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Chineke! Orchestra returns for its second concert of the Summer Reunion series at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, celebrating two great composers of African-American heritage – William Grant Still and Florence B. Price.
Still and Price both grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the USA, around the turn of the 20th century. Despite the age difference of eight years, they will almost certainly have known each other, as they shared the same teacher and both forged successful careers as composers.
Still’s Symphony No.1 (Afro-American) has the distinction of being the first work by a Black composer to be performed by a leading US orchestra: the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in 1931. And Price was the first Black woman composer to have music performed by a major symphony orchestra in the US, in 1933.
The Afro-American Symphony draws on blues forms and spirituals, and the work seeks to portray, as Still wrote in his journal at the time, ‘the sons of the soil’. Price’s Third Symphony was well-received at its premiere in 1940, the Detroit Free Press reviewer commenting on the ’emotional warmth’ of the work, the ‘majestic beauty’ of the slow movement and the ‘great vigor’ of the finale. To complete the evening, the extraordinarily talented Amiri Harewood – cellist, singer and pianist – makes his debut with Chineke! in Grieg’s evergreen Piano Concerto.
Matthew Kofi Waldren, conductor
Amiri Harewood piano
William Grant Still: Symphony No.1 (Afro-American)
Grieg: Piano Concerto
Price: Symphony No.3 in C minor
Address: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8YP, UK