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Black Composers Featured at Santa Monica Concert Saturday


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March 22, 2019 -- Black composers who worked in the classical idiom will be the focus of the Jacaranda program "…dream in color" this Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Santa Monica.

The program showcases works by legendary composer Duke Ellington, who flawlessly merged classical music and jazz; Florence Price, the first black woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and George Walker, the first black composer to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Florence Price

The program offers "six uniquely curated musical escapes," concert promoters said. "Some are subtle and nuanced, others bold and brash! With heightened awareness…dream in color."

The Lyris Quartet will perform the original version of Walker’s most often performed work, the haunting "Lyric."

(Left) Composer Florence Price

In 1996, Walker received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his work, "Lilacs" for voice and orchestra, premiered by the Boston Symphony with Seiji Ozawa conducting.

Pianist Althea Waites will perform the 1932 Piano Sonata by Price, a piece the performer recorded in an edition she prepared.

A collection of Price's works -- including two violin concertos, her fourth symphony and dozens of other scroes -- were found in an abandoned run-down house on the outskirts of St. Anne, Illinois in 2009.

"Not only did Price fail to enter the canon" Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker in 2018, "a large quantity of her music came perilously close to obliteration.

"That run-down house in St. Anne is a potent symbol of how a country can forget its cultural history."

Waites -- who the Ann Arbor News hailed her as “a pianist who is blessed with a profound musicality" -- will join the Lyris Quartet and harpist Allison Bjorkedal in William Grant Still’s "Ennanga."

Waites also will perform Ellington’s tone poem “Single Petal of a Rose’ arranged by jazz pianist Art Tatum. The piece was inspired by Ellington's meeting with Queen Elizabeth in 1958.

A new version of Ellington’s one-movement piano concerto "New World A-Comin’" conducted and arranged by Scott Dunn will close the program.

For ticket information visit or call 213-483-0216.

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