Monday, January 24, 2022

Bill Doggett American Composers Forum 2022 Interview with Brian Raphael Nabors

Brian Raphael Nabors

Hello from Bill Doggett:

I am very proud of my fifth I Care If You Listen "Five Questions For" interview for American Composers Forum which launched this morning.
Of the five, it is my most immersive creation that looks at the musicological and spiritual sources that inspire a creative artistic palette for composers. 


From Social Media
Brian Raphael Nabors is a composer of enormous gifts. I am honored to have my fifth I CARE IF YOU LISTEN "Five Questions For" Interview to launch 2022. An immersive portal for American Composers Forum, this fifth interview connects the musicological and spiritual dots that create a palette of inspiration for the process of brilliant artistic creation. Black exceptionalism in composition in The Classical Performing Arts which has manifested through the pens of William Grant Still forward to Adolphus Hailstork, Olly Wilson, Anthony Davis and Billy Childs continues to shine brightly through Brian Raphael Nabors An Evening of William Grant Still: "Highway 1, USA" and "19," a ballet choreographed by Sasha Janes [Feb. 4 & 5 livestreamed 7:30 PM ET]

An Evening of William Grant Still

Music by W. G. Still

“Still's voice may be more relevant today than ever before.”


The Still of the evening.

Shattering color barriers in classical music with a string of firsts, William Grant Still became known as the “Dean of African American Composers.”

First, a deathbed promise fuels an emotional explosion at a small-town gas station on the seemingly tranquil Highway 1 in this intimate opera about human thresholds.

Then, ballet meets home life in times of quarantine, capturing the surreal state of a global pandemic.

Created to music from Still’s Afro-American Symphony, this finalized version of Jacobs’ 2020 Fall Ballet includes the third section of Sasha Janes’ work, as dancers are once again allowed freedom of movement.

In English with English supertitles.

2022 Performances

Feb. 4, 5, 11, 12
Musical Arts Center
7:30 PM

Feb. 4, 5
7:30 PM ET

Watch livestreamed performance

Subscriptions on sale now!

Buy subscription

Buy tickets

William Grant Still (1895-1978)

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Navona Records: "Soul Sanctuary: Spirituals and Hymns" by Maria Thompson Corley, Arranger and Pianist, Maria Clark, Soprano, and Cellist Ismail Akbar, out Feb. 4

Maria Corley Tweeted: An excerpt from a new CD of my arrangements of spirituals, with Maria Clark, soprano, and featuring Ismail Akbar, cello. Available Feb. 4.


SOUL SANCTUARY SPIRITUALS & HYMNS Maria Thompson Corley - arranger & pianist, Maria Clark - soprano, Ismail Akbar - cello.  Soprano Maria Clark and pianist Maria Thompson Corley navigate the intense emotion, scars of suffering, and religious passion in the hymns and gospels on SOUL SANCTUARY from Navona Records. Featuring empowering spirituals from the past two centuries, the duo brings to life religious songs that have stood the test of time and find deep relevance today. Arranged by Thompson Corley and recorded in Atlanta GA’s Peachtree Presbyterian Church, these spirituals, including His Eye is on the Sparrow, Wade in the Water, and Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, offer uplifting outlooks in the face of adversity. The Arts as Black Resistance in Eighteenth-Century London: The Music of Ignatius Sancho Tuesday, January 25, 7:30 PM

Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780) 
Ignatius Sancho: An African Man of Letters
Reyahn King et al.
National Portrait Gallery of the U.K. (1997)


The State University of New Jersey

Join Mason Gross School of the Arts and the Rutgers University Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice for a concert on period instruments, with commentary, on Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780). Known as the first Black person to publish original music compositions, Sancho used his work as a tool to resist enslavement and racism.

With soprano Sonya Headlam (DMA ’21) and pianist Rebecca Cypess.

Learn more and register for the event

Saturday, January 22, 2022 Everett Lee, the First Black Conductor on Broadway, Passes Away at 105

Everett A. Lee (1916-2022)
(Press photo)

Everett Lee, who broke down racial barriers as the first Black conductor on Broadway, passed away on Jan. 12 at a hospital in Malmo, Sweden, the New York Times reports.  He was 105.

Lee’s daughter, Eve Lee, confirmed his passing.

The Chicago Defender called him the first Black conductor “to wave the baton over a white orchestra in a Broadway production.”

Everett Astor Lee was born on Aug. 31, 1916, in Wheeling, West Virginia, where he started on the violin at age 8. Noticing his musical dexterity, Lee’s family moved to Cleveland in 1927 to expose him to the arts.

In Cleveland, he was mentored by the Orchestra’s conductor, Artur Rodzinski, and studied with concertmaster Joseph Fuchs at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Lee moved to New York in 1943 to play in the orchestra for “Carmen Jones,”  a rewrite of Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” that featured an all-Black cast with a primarily white orchestra. When the conductor was snowed in, early in 1944, Lee filled in to conduct Bizet’s music. Also, he conducted George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.” 

Lee made history on Broadway when he was appointed music director of Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Town” in September 1945.

In 1953, Lee conducted the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky, after little rehearsal time. United Press reported Lee’s concert was “one of the first” at which a Black man led a white orchestra in the South.

Lee conducted the New York City Opera, another first in 1955, during the same time, his first wife, Sylvia Olden Lee, a prominent vocal coach, was appointed the first Black musician on the New York Metropolitan Opera. VC INTERVIEW | Sphinx Organization President and Artistic Director Afa S. Dworkin

Afa S. Dworkin
(Photo credit: Shawn Lee)

Tune into The Violin Channel for Junior and Senior Division Finals of the Sphinx Competition on January 29, 2022 Bass-baritone Mark S. Doss is Créon and the Messenger in Opera Philadelphia's production of "Oedipus Rex" by Stravinsky; Livestream thru Feb. 20

Bass-baritone Mark S. Doss (center) as Créon and the Messenger, with (left) William Burden as Oedipus and Ethan Burck as the Shepherd in Opera Philadelphia's production of Oedipus Rex Friday in Verizon Hall. Corrado Rovaris conducts. (Dominic M. Mercier)

The Philadelphia Inquirer

by David Patrick Stearns, For The Inquirer

January 22, 2022

Exactly 720 days had passed since Opera Philadelphia last performed for a live public — indoors — when the public filled 1,100 seats this frigid Friday for a double bill of less-than-familiar works in concert performances at the Kimmel Center.

Listeners must’ve been hungry for it. Both the elegiac George Walker song cycle Lilacs (which won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize, a first for a Black composer) and Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex are more known about than heard, but were given full-tilt resources with an orchestra of 93 (far larger than what could fit in any local orchestra pit) under music director Corrado Rovaris.

It was very much a thinking person’s return to traditional performance: Lilacs deals with the death of Abraham Lincoln and Oedipus unfolds in the midst of plague.


Walker’s Lilacs would seem to be straightforward with sensitive, adept vocal lines fashioned around Walt Whitman’s famous “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” showing the composer distilling the wide range of musical influences that he worked with during his long creative life. 


A livestream of the Friday concert can be accessed through Feb. 20 at

Friday, January 21, 2022

SPHINX: Announcing the 25th Annual Sphinx Competition Finalists! Join us on Saturday, January 29th at 7:00 pm ET to watch them compete

 Congratulations to the 25th Annual Sphinx Competition Junior and Senior Division Finalists

The Sphinx Competition is the national competition offering young Black and Latinx classical string players the chance to perform under the guidance of an internationally renowned panel of judges and compete for prizes ranging from $3,000 to the first place $50,000 Robert Frederick Smith Prize.

2022 Junior Division Finalists
  • Ana Isabella España, Violin
  • Brandon Leonard, Cello
  • Jonathan Okseniuk, Cello

Rebecca Beato, Violin - Achievement Award Winner

2022 Senior Division Finalists
  • Kebra-Seyoun Charles, Double Bass
  • Gabriela Lara, Violin
  • Harper Randolph, Viola

Thierry de Lucas Neves, Violin - Achievement Award Winner

In partnership with the DTE Foundation, join us on Saturday, January 29th at 7:00 pm ET to watch them compete during the broadcast of the Junior and Senior Division Finals.

Before the Finals concert, join us at SphinxConnect 2022: Forging Alliances, the longest-standing convening dedicated to diversity and inclusion from January 27 to 29! Register now.

Sphinx Organization Verdi Voices: Lyric Opera of Chicago Presents Tenor Russell Thomas and Soprano Tamara Wilson February 6 at 2 PM

 An Offer From Our Friends at Lyric

If you love the music of Verdi, then there is nothing more exciting than hearing his music performed with a full orchestra by some of the finest artists in the world. On February 6 at 2:00 p.m., Lyric Opera of Chicago presents an afternoon of thrilling vocal fireworks in Verdi Voices. You'll hear beloved favorites from Aida, Otello and more, plus gorgeous and rarely performed Verdi duets and arias that are sure to become favorites.

Soprano Tamara Wilson, a “veritable force of nature” (Chicago Tribune), and tenor Russell Thomas, "a tenor of gorgeously burnished power" (The New York Times), team up with Music Director Enrique Mazzola at the podium for repertoire that he has made his specialty. With the full power of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, this is a one-date-only, tour-de-force concert experience that you won't want to miss.

Hear Verdi’s greatest music performed by the best Verdi interpreters. As a special offer for Chicago Symphony Orchestra fans, save 20% on tickets by using promo code CSO at checkout. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022 Episode 1 of "The Sound of 13: Celebrating Black Achievement in Music" is 5 PM ET Friday, January 21, 2022

Garrett McQueen on air

Interlochen Public Radio

The Sound of 13 on IPR

Amanda Sewell

January 20, 2022

This weekly series addresses the racial injustice in American society through the lens of classical music.

Hear "The Sound of 13: Celebrating Black Achievement in Music" every Friday at 5 p.m. on Classical IPR.

In this 13-week series, host Garrett McQueen opens an historical and contemporary conversation of race with classical music and the 13th amendment as the guide. 


Episode 1: “The Florida Suite” (Jan. 21)
Frederick Delius may be a composer whose name you know. Or maybe he’s a composer whose name you don’t know. Either way, what you should know is that this Englishman’s music has a connection to American slavery. Garrett McQueen highlights this connection and more in The Sound of 13.


      The eight-part series following the Prairie View A&M University Marching Storm Band premieres Monday, January 24.

PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas (January 20, 2022) – The CW Network announced the all-new docu-series MARCH, which celebrates the colorful, boisterous and competitive world of HBCU band culture through the eyes of the experts—the band members and leaders themselves. Embedded inside the Prairie View A&M University Marching Band, The Marching Storm, this engaging eight-part series will capture the blood, sweat, and tears each member sheds to make it to the field while balancing their dynamic college life and academic pursuits. MARCH debuts on Monday, January 24 (8:00-9:00 pm ET/PT), and then MARCH moves to Sundays starting February 27 (9:00-10:00 ET/PT), after ALL AMERICAN and ALL AMERICAN: HOMECOMING take over Monday nights.

MARCH showcases the eclectic, energetic and talented group of college students at Prairie View A&M University—from drum majors and dancers to the flag team and all the section players—as they navigate performing in one of the most prestigious HBCU marching bands along with tackling a rigorous academic schedule and maintaining a high-grade point average. The series chronicles their pressure-filled journey to become the highest ranked HBCU band in the land, including electrifying performances at homecoming, Texas A&M and Southern University. As MARCH shares the personal and unique stories of individual members and staff of the over 300-person marching band, it also explores the legacy and culture of Prairie View A&M and highlights how the Marching Storm band is an integral part of that rich history.

From Stage 13, MARCH is executive produced by Cheryl Horner McDonough, Jamail Shelton, Shari Scorca and Marcel Fuentes.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022 "Sonata by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de St. George will be performed." 7 PM, Friday, February 4, "in person or livestream"

"Saint-Georges with Violin, watercolor for AfriClassical"
© Copyright 2020 AfriClassical; Artist: Olesia Panaseiko

Bangor Daily News

January 18, 2022

French music for flute and piano in person or livestream  

WINTER HARBOR — Join Winter Harbor Music Festival Artistic Director and founder, Deirdre McArdle and Executive Director Deiran Manning for an evening of music for flute and piano at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 4 at Hammond Hall. The program will feature works by Poulenc, Dutilleux and Bourdin. In honor of Black History Month a little known Sonata by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de St. George will be performed. Trained in Paris during the French Revolution, Joseph Bologne is hailed today as the first Classical composer of African descent. In addition to being a decorated military officer, Bologne’s works were very popular in his lifetime and his operas were performed at established venues such as the Opera Garnier in Paris.

In person reservations as well as streaming available at
 Celebrating Black Composers: Chamber Concert: February 13 @ 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm - Free, Riversdale House Museum, Riverdale, MD

Join the Riversdale Chamber Music Society Salon Trio as they debut works from their newest CD, highlighting arrangements by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and William Grant Still, two of the greatest black classical chamber music composers.


Capacity is limited and advance registration is required by February 11. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 Florence Price: Out of the shadows

Florence Price (1887-1953)
(University of Arkansas Libraries)


Andrew Farach-Colton

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 

Thanks to a number of artists championing her work, the pioneering African American composer Florence Price is finally achieving the recognition she deserves, writes Andrew Farach-Colton

Until recently, Florence Price was remembered primarily, if at all, as a historical footnote for being the first woman composer of African descent to have her symphony played by a major American orchestra. That was in 1933, when Frederick Stock conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the premiere of her First Symphony – although, it should be added, not as part of the orchestra’s regular season but at a special concert entitled ‘The Negro in Music’, presented as part of the Chicago World’s Fair (also known as the Century of Progress Exposition). In a very real sense, then, Price is a symbolic figure, and the symbolism has deep significance, not least as her story is yet another crucial reminder of black women’s struggle to have their voices heard.

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1887, Florence Beatrice Smith’s father was a successful dentist who later in life wrote a novel, her mother was a fine singer and pianist – a prominent family in the city’s black community. Florence’s musical gifts were apparent from an early age, and she was sent to the New England Conservatory where she was a star student in organ and piano pedagogy, as well as in the private composition lessons she took with George Chadwick, the school’s director. After graduation, she returned to teach in Little Rock, and in 1912 she married Thomas J Price, an up-and-coming lawyer. Increasingly violent racism and the enactment of Jim Crow laws eventually forced the couple and their young children to join ‘the Great Migration’ of blacks fleeing the South, and they eventually settled in Chicago where, with her exceptional abilities as a composer, pianist and choral conductor, Florence became an integral part of Chicago’s Black Renaissance creative movement.

The risk of becoming a symbol, however, is that it can all too easily lead to a pat, superficial assessment, and Price deserves far better than that. This is particularly pertinent at the moment, when it seems the entire classical music industry is rushing to respond to the ‘Me Too’ and ‘Black Lives Matters’ movements. The sudden groundswell of interest in her work is most welcome for being long overdue, but it’s imperative that we delve more deeply to discover not just who she was but what she represented.

Perhaps the appropriate place to start is with her footnoted Symphony No 1 in E minor. It was written, along with a Piano Sonata (also in E minor), as an entry to the 1932 Rodman Wanamaker Contest, a competition for black composers, and both works were awarded first prize in their categories (and a total of $750 – more than $15,000 in today’s currency). In her magisterial biography, The Heart of a Woman, the late Price scholar Rae Linda Brown writes that it was Price winning the Wanamaker Award that induced Frederick Stock to take a look at her First Symphony and decide to programme it for the Century of Progress Exposition, where he served as musical advisor.

New research suggests a different story, however, as Dr Samantha Ege of Lincoln College, University of Oxford, tells me. ‘There’s this idea that this all-white, all-male orchestra just sort of magically took an interest in Price’s music, but actually it was Maude Roberts George working behind the scenes, supporting Price in getting the score finished and making sure the world could hear it. That’s the story that needs to be told.’ Price and George were part of a robust network of black women, Ege explains. ‘These were middle- to upper-class black Americans coming from a very educated background. A lot of them had conservatory training, and the husbands of these women tended to be lawyers or judges or owned printing presses, and so these women were able to have their activities supported.’ George, who herself trained as a singer, was also an influential music critic for The Chicago Defender, a nationally distributed African American newspaper, and proved to be an extremely effective arts administrator. ‘George was amazing at networking, at bringing people together, and she was a real force in this musical community from the late 1920s through the 1930s.’ In fact, Ege says, the Chicago Symphony premiere came about because George personally underwrote the cost of the performance.

‘Price is very comfortable drawing from musical soundscapes from outside the orchestral realm’ – Professor Doug Shadle

There are revelations when it comes to the score itself, too. A cursory hearing, for example, might suggest Dvořák’s New World Symphony as Price’s primary model, just as the Czech composer’s work had been the model for her teacher Chadwick. ‘It’s very easy to credit Dvořák, and draw this direct line between him and the black composers of the 1930s,’ Ege says, ‘but if we consider their musical education, cultural environment and the various influences they would have been drawing upon, it’s not so direct a trajectory.’

The professor Douglas Shadle believes that Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a powerful influence. Shadle – a Little Rock native who now teaches at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and is collaborating with Ege on a new biography of Price for Oxford University Press’s Master Musicians Series – says, ‘Coleridge-Taylor visited the United States from Britain a couple of times around 1910 and really created a stir. His music was in the classical tradition, and both folksy and not folksy. His impact really shook the black intelligentsia of the time.’

Ege concurs, adding that black composers like Florence Price and her contemporaries would have also been aware of groups like the Fisk Jubilee Singers who toured the country beginning in the late 19th century and made the negro spiritual a concert art form. ‘This is something Dvořák had nothing to do with, and that’s so important for understanding Price’s compositional voice. It was such a transformative moment when this plantation music, music that was so denigrated because of its origins, asserted itself in the concert hall. And so that’s also a history she’s drawing upon.’

Colour of Music Festival | Black Classical Musicians Returns to Charleston February 2-5, 2022

 Black Professional Classical Musicians Festival Presents a Stellar Slate of Chamber Setting Gems

January 17, 2022 Charleston SC —Fresh off of sold-out performances in Sacramenta CA this past fall, the Colour of Music Festival (COMF) announces the ninth annual Colour of Music Festival February 2-5, 2022 at historic Charleston locations showcasing leading black classical artists from the U.S., France, and Colombia, South America.

The 2022 series builds on the expansion of the Festival’s chamber music and brings back its original ‘Virtuosi’ co-ed moniker begun in 2014. The slate of stellar artists will perform compositions ranging from baroque to modern, including works by several noted Black female composers―Florence B. Price, Margaret Bonds, Valerie Coleman, and Jessie Montgomery.

Since 2013 the Colour of Music Festival has brought international, national, and regional classically trained black musicians of African descent to share their musical talents, knowledge, and inspiration to Charleston. Since 2016 the Festival has also traveled to leading collegiate venues and performance halls in Washington, DC, Atlanta, Houston, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Richmond, and Sacramento.

PLEASE NOTE COVID-19 PATRON ADVISORY: Patrons must present a fully vaccinated and boosted vaccination card for entry and issued KN95 mask provided by COMF must be worn throughout the performance if the patron does not have one. Performance ticket holders who do not comply with these policies will not be admitted.


Winter 2022 Colour of Music Festival Highlights

Four days of performances will take place in intimate settings featuring African instruments from the marimba (a.k.a. xylophone) to the harpsicord, in up close salon settings that revive the magical feel of classical music’s origins. 

What’s become a tradition, the Festival opens with a matinée vocal recital featuring Manna K. Jones, soprano, joined by pianist, Elizabeth G. Hill. The opening day concludes with a name synonymous with Charleston and the arts, Gian Carlo Menotti, and his Trio for Clarinet, Piano and Violin. Additional featured highlights include Toshiro Mayuzumi’s Concerto for Xylophone & Piano, Jesse Montgomery’s Strum, and Florence B. Price’s Quintet in A Minor for Piano and Strings.                            

The Festival will welcome weekend patrons to two virtuosi chamber orchestra presentations featuring Afro-Cuban composer Jose White Lafitte’s La Bella Cubana, Vivaldi’s Concerto for 2 Trumpets, Arensky’s Variation on a Theme by
Tchaikovsky, Chevalier de Saint Georges’ Violin Concerto in A Major, Robert Aldridge’s Tango for Gabriela, Piazzolla’s Primavera Porteño, with a finale performance of Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s String Quartet No. 1, Calvary, mvmt III. Rondo: Allegro Vivace, a composition based on the African-American spiritual Calvary.

“Regaining artistic traction this past fall within an environment safe for our musicians and patrons I am excited we are once again pursuing live musical expression during Black History Month. There is something for everyone to enjoy all four days during this year’s chamber series,” said Lee Pringle Founder and Artistic Director, Colour of Music Festival.

Murray Center | Edmondston Alston House | Festival Hall • Charleston

Wednesday, February 2  | Murray Center Salon – 14 George Street, Charleston 

Piano and Voice Recital • 2 p.m.

Elizabeth G. Hill, piano and Manna K. Jones, soprano

Works by Frédéric Chopin, Samuel-Coleridge Taylor, and Undine Smith-Moore

Wednesday, February 2 | Murray Center Salon – 14 George Street, Charleston 

Chamber Music I • 7:30 p.m.

Michael Jorgensen and Romuald Grimbert-Barré, violin

Basil Vendryes, viola, Kenneth Law, cello, Mark Allen, Jr., clarinet, Elizabeth Hill and Lawrence Quinnett, piano, Shanelle Woods, mezzo soprano

Works by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Johannes Brahms, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Thursday, February 3 | Murray Center Salon – 14 George Street, Charleston 

Chamber Music II • 2 p.m.

Sean Daniels percussion and marimba, Courtney Jones and Herb Smith, trumpet, Lawrence Quinnett, piano

Works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Toshiro Mayuzumi, and Sean Daniels

Thursday, February 3 | Edmondston Alston House – 21 Easy Bay Street, Charleston

Chamber Music III • 7:30 p.m.

Michael Jorgensen and James Keene, violin, Keith Lawrence, viola, Ismael Guerrero, cello, Mark Allen, Jr., clarinet, Lawrence Quinnett, piano

Works by Jessie Montgomery, Florence Price, and Alexander Arutiunian

Friday, February 4 | Festival Hall – 56 Beaufain Street, Charleston

Colour of Music Festival Virtuosi • 7:30 p.m.

Romuald Grimbert-Barré, violin, Keith Lawrence, viola, Courtney Jones and Herb Smith, trumpet

Works by Max Bruch, Antonio Vivaldi, Anton Arensky, Chevalier de Saint Georges, and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson

Saturday, February 5 | Festival Hall – 56 Beaufain Street, Charleston

Colour of Music Festival Virtuosi • 7:30 p.m.

Colour of Music Virtuosi featuring Anyango Yarbo-Davenport, violinist and conductor

Works by Valerie Coleman, Robert Aldridge, Astor Piazzolla, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Colour of Music Festival Tickets and Information: $15-$40

By phone: (888) 512-9835


At door: (credit card, cash, or check) before each performance

The Colour of Music Festival gratefully acknowledges the support of the National Endowment for the Arts

About the Colour of Music Festival

Based in Charleston, South Carolina and organized in 2013, the Colour of Music Festival, Inc. presents a diverse classical repertoire of baroque, classical and 20th century music at the highest of musical standards to diverse audiences throughout the Lowcountry, regionally, and nationally. The Festival has also presented performances in Washington, DC, Atlanta, GA, Houston, TX, Nashville, TN, Richmond, VA, Pittsburgh, PA, Columbia, SC, and Sacramento CA promotional images available upon request

Monday, January 17, 2022

Cedille Records: African Heritage Symphonic Series, Volume II, "Epitaph For A Man Who Dreamed: In Memoriam Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," Adolphus Hailstork

Album of the Week - Save 25% this week only

“10/10 — It’s hard to imagine more committed or more ideally suited advocates for this exceptional and compelling music.”

Not since the LP era of the 1970s has there been anything like Cedille Records’ African Heritage Symphonic Series.

Volume II features compositions by exceptional Black composers from the 1940s to the 1980s, performed by the Chicago Sinfonietta led by its founder and music director, Dr. Paul Freeman,” one of the finest conductors our nation has produced.” (Fanfare)

Ulysses Kay’s ebullient Overture to Theater Set (1968) exudes a broad and good-natured energy. George Walker’s intensely romantic Lyric for Strings (1941) is one of the great gems of the string orchestra repertoire. With his acclaimed Eight Miniatures for Small Orchestra (1948), Panama’s Roque Cordero succeeded in synthesizing the avant-garde techniques he learned in the U.S. with the Latin and Afro-Caribbean music of his homeland. Accented with archetypal African drumming patterns, Hale Smith’s Ritual and Incantations (1974), radiates an aura of mystery and suspense. Adolphus Hailstork’s An American Port of Call (1985) takes the listener on a lush, fanciful, and jazzy excursion. Ten years in the making, Hailstork’s Epitaph for a Man who Dreamed (1979) pays tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King with passages of exquisite tenderness and noble power. A National Day of Racial Healing - W.K. Kellogg Foundation observance brings communities together - Tuesday at 3 PM at, 8 PM ET PBS Books

 National Day of Racial Healing


W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s annual observance brings communities together to

inspire collective action and create a more just and equitable world


Watch live this Tuesday at 3 p.m. at and join a watch event
at 8 p.m. ET on PBS Books
Facebook page


Every year, the National Day of Racial Healing honors our common humanity and seeks to restore those who have been impacted by racism. The goal is to inspire deep individual and group conversations that bridge historic divides, seek solutions and transform communities into those that value and respect all ethnicities.  


Join thousands around the world this Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET for the sixth annual National Day of Racial Healing observance presented by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and hosted by celebrated journalist, Soledad O’Brien.


As part of our shared commitment to racial justice, Detroit Public Television and PBS Books are partnering with the Kellogg Foundation to offer this unique one-hour virtual event for audiences across the country.


  • Detroit Public TV will carry this special event live at 3 p.m. at
  • PBS Books will offer a watch party for libraries, public TV stations and others around the nation at 8 p.m. ET on its Facebook page.

In addition, local people and organizations are hosting their own events to further the cause of racial healing on Tuesday. Find an event near you here, or join the national online conversation by using #HowWeHeal. You can also download a conversation guide from the National Day of Racial Healing website to guide and nurture those discussions.


The National Day of Racial Healing is an opportunity to bring all people together to foster collective action to create a more just and equitable world. Since its launch in 2017, this day has been observed every year on the Tuesday following Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


The National Day of Racial Healing spotlights the important work of truth-telling about the historic and contemporary harms caused by racism and the importance of trust-building and relationships in efforts to create a more just society. When we unravel our deeply held racial biases, we can bridge divides, restore one another to wholeness and transform our communities into places that affirm the inherent value of all people – today and for generations to come.

Please join us Tuesday as we contemplate our shared values and create the blueprint together for how we can heal from the effects of racism.

Rich Homberg

President and CEO - Detroit Public Television

Sunday, January 16, 2022

San Francisco Classical Voice: Rapid Testing: Thomas Wilkins Navigates the LA Phil Down Duke Ellington's "River" [Jan. 20 and 21]

Thomas Wilkins

Tom Jacobs on January 15, 2022

Thomas Wilkins has coined a term for his current occupation: “COVID conducting.”

The veteran conductor’s clever coinage refers to making emphatic, unmistakable gestures to an ensemble, some members of which can’t hear one another because they are sitting relatively far apart to minimize the risk of spreading COVID.

“Your shoulders are really tired when the day is over!” he reported. “You’ve been waving your arms so crazily!”

Alas, even COVID conducting can’t salvage all performances during the current Omicron wave of the pandemic. Wilkins was speaking from his home in St. Petersburg, Florida. The day of our conversation, he was supposed to be in New Orleans, conducting that city’s orchestra, but his concerts were canceled after two rehearsals when 10 members of the ensemble tested positive.

With any luck, he won’t meet the same fate in Los Angeles, where he is scheduled to lead the Philharmonic in two programs of the music of Duke Ellington. The concerts of Jan. 20 and 21, featuring pianist Gerald Clayton, will include a suite from The River, a 1970 ballet Ellington wrote for the American Ballet Theatre and choreographer Alvin Ailey. The Jan. 22 and 23 events will feature music from his Sacred Concerts.

The longtime music director of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and a regular guest conductor with the LA Phil, Wilkins is a familiar face to Southern California music lovers. He spoke of his longtime love of Ellington’s music in a relaxed conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity.

I was somewhat surprised to discover that these will be the Philharmonic’s first performances of The River and Black, Brown and Beige. After Ellington died in 1974, composer Gunther Schuller wrote an essay arguing his music should now become part of the repertoire. Is that finally happening? If so, what took so long?

I think it is starting to happen. I’ve been doing Ellington for the last five to seven seasons. This new project we are doing in L.A. has prompted publishers to start printing scores [of these works], so we’re getting nice, clean parts now. That may be part of the answer to your question. If the parts aren’t in good shape, people are hesitant to approach the works. Now that publishers are reengraving these parts, I think these pieces have a greater chance of becoming part of the regular canon. 

But there’s another underlying issue I have been railing against forever. Because we in the classical music world operate so often in the Western European tradition, we feared that if we [performed music that drew upon American popular or folk music], people wouldn’t take us seriously. Samuel Barber is played, but he wrote in the European tradition.

Dvořák famously advised American composers to use American folk music in their works, pointing specifically to music of Indigenous peoples and Negro spirituals.

Yes, he said “Your inspiration should come from your own soil.” The irony is composers like Mahler or Dvořák or Tchaikovsky didn’t hesitate to write about their own life experiences in the sound world they grew up in. We hear the Jewishness of Mahler, the Czechness of Dvořák. But for some reason, we are slow to accept anything that approaches “Americanism.” The problem is we rob ourselves of the opportunity of expanding our palate.

Did you propose the LA Phil Ellington concerts, or did the orchestra approach you?

The Philharmonic proposed it. I conducted a Harlem Renaissance program on a subscription concert about three seasons ago that included music of Ellington. I think they knew I feel really comfortable with Ellington, so when the idea came up to dig a little deeper [into his repertory], I was probably the first person who popped into their heads.

How do you define Ellington’s aesthetic, and how do you capture it for a symphony orchestra?

Ellington struts a lot. I often use that word in rehearsal. He doesn’t walk, or meander: He struts. There’s some attitude in there. There’s a great deal of self-awareness and self-assuredness in his music. Being a 55-year-old Black man who grew up during the civil rights movement, it’s a language I have heard all my life. It comes to me naturally. So maybe we can say it’s in my DNA. I look at a measure of an Ellington score and I go, “There’s that lick.” I don’t even have to think about it.

There’s also an elegance to his writing. I think of the “Lake” movement from The River suite. It’s so elegant. We used to come up with fancy ways of describing jazz so people would take it seriously. We don’t have to hyperintellectualize it. We can just call it music.

How do you prepare to conduct an Ellington program? Do you listen to the original recordings? Do you read about when and how the pieces were created?

I don’t go back and do a whole lot of reading, but I do go back and do a lot of listening.

What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of encountering Ellington’s music via these orchestral transcriptions, as opposed to hearing a jazz band play them, or listening to the original recordings?

I think it just gives us more. If you have a good orchestrator/arranger, they know how to make that music sound as if the orchestra was there all along. Every pop artist we’ve had at the Hollywood Bowl — and that’s no exaggeration — was in shock at how much richer their music sounded with the voice of an orchestra underneath it.

If we ignore these orchestral versions, we’re really missing out. If we didn’t have them, it wouldn’t diminish the importance of Duke Ellington, but having them certainly enhances the importance of Duke Ellington.

Do these arrangements allow for any improvisations?

Yes, within a confined amount of time. We have hired extra musicians who can read a set of chord changes and just go.

Does that ever make the orchestral players a little nervous?

No, I think it makes them excited. We all love music, and when you’re in the presence of really good music-making, you’re just pumped.


Thomas Wilkins conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in two “Symphonic Ellington” concerts on Jan. 20–21 and 22–23 in Walt Disney Concert Hall. For more information, go to