New York Festival of Song To Honor W.C. Handy In 2018-19 Opening Concert

By David Salazar

The New York Festival of Song has announced that it will kick off its 2018-19 season with “W.C. Handy and the Birth of the Blues” on Nov. 14, 2018.

The performance will feature soprano Shereen Pimentel, mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford, tenor Joshua Blue, baritone Justin Austin, and pianists Steve Blier and Joseph Li.

The concert, which is set to take place before Handy’s 145 birthday, will feature several spirituals and songs by the prominent African-American composer and publisher of the early 20th century.

There will also be music published by Handy including songs by Sammy Heyward, Eddie Green, Jelly Roll Morton, Clarence Williams, and Lemuel Fowler.

“For some years now I’ve been thinking about the blues, that most American of musical genres,” NYFOS Artistic Director Steven Blier noted in a press release. “I knew that Handy’s music would vividly evoke the life and culture of African-Americans in the first half of the 20th century. The surprise was how contemporary his art remains, speaking directly to our times. I’ve been thrilled to see how these songs have fired the enthusiasm of my cast, four superb artists with big voices, big souls, and big personalities.

“For all of us, W. C. Handy is about both a bygone world and the world we live in now.”