Almanac

Arts & Entertainment - January 19, 2011

Concert features African-American composers

Music by African-American composers of yesterday and today will be presented by local musicians in a concert on Sunday, Jan. 30, at 3 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center of Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto.

Under the direction of Menlo Park pianist Josephine Gandolfi, the musicians for some time have been exploring songs and instrumental music by outstanding African-American composers.

Proceeds from the concert will benefit the tuition-free school's music programs.

On the program is music that draws from the rich resources of African-American traditions — spirituals, jazz, blues — and other American, European, and world sources.

Two of the composers — Florence B. Price and William Grant Still, both born in the late 19th century — are recognized and celebrated as the first African-American composers to distinguish themselves as symphonic composers.

The settings of spirituals for voice and piano by composers Undine Smith Moore, Margaret Bonds, Betty Jackson King, Jacqueline Hairston, Charles Lloyd Jr., and Hale Smith have been heard in concert halls for decades, performed by such renowned artists as Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price.

Valerie Capers, active in New York today as a composer, pianist, and teacher, is versed in both classical and jazz idioms; several movements of her "Portraits in Jazz," tributes to such jazz greats as Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, Miles Davis, and Charlie Parker, will be performed.

Featured on the program will be the premiere performance, commissioned for this occasion, of a work by gifted young composer Joshua McGhee for soprano and trio, on an original text entitled, "Where Freedom Rings." Mr. McGhee is a recent graduate of the music department of California State University East Bay.

Performers on the program include, along with Ms. Gandolfi, soprano Yolanda Rhodes, pianists/vocalists LaDoris Cordell (a judge and former Palo Alto city councilwoman) and Deanne Tucker, violinist Susan C. Brown, cellist Victoria Ehrlich, and clarinetist Carol Somersille.

Founded in 1996 (20 years after the closing of East Palo Alto's only high school) by Chris Bischof, Eastside Prep has met its goal of preparing all students for admission to four-year colleges. To date, every Eastside Prep student has gone on to a four-year college.

The nonprofit middle and high school provides tuition-free education to traditionally underserved students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. It relies heavily on private-sector and foundation donations.

In addition to its academic offerings, the school has a music program that includes choirs, bands, and instrumental instruction, under the direction of performer/teacher/composer David Chaidez.

The school is located at 1041 Myrtle St. in East Palo Alto. There is on-campus parking.

The suggested donation for the concert is $15, general; and $5, senior and student. Tickets are available at the door only.

For information, call 650-688-0850.

— Story submitted by Josephine Gandolfi.

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