Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New York City Housing Symphony Celebrates 40th Anniversary, Part 1

[Kay George Roberts, Janet Wolfe & Jerome Ashby (1956-2007)]

On Feb. 26, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “New York City Housing Symphony Orchestra in 'Black History Month Concert' at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall Mon., Feb. 21.” We noted that Kay George Roberts is on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts Lowell and was featured in 2010 in a series based on a cover article, For Kay Roberts, Strings Are the Thing; UMass Lowell Magazine, Spring 2009. We wrote that Professor Roberts told us about the Black History Month concert of The New York City Housing Symphony, which she had conducted on Monday, February 21, 2011:

“The New York City Housing Symphony Orchestra, now in its 40th Anniversary Season, celebrated Black History Month at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall at 8:00 PM, Monday, February 21, 2011. This Gala Benefit concert featured classical and jazz music by composers of African heritage — Duke Ellington, William Grant Still, Tunde Jegede (British), Adolphus Hailstork, William Foster McDaniel and Jack Jeffers. Eugene Moye, principal cellist of American Symphony Orchestra, was the featured soloist in Jegede’s Lamentation for cello and orchestra, a New York premiere, Kay George Roberts conducted.

“Long before the Sphinx Organization started to build diversity in classical music, there was Janet Wolfe. The 96-year old Wolfe, a long-time patron of minority musicians in New York City, founded New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Symphony Orchestra in 1971.”

Prof. Roberts subsequently suggested that AfriClassical post a story on the 40th anniversary of the NYCHA Symphony Orchestra. She has written this account of her involvement with the orchestra:

Kay George Roberts
“In July 1987, I made my NYC debut conducting the New York City Housing Orchestra for a concert in Damrosch Park with soloist Jerome Ashby, associate principal french horn of the New York Philharmonic. A professional symphony founded in 1971, the sixty-member orchestra consisted of diverse minorities and played for those living in the City's housing projects at free summer concerts, both in the projects and at city parks.

Throughout the summer months, wonderful music could be heard in numerous developments, at City Hall Plaza and in Central Park. Janet Wolfe was the person who made all this possible through her indefatigable leadership as Administrative Director of the Orchestra. I conducted the orchestra on subsequent occasions, including several performances at Alice Tully Hall, where I worked with such exceptional musicians as drummer Max Roach and photographer/composer Gordon Parks. They were both very good friends of Janet and deeply admired her for what she did for African American musicians in New York." [Duke Ellington, Adolphus C. Hailstork and William Grant Still are profiled at]

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