Harry T. Burleigh Society and Urban Playground Chamber Orchestra To Present ‘From Song Came Symphony’

By Nicole Kuchta

The Harry T. Burleigh Society and Urban Playground Chamber Orchestra will collaborate to present “From Song Came Symphony.”

The concert will explore the symphonic influence of composer Harry T. Burleigh, “who’s legacy is often tied to the concertization of the American spiritual,” according to the press release. The Burleigh Society aims to “advance the studies of black art music through scholarship and performance,” while celebrating the composer’s “foundational contributions to American classical music.” Urban Playground Chamber Orchestra, a non-profit organization, promotes the music of women and artists of color to “further enliven the classical canon.”

The program is set to include William Grant Still’s rarely heard oratorio “And They Lynched Him on a Tree,” spirituals by William Levi Dawson and Burleigh, and the New York City premiere of Florence Price’s Violin Concerto No. 2.

Still’s moving oratorio, which features a “visually striking double choir – black mourners contrasting a white mob,” premiered in the summer of 1940 in front of a high-profile audience including Samuel Barber, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Felix Frankfurter. Due to its harrowing subject matter, the work is rarely performed.

Price’s Violin Concerto No. 2 will feature violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins. The work, says musicologist Kori Hill, “is a fascinating example of [Price’s] applications of African American vernacular and Western classical principles.”

The performance will be held on May 8, 2019 at 7:30 pm at the Langston Hughes Auditorium, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.