Saturday, March 2, 2019 Montclair Orchestra To Bring George Walker's Work To Life

The Montclair Orchestra will bring ‘Lyric for Strings’ to life in Walker’s hometown at their March 10 Lyric concert 
(Photo: Montclair Orchestra) 

Montclair, New Jersey

By Eric Kiefer, Patch Staff |

It was more than 70 years ago that Montclair's renowned African-American composer and pianist George Walker wrote his first string quartet, the second movement which he would later revise and publish as 'Lyric for Strings'. It would go on to become one of the most oft-performed pieces by a modern American composer.

The Montclair Orchestra will bring 'Lyric for Strings' to life in Walker's hometown at their March 10 Lyric concert at the Central Presbyterian Church.

During his career, Walker produced more than 90 works for orchestra, chorus, piano, strings and other instruments. He was a trailblazer in many areas of music. In 1945 he become the first black soloist to perform at New York's Town Hall and later was the first black instrumentalist to perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He was the first black recipient of a doctoral degree from the University of Rochester Eastman School of Music. And in 1996 he became the first African-American composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his composition Lilacs. Walker's 'Pageant and Proclamation' was performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra to open the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark in 1997.

Walker passed away last August at the age of 96. The orchestra's March concert will be a musical memorial to the long-time Montclair resident. His son Gregory Walker, himself a composer and a violinist, is expected to attend. And a delegation of alumni from Oberlin College Conservatory, where Walker graduated with highest honors, will be here for the concert.

Gregory Walker will be at the Montclair Public Library on Friday, March 8 at 7 p.m. discussing his father's works and performing some samples. The presentation is part of the library's Adult School program of Black History Month events. To register or for more information call 973-744-0500, ext. 2224, or visit the adult school website.

Critics describe Walker's music as modern classical with jazz and spiritual influences. It is a perfect fit for the Montclair Orchestra, whose mission is to bring orchestral music to new audiences.      

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