Few classical music enthusiasts are aware of the contributions of an African-French composer, Joseph Boulogne, also known as Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Preceding Mozart by 11 years, Saint-Georges composed four operas and many mid-18th century works on par with or exceeding his contemporaries. His compositions are known around the world but garner little notice in the United States.
In recognition of black classical composers, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Spiritual Ensemble is pleased to host a history-making event that will showcase masterworks by acclaimed composers such as William Grant Still and George Walker, who received the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1996.
For years, black classically trained voice professionals have made enormous strides beginning with Marian Anderson’s groundbreaking 1955 debut at the Metropolitan Opera. Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, Denyce Graves and many others have followed, showcasing the “colour” of voice. On the orchestral stage, however, the prevalence of black classically trained instrumentalists in America lags behind their vocal counterparts.
Within the U.S. military, the corporate world, professional sports and politics, black Americans have moved beyond the boundaries that held back their ancestors. Yet today, only on rare occasions does a black conductor, concertmaster or principal classical musician grace the concert stage of a major American city or regional orchestra.
We hope you will join us in celebrating the enormous contributions these talented musicians have offered the world. The Colour of Music Black Classical Musicians Festival will feature vocal, piano and organ recitals, classical mixed ensembles and a finale chamber festival orchestra of black musicians presenting works by Saint-Georges, William Grant Still and George T. Walker. We look forward to seeing you in the audience.