Antoine T. Clark, conductor
Linda Kernohan, composer
Mark Lomax, composer
Egmont: Overture – Ludwig van Beethoven
New Commission – Linda Kernohan (World Premiere)
Scherzo from “Afro- American Symphony” – William Grant Still
Summerland – William Grant Still
Symphony No. 1 “Uhuru” – Mark Lomax (World Premiere)
The word freedom, among its many connotations, generally refers to the concept of free will and being without undue or unjust constraints or enslavement when seen through the lenses of philosophy and religion. Freedom in the political sense implies the concept of liberty, a person or people having rights and civil liberties to exercise without interference by the state. Many peoples or cultures have used freedom as a theme in their music to express their desire to be free of physical enslavement or to express their yearning for national liberation. This program focuses on freedom as articulated in the works of Ludwig van Beethoven, William Grant Still, and Mark Lomax.
Beethoven’s Egmont: Overture celebrates the life and heroism of the Dutch nobleman, the Count of Egmont, in his opposition to Spanish tyranny over the Flemish. In the overture, Beethoven was expressing his opposition to Napoleon, who had crowned himself Emperor in 1804.
William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony was the first symphony by a black composer to be performed by a major orchestra. The work is a blending of blues, jazz, and spirituals into a classical symphonic form. Still did not intend for a programmatic theme to be associated with his symphony but later attached poems of the celebrated black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar to each of the symphony’s four movements to heighten the music’s emotional impact. Due to the popularity of the symphony’s third movement, Still arranged it for a smaller orchestra and titled it Scherzo. Dunbar’s poem, An Ante-Bellum Sermon, which is about emancipation and citizenship of the blacks in America, supports the exuberant music. Still’s Summerland is an arrangement of the second movement of his Three Visions for piano. The work depicts the freedom of the human soul from an earthly realm after death: the body expires, and the soul enters “heaven” or “Summerland.”
Mark Lomax synthesizes the musical themes from his twelve-part jazz album cycle, 400: An Afrikan Epic, into his Symphony No. 1 “Uhuru” or “Freedom.” The music explores thousands of years of the history that is pre-colonial Afrika, the Ma’afa (the 400 years between 1619 and 2019), and Afro-futurism expressing a vision of what Blacks in America will heal toward in the next 400 years; a healthy, high functioning, and united block of the African diaspora.
A new work written for the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra by Linda Kernohan will complement this program.