The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, led by Music Director Linus Lerner, showcases a curated array of masterpieces by Black & Afro-centric composers in celebration of Black History Month. The repertoire will encompass works by Coleridge-Taylor, Walker, Still and Fernandez, and include the captivating artistry of violin soloist Carissa Powe.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a British-Sierra Leonean composer and conductor. He gained notable success, earning the nickname “African Mahler” from New York musicians during his three tours of the United States in the early 1900s. He is renowned for his three cantatas based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 poem “The Song of Hiawatha,” of which the initial section was completed in 1898 when Coleridge-Taylor was 23.
George Walker was admitted to the Oberlin Conservatory at fourteen and later the Curtis Institute of Music. Under the tutelage of notable mentors, he excelled in piano, chamber music, and composition, earning a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music. After a distinguished teaching career at Rutgers University, he retired in 1992. Notable among his compositions are the Address for Orchestra and the widely acclaimed Lyric for Strings. Walker’s prolific output includes sonatas, a mass, cantata, songs, choral and organ pieces, as well as quintets. With over 90 published works, he received commissions from prestigious ensembles and was honored with six doctoral degrees.
Known as the “Dean of Afro-American Composers,” William Grant Still was the first American composer to have an opera produced by the New York City Opera. He is particularly known for his pioneering Afro-American Symphony (1930), which held the title of the most widely performed symphony by an American until 1950. Shaping the landscape of American classical music, Still broke barriers as the initial African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, present a symphony performed by a leading orchestra, showcase an opera by a major opera company, and feature an opera on national television.
Brazilian composer Oscar Lorenzo Fernández, a student of Francisco Braga, Frederico Nascimento, and Henrique Oswald, played a pivotal role at the Instituto Nacional de Música. After Nascimento fell ill in 1923, Fernández assumed his role in upper-level harmony, later making it permanent. In 1936, he founded the Conservatório Brasileiro de Música in Rio de Janeiro, leading it until his passing. His notable works include the Afro-Brazilian folk dance “Batuque” from the suite Reisado do Pastoreio and the nationalist opera Malazarte (1931–33). Fernández’s output includes symphonies, concertos, ballets, and over 80 piano compositions.
Violinist Carissa Powe made a solo orchestral debut at the age of 12 with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. In both 2013 and 2014, she was a prizewinner in SASO’s own Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition. In 2021, she was first-place recipient in the Solo String competition of the Fred Fox School of Music. Further recognition for Carissa’s exceptional talent has included her selectionfor the inaugural season of Carnegie Hall’s NYO2 and as a semi-finalist in the 20th Annual Sphinx Competition. Last fall, Carissa was featured as a soloist in Arizona Arts Live’s at-home series at Centennial Hall. Beyond solo performances, she actively engages in chamber music, collaborating with her brother and sister in a string trio that has performed for prestigious organizations and fundraisers. As a teacher, Carissa has over 6 years of experience as a private violin instructor, as well as contributing to Quest for Education and Arts, String Project of the University of Arizona, and serving as a violin mentor for Sahuaro High School. Her remarkable journey reflects not only exceptional skill but also a dedication to nurturing the next generation of musicians through teaching and community engagement.
#HonoringBHM @carissapowe @southernarizonasymphony
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TIckets for SASO’s 2023-2024 season performances are on sale now. Visit the website for more information: www.sasomusic.org/buy-tickets
Founded in 1979, SASO has grown into a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a mutual love of music. The orchestra presents a wide range of compositions, including world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and popular classics. SASO brings together student, amateur and professional musicians with exceptional soloists, composers and conductors. For more information, visit www.sasomusic.org/ or call (520) 308-6226.
Showtime and venue information
Saturday, February 10
DesertView Performing Arts Center
39900 S. Clubhouse Drive, SaddleBrooke
Sunday, February 11
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
7575 N Paseo del Norte, Tucson
$25 tickets (Free for students)
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Danse Nègre
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Violin Concerto in G minor, Opus 80 with Carissa Powe (violin)
George Walker: Lyric for Strings
William Grant Still: Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American Symphony)
Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez: Batuque, from Reisado do Pastoreio