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Drew Peterson, pianist
Josephine Baker
Pianist Elizabeth G. Hill

The Souls of Black Folk: Rediscovering Black Classical Music

In partnership with Howard University and the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts



PCE explores the roots of Black classical music, from the sorrow songs that speak to the suffering of enslaved Africans in the United States to the spiritual arrangements of composer Harry Burleigh and the musical prophecies of Antonin Dvorak.


With music by Burleigh, Florence Price and Margaret Bonds, and readings from W. E. B. Du Bois and from unpublished letters from Bonds to Langston Hughes, we look back at the founders of Black classical music, recall their words, and experiences and examine the times in which they lived.

This concert is the first of three in PCE’s season-long project, The Rediscovery and Renewal of Black Classical Music, which seeks to elevate consequential composers who have too long been neglected for all their profound contributions to American orchestral music. PCE has long been a national leader in unearthing this buried history. By contextualizing this story– where the music came from, why it disappeared, and what to make of it today– we reflect on our nation’s complex cultural history and gain insight into how to nurture understanding and dialogue.

The project coincides with Joe Horowitz’s new book  Dvorak’s Prophecy and the Vexed Fate of Black Classical Music, to be released by Norton in November 2021.

George Shirley, the first Black tenor to sing leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera, writes:

"As Joe Horowitz puts it in "Dvorak’s Prophecy", classical music in America “stayed white.” PostClassical Ensemble’s Black Classical Music Festival explores how and why that happened – and also proposes remedies...

It will be a landmark event in excavating a part of the African-American cultural legacy heretofore barely even glimpsed. I am eager to be a partner in this vital activity.

Because of our current conversation about race, we now observe a seemingly desperate effort to make up for lost time, to present Black faces in the concert hall. I think that’s only fair. But if it’s going to become a permanent new way of thinking, there has to be new understanding.

Joe’s
Dvorak’s Prophecy is on time, it’s a bull’s-eye. As Mark Clague puts it, “the future of American classical music is very much at stake. We have been left unprepared for the current cultural moment.” Dvorak’s Prophecy explains how we got there. It proposes a bigger world of American classical music than what we have known before. It is more diverse and more equitable. And it is more truthful."

Mark Clague, my colleague at the University of Michigan, has called the American music story he himself was taught “malnourished.” Mark further describes an “impoverished disconnect between the rich history of Black American music and the all-but entirely white and European classical-music repertoire studied in American music schools and, not coincidently, heard in the nation’s concert halls.”

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Program
Concert

The Souls of Black Folk: Rediscovering Black Classical Music

Sunday, November 14, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.

All Souls Church: 1500 Harvard St NW (@16th), Washington, DC


Elizabeth G. Hill, piano

Melissa Constantin, soprano

Patrick Hamilton, Daks McClettie, Lauren Smith, Lauryn Williams, readers
          prepared by Ricky Ramon and John Woods III

CAAPA Chorale conducted by Music Director Greg Watkins
          Chester Burke, Jr., piano

PostClassical Ensemble conducted by Music Director Angel Gil-Ordóñez
Abel Pereira and James Nickel, horns
Chris Gekker and Chris Royal, trumpets
Javier Nero, Christopher Reaves, and Matthew Guilford, trombones

Jenn White, host

Program

  • Harry Burleigh: “Deep River”
  • Harry Burleigh/Langston Hughes: “Lovely Dark and Lonely One”
  • Margaret Bonds/Langston Hughes: “African Dance" (posthumous premiere)
  • Margaret Bonds/Langston Hughes: excerpts from The Ballad of the Brown King
  • Margaret Bonds/Langston Hughes: "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"
  • Margaret Bonds: “Dem Bones”
  • Margaret Bonds: “Valley of the Bones”  
  • Harry Burleigh: “Wade in the Water”
  • Margaret Bonds: “Troubled Water”
  • Florence Price: Six Pieces (1947)  
  • Florence Price: Fantasie Negre No. 4
  • Florence Price: Octet for Brasses and Piano (world premiere)
  • Post-Concert Discussion
Tickets

Special Thanks to the Leadership Council


  • Terri Allen
    Executive Director
    Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts
  • Dr. Gwynne Brown
    Professor of Musicology
    University of Puget Sound
  • Kevette Burwell
    Duke Ellington School of the Arts Alumni Association
  • Dr. Lorenzo F. Candelaria
    Professor of Musicology
    Vanderbilt University
  • Catherine Chieco, MS, MSW
    Writer
  • Dr. Mark Clague
    Associate Professor of Musicology
    University of Michigan
  • Eugenia V. Colón, CFRE
    President & CEO
    Colón & Associates, LLC
  • Dr. John Michael Cooper
    Professor of Music
    Southwestern University
  • Christopher Cowan
    Director, U.S. International
    Development Finance Corp.
  • Isaac Daniel
    Assistant Principal
    Duke Ellington School for the Arts
  • Kevin Deas
    Baritone
  • Kehembe V. Eichelberger
    Associate Professor Voice
    Howard University
  • Regan Leslie Ford
    Director, SE Washington, DC, Campus
    Levine Music
  • Dr. Matthew Franke
    Master Instructor
    Howard University
  • Jennifer Hayman
    Director of Music and Arts
    All Souls Church Unitarian
  • Melvin and Juanita Hardy
    Millennium Arts Salon
  • Mary and Philip Kopper
    Advocates for the performing arts
  • Marty Austin Lamar
    Director of Music and Creative Arts
    Metropolitan A.M.E. Church
  • Jocelyn McClure
    Duke Ellington School of the Arts Alumni Association
  • Tony and Buffy Miles
    Advocates for the performing arts
  • Ronald Lee Newman
    Duke Ellington School of the Arts Alumni Association
  • Ricky Ramón
    Professor, Theater
    Howard University
  • George Shirley
    Tenor
    University of Michigan
  • Pamela Simonson
    Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts
  • Jeffery Tribble Jr.
    President and CEO
    Levine Music
  • Greg Watkins
    Music Director
    CAAPA Chorale

Thank you to our funders and sponsors:

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What people are saying

So many thanks for that most inspiring, capacious evening. With PCE’s usual ability to surprise and delight… that symphony was astonishing…

Kate

Your leadership and dramatic shaping of the Symphony last night was truly masterful - and so inspiring. I know I’ll never forget this experience. Thank you, Maestro!

Chris

I loved the intimacy of the ensemble and the aching beauty of the melody repeating and recurring and turning up where I did not expect it .  And I found the quality of the sound thrilling.

That was my take on the concert --that and the tears that it brought to my eyes, simply to be there, to be present at the creation of something so beautiful..

Michaele

What a perfect PCE evening, wonderful concert and lovely gathering

Liz

Angel, You are so musical! I've played the 4th twice, it was the first Mahler I heard as a kid, and I'm invariably disappointed that conductors don't let it breathe.  U nailed it.

David

Congratulations again to you and your superb ensemble on a wonderful and provocative performance in the Terrace Theater last evening.  As always, we learned something from this concert and it was fun, too.

Alec

Everything about it was sheer delight, including the lively and interesting talk at the end…

Catherine