were immediately dashed,' he said. 'I always have a place in my heart for children, so I thought, that's what I would address, rather than the tragedy.'

"Hailstork, a professor of music at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., completed the work in August. Its musical language is a combination of the multiple musical influences the composer has forged during his career, including his early studies in France with the renowned teacher, Nadia Boulanger. 'I start off with an Afro-Caribbean sound, with congas, bongos and xylophone,' he said of the piece. 'It's a juxtaposition, a blend of my Euro-American background of training and my African American interests. I try to incorporate aspects of the African diaspora in almost every piece now. In this particular piece, I went for some African flavoring, but not all the way through.'"

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