26th March 2022 @ 20:00
Koninklijk Conservatorium, Rue de la Régence 30, 1000 Bruxelles
Conductor: David Miller
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One advantage of the Covid lockdown was the gift of time, time to satisfy areas of curiosity that would otherwise have gone unanswered when we were busier working, and going out to restaurants, shows and movies. I researched black American composers of symphonic music, who may not have been played as often as they deserved, due to lingering racism. There are many black composers worth programming and my attention was drawn to two in particular, both from Little Rock, Arkansas - William Grant Still and Florence Price. Florence Price wrote a lot of beautiful music, much of which is reminiscent of Dvořák! I drew up a list of proposals for our president, Mary Wiklander-Williams, knowingly entitled 'Black composers matter. We settled on the Florence Price piece which will open our March 26th concert, 'Ethiopia's Shadow on America'. It will be the first music by a black women played by the BSO, but certainly not the last!
Florence was born in 1887 when the brief period of post-Civil-War black empowerment was being shut down by white southern reactionaries. She was well educated and in 1902 was accepted into the Boston Conservatory, an unusual feat for the time. Ethiopia’s Shadow in America is shaped by her knowledge of African and black American tunes and dances, through the filter of her training in Boston, where she honed her orchestration chops by studying Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. The overture is an utterly captivating mixture of spirituals and dances firmly planted in a European orchestral setting. She divided the work into three sections: Arrival of the negro slave in America, His resignation and faith, and His adaptation.