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Classics & Jazz – MLK Jr. Celebration

Saturday, January 13 @ 7:30 pm

Damien Sneed, Conductor
Mebrakh Haughton-Johnson, Clarinet
Jason Flowers, Piano

Florence Price   Colonial Dance
Florence Price   Concert Overture No. 1
Margaret Bonds   The Montgomery Variations
William Grant Still  Yamekraw
David Baker   Three Ethnic Dances
Damien Sneed   A Symphonic Homage to The Duke

This concert features some of the most beautiful American orchestral compositions created by African Americans. The first part of the program incorporates two well-known African American female composers, Florence Price (1887 – 1953) and Margaret Bonds (1913 – 1972), honoring the American musical art form created by the enslaved, the spiritual. Price’s Colonial Dance (unknown) reflects dance, which was an integral part of African American life and American life more generally around the time she composed it. And Price’s Concert Overture No. 1 (unknown) is based on the spiritual Sinner, Please Don’t Let This Harvest Pass. Bond’s Montgomery Variations (1964) is a symphonic theme and variations in 7 movements based on the spiritual I Want Jesus To Walk With Me. The second half of the program highlights the indigenous American musical genre, jazz featuring music by James P. Johnson (1894 – 1955), William Grant Still (1895 – 1978), David Baker (1931 – 2016), Duke Ellington (1899 – 1974) and the guest conductor, Damien Sneed (1979 – present). Yamekraw (1927), originally composed by highly influential jazz and stride pianist James P. Johnson, was later orchestrated by William Grant Still, “Dean of African-American Composers,” for a Carnegie Hall Concert. Baker’s Jazz Suite for Clarinet and Orchestra: Three Ethnic Dances (1993) is a brilliant fusion of jazz and classical music reminiscent of a stellar film score. And finally, the world premiere of Sneed’s A Symphonic Homage to The Duke (2024) will end the evening in a sizzling tribute to one of America’s greatest composers, Duke Ellington.

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Musical Notes

Damien Sneed appears by arrangement with LeChateau Entertainment

We are excited to collaborate with The Brianna Fund for Children with Physical Disabilities, offering a two-weekend MLK celebration experience. The festivities begin on January 13 with our “Classics and Jazz” concert, featuring guest conductor Damien Sneed and guest artists Mebrakh Haughton-Johnson and Jason Flowers. The celebration continues on January 20 at St. John’s Congregational Church for the 2024 Gospel Concert, honoring the mission of the Brianna Fund. Join us for these exceptional events, celebrating hope, flight, and freedom.

Before and during the intermission of Classics & Jazz on January 13, we invite you to the Mahogany Room for a unique art display by the Trust Transfer Project. This collaboration, a partnership between the Community Music School and the Springfield Cultural Partnership, spotlights artists of color, underscoring the importance of art in promoting public health and wellness. Curated by Vanessa Ford, the exhibition is not just a display but a celebration of resilience and the spirit of our community. Engage directly with several featured artists who will be present to discuss their inspiring work.

The Senator Edward W. Brooke Young Oratorical Competition winner will be featured at the top of the second half of the concert with a brief introduction about the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the Lee B. Revels Scholarship & Mentoring Foundation. Visit their table in the lobby before the concert and during intermission.


Saturday, January 13
7:30 pm
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Symphony Hall
34 Court Street
Springfield, MA 01103 United States
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