The FIU School of Music Symphony Orchestra and Studio Jazz Big Band are preparing for a momentous celebration of Black History Month with a concert including some of music’s most significant African American composers at 7:30pm on Friday, February 7, in the Wertheim Performing Arts Center.
The concert begins with two important orchestral works by African American composer, William Grant Still: In Memorian, commissioned during WWII with the aim to honor African American soldiers who died in the Civil War, and his most famous work, Afro-American Symphony, the first symphony composed by an African American that was performed by a major orchestra. The work was hugely popular in the 1930’s when it was performed by more than 30 orchestras. The symphony blends Jazz and Blues into a Classical form in order to accurately reflect and elevate the rich heritage of African American music.
The symphony, conducted by Javier Jose Mendoza, then performs Aaron Copland’s iconic work, A Lincoln Portrait. The work, written in 1942, is narrated with excerpts from Abraham Lincoln’s great documents and debates that focused on his abolitionist roots. FIU Wind Ensemble Conductor, Brenton F. Alston, was selected as narrator.
“I am honored to have been asked to narrate Lincoln Portrait,” said Alston. “The switch from conductor, with my back to the audience most of the time, to narrator facing the audience is so much more intimate. I can see their faces, watch their expressions and connect directly with them. The music of Aaron Copland music has such honesty, vulnerability and power that it is hard not to be affected by hearing it being performed.”
The night finishes strong with a performance by the FIU Studio Jazz Big Band, conducted by Jim Hacker, as they pay homage to Duke Ellington with his last jazzy orchestral composition, Three Black Kings (Les Trois Rois Noirs). Ellington was generally regarded as one of the greatest jazz composers, performers, and bandleaders in American history.
“Classical works by African American composers are often overlooked,” said Mendoza. “Since my arrival at the FIU School of Music, I have had a desire to schedule a concert celebrating African American History in the United States. This concert is that realization of that desire.”
Tickets are available by clicking here or by calling 305.986.0085.