Orchestra embraces African-Americans

Orchestra embraces African-Americans


norman lebrecht

March 25, 2017

The Georgia Symphony Orchestra, music director Timothy Verville, is addressing the great unplayed minority composers in its coming season. Our mole in the orchestra says: ‘As an orchestra based in a city with a rather famous historical lynching, the decision to purse this program has not been one taken lightly.’

“America, Vol. 4” will step outside of the realm of traditional, classical artists and into the minds of some of the world’s most famous African-American composers.

The production will also include a world premiere of “Moonlight Waltz,” written by the GSO’s N.E. Wheeler, and Georgia premieres of William Grant Still’s “And They Lynched Him on a Tree” and Daniel Bernard Roumain’s “Human Songs and Stories.”

“We’ve done work in the African-American community before but I started consulting with local black arts leaders and discussing with them how important it would be for the African-American community for our organization to take up something which, unfortunately, is still an important topic today: race relations. You would hope we could be beyond these types of things, but we’re not. They were extremely encouraged,” Verville said.


  • Steve P says:

    Who exactly isn’t “beyond these things?” BLM, NAACP, CBC, BET, SPLC…there are no equivalents on the other side that receive nearly the same level of respect and/or positive media coverage. Using a flimsy cover story, the Georgia Symphony is thrusting itself into the marketplace of race relations that was until recently chock full of government funding. Certainly the music of African-Americans deserves to be heard and evaluated for its own merit; tying the art to a “famous historical lynching” doesn’t give the music the unbiased opportunity it deserves.

    • Bruce says:

      Performing it in public might give it a chance to be evaluated on its own merits. People who are interested can go, and people aren’t interested are certainly free to stay away, the same way I prefer to stay away from concerts of all-Russian music.

      • Steve P says:

        I agree. Neglected composers of merit should have their works performed and African American composers should get a boost from this type of programming. My frustration is reading about yet another historically based racism revelation without addressing key factors which contribute to continued division.

        • Greg says:

          Racism sells. Particularly in Atlanta. Whole industries are kept afloat by perpetuating racial division and “victimhood.” Political power in the US is gained and maintained by fomenting racial division. There are a number of professional hucksters that cloak themselves as ministers or politicians who seek nothing more than to stoke the flames of division for personal gain. Incurring the memory of a “famous historical lynching” as part of the PR push surrounding this concert is disgraceful. I wonder if any other country wallows in the shameful aspects of its history as much as the US does. I doubt it. As long as there is a buck to be made or 15 minutes worth of fame to be had we will cease to move forward. Removing flags, statues, and references to our past does not erase anything and does little to get us “beyond these things.”

          I honestly have no issue with an orchestra presenting the neglected works of black composers. If the music finds an audience that is great. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. There are countless obscure or long-forgotten composers from all types of backgrounds whose works are little more than historical asterisks. For better or worse (and mostly worse), the paying public will determine what is “good” music. Or the NEA will tell us.