A poolside benefit concert this Sunday by the Cape Ann Symphony features some celebrated, yet lesser known, music from Black composers past and present and a French woman composer.

The symphony presents its outdoor "Musical Celebration of Summer" with two performances on July 18 featuring an 18-member chamber orchestra under the direction of conductor Yoichi Udagawa at the home of symphony President Fran White. Seating is limited to 70.

The musical program features work by Adolphus Hailstork, a living composer; and Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944) and Joseph Bologne (1745-17990). The symphony's principal flutist, Stephanie Stathos, will be the featured soloist during the performance of Chaminade's "Concertino for Flute."

The program was inspired by the orchestra’s 2021 "Composer Series" emails celebrating Black History and Women’s History months providing details about these musicians.

Each featured composer comes from a unique place in time.

Bologne is known as the first classical musician of African descent, the son of a plantation owner in the French colony of Guadeloupe and an African slave. His father did not turn his back on this child, and took him to France for an education. During the French Revolution, Bologne served as a colonel of the Légion St. Georges, the first all-black regiment in Europe and later became a champion fencer. But he found time to pursue his love of music, becoming a virtuoso violinist and conductor, according to historical records.

Chaminade, a pianist, succeeded in a touring career performing her own works, and was awarded the Légion d'Honneur, a first for a woman composer, in 1913.  As a child, her family moved to a village west of Paris, where a neighbor was the celebrated composer Georges Bizet, who recognized her talent as a young musician.

Hailstork, born in 1941, studied violin, piano, organ, and voice. He composes works of all kinds, blending elements from the African American and European traditions. He began his studies at Howard University, and ultimately received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the Manhattan School of Music. He went on to earn his doctorate in composition from Michigan State University.

White said the musicians are eager to celebrate.

"While we love the worldwide accessibility of our virtual concert series, we recognize nothing beats hearing live classical music in person," she said. "Normally we do not perform in the summer, but we are currently in the planning stages of a full season in November and just could not wait to reunite with our audiences. Maestro Udagawa has programmed a distinctive selection of music from three unique composers to perform in a comfortable, intimate setting."

Udagawa said this venue is tranquil and offers the audience close proximity to the musicians.

"That's a chance we don't get often in large concert halls," he said. "The opportunity to make music and share it with an audience is always a thrill and more than ever, we musicians are aware of what a privilege it is. We look forward to the post-concert meet-and-greet to thank our audiences in person for their unwavering support."

In terms of the music choices, Udagawa said after a deep dive into Hailstork's works, he chose "Sonata da Chiesa" because it is a "rich and romantic work for strings," and he chose Bologne's "Symphony No. 1" because of its clear themes that are "light and yet full of energy."

"Bologne had an extraordinary life, and it's reflected in his music. I'm grateful that we are all starting to become more aware of the incredible contributions of these great composers and can't wait to share them with our audiences," said Udagawa.

As a young flute student, Stathos said Chaminade’s concertino captured her attention.

"It was commissioned by the Paris Conservatoire in 1902. It is a popular piece in the flute repertoire and features a beautiful, memorable melody that recurs throughout the piece," she said. "Although I've performed the concertino with piano over the years, playing it with the Cape Ann Symphony is a dream come true."

She too wants to give thanks for the support throughout this global pandemic.

"This has been an incredibly difficult period. Each person makes a huge difference, and we are grateful to all those who attend our concerts and also to all those who work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the orchestra going. I welcome the chance to say thank you in person," Stathos said. "Personally, the canceling of all live music that accompanied the COVID months has made me reevaluate what it means to play. It’s a huge privilege and I cherish each opportunity to perform more than ever. No one should take music making for granted because, as we saw, it can go away very quickly." 

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.

Trending Video

Recommended for you