Friday, November 4, 2011 New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra in 'Classically Black,' 7:30 PM Saturday, Nov. 5

[“The New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra presents a new work by Nigerian-American composer, Nkeiru Okoye as part of its program, 'Classically Black,' tomorrow at the Crossroads Theatre.”]

Adolphus C. Hailstork, Ulysses S. Kay, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, William Grant Still and George Walker are featured at Their works are included in "Classically Black". The New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra's website gives this description of the program at the Crossroads Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5:

“'Classically Black'
A Program of African-American composers
Local African-American choristers will join us for a specially commissioned work for chorus and orchestra by Nigerian-American composer, Nkeirus Okoye. Join us for a unique concert highlighting works by African-American composers both exciting and contemplative. Other pieces on the program include:

“George Walker - Lyric for Strings
William Grant Still - Danzas de Panama 14'
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson - Sinfonietta No. 1
Adolphus Hailstork - Sonata da Chiesa 20'
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson - 'Blue forms for solo violin'
...and two spirituals for solo choir arranged by Moses Hogan and Jester Hairston”

Published: Friday, November 04, 2011, 6:54 AM
By Ross Amico/For The Times of Trenton
“This weekend, the NBCO will perform its second program devoted to composers of African-American ancestry, including music of William Grant Still, the so-called 'Dean' of African-American composers. Still, who lived from 1895 to 1978, was a first in many ways: the first African-American to lead a major orchestra, the first to have a symphony performed by a leading ensemble and the first to have an opera staged by a major company.

“It is alleged that his improvisation in a pit band for the African-American musical 'Shuffle Along' (1921) gave George Gershwin the melodic material for 'I Got Rhythm' (1930). A counter-melody in the third movement of Still’s Symphony No. 1 alludes to the same music. The symphony, sub-titled 'Afro-American,' was taken up by Howard Hanson and the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and first recorded in 1939. It is certainly one of the most attractive of American symphonies, with its bluesy cadences and up-tempo syncopations. It remains Still’s most recorded music.”

“The NBCO will play 'Danzas de Panama,' one of Still’s most infectious works. Scored for string orchestra, the piece is a toe-tapping exploration of Central American rhythms. The program will also include 'Six Dances for String Orchestra' by Ulysses Kay, a former resident of Teaneck, who died in Englewood in 1995. Kay received encouragement from Still. He attended the University of Arizona before undertaking graduate studies at the Eastman School under Hanson. He also studied with Paul Hindemith at Yale. The dances are sunny pieces in a variety of popular styles: schottische, waltz, round dance, polka, promenade and galop.

“Music of a more contemplative nature is offered by Adolphus Hailstork, born in 1941. Hailstork is currently a professor of music and composer-in-residence at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Among his teachers was legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, who taught so many great American composers, from Aaron Copland to Philip Glass. Hailstork has written much for voice, but also three compelling symphonies. He will be represented on tomorrow night’s concert by 'Sonata da Chiesa,' literally 'church sonata.' A gorgeous meditation for string orchestra, it reflects the composer’s fascination with cathedrals.

“The North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club will appear with the ensemble for a newly commissioned work by the young Nigerian-American composer Nkeiru Okoye. A graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory with advanced degrees in theory and composition from Rutgers University, Okoye is currently at work on a folk opera, 'Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom.' Her 'Songs of Harriet Tubman,' consisting of four arias from the work-in-progress, has been recorded on the Albany label (Albany Records 1314). Tomorrow night’s concert will present the premiere performance of 'Clap Your Hands,' a brief choral work, harkening back to stories the composer recollected from childhood.

“Writes Okoye, 'When I was a child, my mother used to read me stories from the Old Testament. Some of my favorites were of King David, the shepherd and poet who would be a warrior-king. All of these images come together in “Clap Your Hands,” a triumphant march for the people under their psalm-writing king.' Stylistically, Okoye’s works often infuse popular and non-Western influences within a classical framework. Her works have been performed on four continents by many prominent ensembles, including the Philadelphia, Detroit and Saint Louis Symphony Orchestras.

“The NJPGC will also perform spirituals arranged by William Levi Dawson and others. Artistic director Mark Hyczko will conduct the concert. The New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1960. Begun as a community ensemble, the orchestra has blossomed into a professional-level arts organization, very much committed to celebrating the cultural diversity of central New Jersey. Information about the orchestra can be found on its website,

“Classically Black”
New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra, a program of African-American composers
When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Where: Crossroads Theatre, 7 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick
Admission: $20 adults, $15 senior citizens and students; (732) 545-8100 or

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