SMTD performance to celebrate musical life of African Americans


“Out of the Silence” will celebrate the musical life of African Americans during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and showcase seldom-heard works by several black American composers.

The performance, co-curated by School of Music, Theatre & Dance doctoral students Leah Claiborne and Austin Stewart, will be presented as part of the SMTD @ UMMA Performance Series, which offers several performances each year that connect to the exhibitions, collections and spaces at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

It will begin at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 in UMMA’s Apse.

The performance will feature SMTD faculty and students and vocal and instrumental compositions.

The program will include musical works by several composers, including William Grant Still, Florence Price, Harry Freeman, Harry T. Burleigh and Margaret Bonds.

Special guests will include U-M professor emeritus of music and renowned bass Willis Patterson, 2017 Kresge Eminent Artist and harpist Patricia Terry-Ross and Elizabeth James, program associate and outreach coordinator in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies.

During the performance, Patterson and James will also narrate writings from the black composers and performers.

Lisa Borgsdorf, UMMA’s manager of public programs, said by honoring and exposing an audience to lesser-known works by black American composers, the event is fashioned to be an artistic response to “Porgy and Bess” — an opera created by white composers that centered on the story of a southern African-American community.

Stewart said the event aimed to also highlight how music, specifically that of classical music, played a role in social uplift and community engagement and development for African-American residents.

“It’s extremely, extremely powerful music that deserves to be on the concert stage,” Claiborne said. “I believe this concert is really putting a spotlight on how important music and culture came together for African-American communities.”


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