31st Annual Classical Roots Honors Composer William Grant Still @ The Max

31st Annual Classical Roots Honors Composer William Grant Still @ The Max




alt textWilliam Grant Still 1895 -1978

Composer William Grant Still will be recognized posthumously as the 2009 Honoree for his contributions to the world of classical music as part of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s (DSO) 31st annual Classical Roots Concerts taking place Fri., Mar. 6 at 8 p.m.; Sat., Mar. 7 at 8:30 p.m.; and Sun., Mar. 8 at 3 p.m. in Orchestra Hall. The 2009 concerts will be conducted by the DSO’s Resident Conductor Thomas Wilkins, who was the 2008 Honoree, and will feature guest artists Janice Chandler-Eteme (soprano), Jevetta Steele (mezzo-soprano), Kevin Deas (baritone), Taylor Gardner (child soprano) and the combined Rackham Symphony Choir and Brazeal Dennard Chorale directed by Suzanne Mallare Acton. The program begins with “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” which has opened every Classical Roots concert since its inception in 1978, and continues with a cappella selections by the Brazeal Dennard chorale directed by Augustus Hill, Still’s Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American Symphony) and Dear Mrs. Parks by past Honoree Hannibal Lokumbe. The DSO will be recording Dear Mrs. Parks during the concerts for release at an undetermined date by Naxos. Additionally, Lokumbe will be in residence for the entire week during which he plans to speak at local schools, including a Mar. 4 visit to Detroit School of Arts where he will hold cross-departmental discussions with music students and children in other courses of study.

Judith Anne Still, William Grant Still’s daughter, will accept the special recognition award on his behalf at the Saturday concert. In addition, Ms. Still will give a lecture in The Music Box at the Max M. Fisher Music Center on Thu., Mar. 5 at 6 p.m. about her father’s life and works co-sponsored by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Following the presentation at 7:30 p.m., attendees are invited to the DSO rehearsal in Orchestra Hall. All students in southeast Michigan will receive an invitation through their schools to attend the lecture and rehearsal. Both events are also free and open to the public.

Now celebrating its 9th anniversary, the black-tie Classical Roots Celebration Sat., Mar. 7 raises awareness about the contributions of African-Americans to classical music and supports increased opportunities through special educational programs such as the DSO’s African-American Orchestral Fellowship Program, a mentoring opportunity for young professional musicians. An additional fundraising effort this year, the Chairs’ Circle of Friends, is designating funds specifically for the release of the Dear Mrs. Parks recording. Further information about the DSO’s African-American and educational programs can be found on the DSO’s Web site, www.detroitsymphony.com.

One of Detroit’s warmest and most beautiful social events of the year, the Classical Roots Celebration begins with a pre-concert cocktail reception at 6 p.m. in the Atrium lobby of the Max M. Fisher Music Center. A gourmet, sit-down dinner begins in The Music Box at 7 p.m. followed by the concert led by Maestro Wilkins in Orchestra Hall at 8:30 p.m. A dessert-and-dancing afterglow in The Music Box caps off the elegant affair. Co-chairing the Classical Roots Celebration are Sterling Jones, Jr. and Christine Kageff with the support of more than 30 other Detroit-area citizens and corporate leaders committed to the Classical Roots mission. The Celebration is presented by lead sponsor JPMorgan Chase.

“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” was first performed for President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12, 1900 by a choir of 500 schoolchildren from the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville Florida, hometown of its sibling creators John Rosamond and James Weldon Johnson. The song regained popularity during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and was entered into the Congressional Record in the 1990s as the official African-American National Hymn, inspired in part by Melba Moore’s hit recording.

The Afro-American Symphony is romantic and fully tonal in keeping with Harlem Renaissance aspirations of reaching out to a broad audience. The symphony is in four movements, each prefaced by a quotation from the writings of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), an African-American poet who helped inspire Harlem’s Renaissance. Still’s quotation of Dunbar, written in the orchestral score, summarizes the musical argument best: “Be proud, my Race, in mind and soul. Thy name is writ on Glory’s scroll, in characters of fire. High mid the clouds of Fame’s bright sky, thy banner’s blazoned folds now fly, and truth shall lift them higher.”

Dear Mrs. Parks features three soloists and a large chorus singing fictional letters from writers of three generations, all expressing gratitude to Rosa Parks for her courage in refusing to move to the back of the bus in 1955. The soloists play the roles of an African-American woman who worked with Mrs. Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., representing the viewpoint of all African-American Civil Rights activists of her generation; Viola Liuzzo, a white Civil Rights martyr from Detroit slain by the Ku Klux Klan in 1965; and a young African-American man whose generation has benefited from the Civil Rights Movement.

Tickets for the DSO’s Classical Roots Concerts range in price from $19 to $71 with a limited number of box seats available for $123. Tickets may be purchased at the Max M. Fisher Music Center box office (3711 Woodward Avenue, Detroit); by phone at (313) 576-5111; or online at www.detroitsymphony.com. For group ticket information (groups of 10 or more), please contact Chuck Dyer at (313) 576-5130 or cdyer@dso.org.

Classical Roots Celebration tickets, which include the pre-concert reception, the sit-down gala dinner, the Classical Roots performance and the dessert and dancing post-concert afterglow, range in price from $275 to $500 each. This year, the DSO is offering a new ticketing level for Classical Roots “Young Friends” (ages 21 to 40). Tickets are $150 each for the first year of attendance only and include all activities. Subsequent years will be full priced. All tickets include valet parking. Sponsorship opportunities ranging from $2500-$10,000 are also available. For further information about individual tickets and sponsorships or to make a reservation, please call Cynthia Dodd at (313) 576-5072.

Both Judith Anne Still’s lecture and the DSO open rehearsal on Thu., Mar. 5 are free and open to the public. No reservation is needed.


$5 Student Tickets
Students of all ages, from elementary school through college graduate school, are eligible for $5 tickets to any DSO performance in March with a valid student ID. One ticket may be purchased per each student ID only. Student month tickets are available by phone or at the box office only.

$1 Tickets (18 and Under)
Students 18 and under may purchase ticket to any DSO performance for $1 when accompanied by an adult paying full-price. This special deal is made possible by AT&T Real Yellow Pages.

The DSO’s 2/2/2 deal is a great way for two couples or four friends to have a night on the town together at a great price. Two patrons may purchase two tickets in any section at full price and bring two friends along for two adjoining seats for just $1 each. Seating is based on availability.


General Motors Preferred Classical Series
Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Wilkins, conductor; Janice Chandler-Eteme, soprano; Jevetta Steele, mezzo-soprano; Kevin Deas, baritone; Taylor Gardner, child soprano; Rackham Symphony Choir (Suzanne Mallare Acton, director); Brazeal Dennard Chorale (Augustus Hill, director)

Fri., Mar 6 at 8 p.m.; Sat., Mar. 7 at 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Mar. 8 at 3 p.m.

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON & “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”
arr. JOHN WORK              “This Little Light O’ Mine” (a cappella)
arr. MOSES HOGAN           “Elijah Rock” (a cappella)
WILLIAM GRANT STILL     Symphony No. 1, Afro-American Symphony
HANNIBAL LOKUMBE         Dear Mrs. Parks
Funded in part through Meet The Composer’s MetLife Creative Connections Program


All evening and Sunday matinee performances will be preceded by Ford ConcerTalks featuring guest speaker Charles Greenwell. ConcerTalks begin one hour prior to performance time.

Co-sponsored by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Thu., Mar. 5

Classical Roots Lecture – The Life and Music of William Grant Still
Judith Anne Still
The Music Box at the Max M. Fisher Music Center at 6 p.m.

Open Rehearsal
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Orchestra Hall at 7 p.m.

Both events are free and open to the public

JPMorgan Chase
The Max M. Fisher Music Center
Sat., Mar. 7

6 p.m. Reception
Atrium Lobby
7 p.m. Celebration Dinner
The Music Box
8:30 p.m. Classical Roots Concert
Orchestra Hall
10:30 p.m. Afterglow
The Music Box, Atrium Lobby


Where: Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit

When: See above for details

Tix: See above for details