Saturday, February 16, 2019 André Raphel To Conduct The Detroit S. O. In...Classical Roots Concert

André Raphel

Feb. 15, 2019

André Raphel To Conduct The Detroit Symphony Orchestra In 41st Annual Classical Roots Concert

André Raphel conducts the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on March 8 and 9, 2019 in its annual Classical Roots Concert taking place in Orchestra Hall. The Saturday, March 9 performance will be a gala concert and a live webcast. This year's tribute honors George Walker, the esteemed composer, pianist and educator who was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1996 for Lilacs, and who passed away this past August at age 96. Composer Robert A. Harris will be a special Classical Roots Honoree. It will be the 41st year that the DSO has presented Classical Roots, honoring the achievements of African American composers.

Lift Every Voice and Sing, designated by the NAACP as the Black National Anthem opens the Classical Roots Celebration. The piece, composed in 1900, is by the pianist, songwriter, producer, soldier, singer and actor J. Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954). Following will be two songs performed by the Brazeal Dennard Chorale -- O Praise the Lord by Adolphus Hailstork and Wanting Memories by Esaye Barnwell. Alice McAllister Tillman is the artistic director and leads these songs. Gloria by Robert A. Harris (b.1938) closes the first half. This work will be performed by lyric soprano Jacqueline Echols joined by the combined voices of the Brazeal Dennard Chorale and Wayne State Centennial Choir.

The second half features George Walker's Lyric for Strings concluding with the Symphony No. 1 (Afro American) by William Grant Still (1895-1978). The Symphony No. 1 (Afro American) holds the distinction of being the first symphony by an African American composer to be performed by a leading orchestra. Its premiere took place on October 28, 1931 by the Rochester Philharmonic and Howard Hanson, followed by a performance with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall and more than 30 orchestras, all in the 1930s. William Grant Still was also the first African American to conduct a major American orchestra, and the first to have an opera performed by a major U.S. opera company.

These concerts mark a return to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for André Raphel, who first appeared with the DSO in 2012. André Raphel states, "Collaborating with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for its annual Classical Roots concerts is a joy. Given the deep commitment by the DSO to celebrate the contributions of African American composers, it will be special to conduct this program focusing on less frequently performed works. From composers such as William Grant Still to George Walker the works span various time periods, outlining a distinctly American musical fabric. Thus providing an important link to history through very inspiring music."

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