Monday, December 3, 2012

John Malveaux: 'Holiday Concerts in Contrast'

Anthony Parnther

Zanaida Robles

John Malveaux of writes:

On Sunday December 2, 2012, I attended two concerts suggesting contrasting approaches for expanding the audience of classical music during the holiday season and beyond.

The first concert I attended on Sunday December 2, 2012 was the Southeast Symphony (oldest African American founded orchestra in the nation). The program was Mozart’s ‘OVERTURE TO THE MAGIC FLUTE, Haydn's ‘SYMPHONY No. 85’ and Handel’s ‘THE MESSIAH’. Maestro Parnther commented that Handel’s ‘THE MESSIAH’ had been performed every year for the last 271 years. 

The question that came to my mind is how many in the audience were aware of William Grant Still’s ‘CHRISTMAS SONGS’ or Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s ‘CHRISTMAS OVERTURE’. The picture hear is an African American conductor, predominantly African American orchestra, four African American soloists performing in front of seemingly 100% African American audience in the oldest African American church in Los Angeles.  The concluding Hallelujah Chorus sing-along brought the audience to their feet.  The average age of attendees was 55 years or higher.

The second concert was the USC Thornton University Chorus at Bovard Auditorium on USC Campus. USC Thornton Chamber Singers is the premiere choral ensemble at USC. The University Chorus appeared community based with an experimental approach. The program featured little-known short compositions by eleven different composers of multi-cultural songs for the holiday season. The conducting was split between two female conductors. The closing piece, ’BETELEHEMU’ by Babatunde Olatunji was researched and conducted by African American conductor Zanaida Robles who is also a soloist with the USC Thornton Chamber Singers.  “In the early 1950s, Babatunde Olatunji came to the United States from Nigeria on scholarship to study at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga.” “He had already made a name for himself throughout Africa as a drummer and an advocate for using traditional drumming, dancing, and chanting for spreading knowledge of African culture.” The picture here is a predominantly white chorus, a single African American soloist, white string ensemble, a featured white hand drummer, slightly mixed audience to include only about six African Americans. ‘BETELEHEMU’ was choreographed to include hand claps and physical movements to an infectious melody. The audience was seemingly so captured they walked out of the auditorium into a rain without notice or concern.

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