Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Post and Courier: Colour of Music Festival celebrates contributions of blacks to classical music

Anyago Yarbo-Davenport

The Colour of Music Festival presented the
Verdi Requiem in 2014

Lee Pringle is Founder of the Colour of Music Festival

Soprano Angela Brown 
will join the fifth annual Colour of Music Festival.

Adam Parker

Oct. 7, 2017

Attend one of the programs mounted by the fifth annual Colour of Music Black Classical Musicians Festival, set for Oct. 18-22, and you might be surprised at what you see and hear.

The festival, which presents solo recitals, chamber music programs and large-scale concerts, is a showcase of black talent meant to shake up a classical music world that's a little too set in its ways and to raise awareness among audiences.
Think of classical music and surely Europe comes to mind first. That’s where the music originated: in the continent's churches and, eventually, drawing rooms and concert halls.

 Today, the favorites of the classical music repertoire are mostly the old Italian and German chestnuts — works by Vivaldi, Puccini, Verdi, Rossini, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and Wagner — along with a pieces by Russian, French, English and American composers such as Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Elgar and Copland.

Black composers, whether European or American, are hardly acknowledged, though there are many of them, including Joseph Boulogne (the Chevalier de Saint-George), George Bridgewater, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Harry Lawrence Freeman, Maurice Arnold Strothotte, Will Marion Cook, Scott Joplin, Robert Nathaniel Dett, William Grant Still, Florence B. Price and George Walker.
How much of their classical music have you heard?

A lack of diversity is not limited to programming. It extends to staffing. Orchestras and opera houses tend to be overwhelmingly white, though a significant number of blacks are graduating from conservatories and entering the field, especially in recent years.

It’s difficult, for anyone, to master an instrument of classical music, to afford one, to pay for private lessons, to devote hours to practice. For many African Americans, it can be even harder due to socio-economic disadvantages and cultural biases.

Organized by Lee Pringle, the Colour of Music Festival assembles an orchestra for two “Masterworks” concerts at the Gaillard Center on Saturday, Oct. 21 and Sunday, Oct. 22. It also includes organ, piano and vocal recitals, three chamber music concerts, a symposium celebrating soprano Leontyne Price and a book event at which Christopher A. Brooks and Robert Sims present their bestselling biography, “Roland Hayes: The Legacy of an American Tenor.”

Pringle said he’s reduced the scope of the festival this year in an effort to allow demand to catch up to supply and to assist with a reorganization and fundraising effort. Programming could be tweaked further next year as Pringle and his colleagues search for the proverbial sweet spot.

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