String Quartet Program Honors the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.


((L-R) William Grant Still (Danzas de Panama), Florence Price (Andante Cantabile) and Jessie Montgomery (Strum) | Photos courtesy of High Desert Chamber Music)

The next event in the High Desert Chamber Music (HDCM) Concert Series features resident performers, the Crown City String Quartet on Saturday, January 14, 2023 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon. In honor of Martin Luther King Day, the first half of the program will showcase the music of prominent Black composers — William Grant Still (Danzas de Panama), Florence Price (Andante Cantabile) and Jessie Montgomery (Strum).

William Grant Still (1895-1978) is considered to be one of the most prominent American contributors in classical music for the many firsts he achieved throughout his career. In 1931, Grant became the first African American to have a symphony performed by a professional orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic. Four years later, he became the first Black composer to conduct a major American orchestra with his music and to have an opera performed by a major opera company. At a time where jazz and blues were considered low-brow music, Still blended classical European music with jazz, blues and spirituals. He wrote over 150 compositions including operas, symphonies, ballets, chamber works and film scores. Today, Still is considered to be among the greatest American composers ever.

In 1933, Florence Price (1887-1953) became the first African American woman to have her symphony premiered by a major orchestra. When the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered Symphony No. 1, the composer was one of the most celebrated composers of her time. Her musical style, a mixture of classic European music, Black spirituals and the rhythms associated with the African Juba dance drove well-known artists of the day to perform her work. Price composed over 300 works ranging from symphonies, concertos, chamber music, piano pieces, vocal compositions and radio music. After her death, the majority of Price’s music was forgotten until the Women’s Philharmonic created an album of Price’s work in 2001. Eight years later more than two-thirds of Price’s manuscripts were discovered in an abandoned house in St. Anne, Illinois. Her rediscovered manuscripts reside in the University of Arkansas Library where musicians can access and play her work.

Jessie Montgomery (1981- ), Musical America’s 2023 Composer of the Year, is a GRAMMY-nominated, acclaimed composer, violinist and educator whose music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, poetry and social consciousness, making her an acute interpreter of 21st Century American sound and experience. A founding member of PUBLIQuartet and a former member of the Catalyst Quartet, Jessie holds degrees from the Juilliard School and New York University and is currently a PhD Candidate in Music Composition at Princeton University. She is Professor of violin and composition at The New School and the Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her growing body of work includes solo, chamber, vocal and orchestral works, as well as collaborations with distinguished choreographers and dance companies.

This concert is brought to you by the Pine Tavern Restaurant and will take place on Saturday, January 14 at 7:30pm at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon. Ticket holders may join the musicians at 6:45pm for a pre-concert talk. While in Bend, the group will participate in an Educational Outreach event at the new Caldera High School.

High Desert Chamber Music’s mission is to bring world-class chamber music and musicians to Central Oregon. Now in its fifteenth season, HDCM presents an acclaimed series of classical chamber music concerts, ranging from piano duos to string sextets. As the premier and leading chamber music organization in the region, HDCM offers an exciting roster of professional performing artists. Tickets for all events are available through HDCM online, by phone, or in person at their office in Downtown Bend.


About Author

Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

Leave A Reply