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Redefining American MusicRhiannon Giddens and Friends Rediscover the Incredible Black Composer

Redefining American Music
Rhiannon Giddens and Friends Rediscover the Incredible Black Composer

Boston Pops

Symphony Hall - Boston, MA View Map

Rhiannon Giddens curates this dynamic concert to rediscover the great Black composers who have been hiding in plain sight in every genre of symphonic music. From Samuel Coleridge-Taylor whose choral music once rivaled Handel’s Messiah to Billy Strayhorn, the genius behind Duke Ellington who wrote “Take the A-Train” and “Day Dream,” and Eubie Blake, composer of the groundbreaking Broadway musical Shuffle Along. We’ll also remember the ladies with Florence Price, the first black woman to have her symphony performed by a major orchestra, and Hazel Scott, the jazz and piano prodigy who became a Hollywood, Broadway and television star. Rhiannon will be joined by collaborators vocalist Darius DeHass (Broadway’s Shuffle Along) and pianist Lara Downes, whose playing has been described as “luscious, moody and dreamy” by the New York Times.

Featured Performers

Keith Lockhart, conductor
Keith Lockhart, conductor View biography in full page >

On May 10, 1995, Keith Lockhart, the 20th Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, opened his very first Boston Pops season, leading a concert featuring guests Sylvia McNair, Mandy Patinkin, and Doc Severinsen, and repertoire ranging from Wagner to “Charlie on the MTA.” He was only 35 years old—the same age as Arthur Fiedler was when he became Boston Pops Conductor in 1930—and was dubbed “The Kid” by longtime Pops Associate Conductor Harry Ellis Dickson. The press coverage from the time of Keith’s appointment to the position in February 1995 was extensive, commenting on not only his musical talent but also his good looks and enviable head of hair, as well as the challenge of following in the illustrious footsteps of John Williams and Arthur Fiedler. But this baby boomer, born in 1959, came to the position with musical chops, a remarkable work ethic, and a deep appreciation for both the institution of the Pops and its audience. His varied conducting experience encompassed both the symphonic and pops repertoire, as well as performances in concert halls and on recordings; he had most recently served as Associate Conductor of both the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops, and made his Boston Pops debut as a guest conductor in 1993, just two years before he was appointed Conductor.

Over the next 25 years, with seemingly endless energy, Keith Lockhart, who holds the Julian and Eunice Cohen Boston Pops Conductor chair, would lead the Boston Pops in more than 2,000 concerts, in every imaginable setting—from hospitals to the Super Bowl—and collaborate with nearly 300 guest artists, drawn from the worlds of classical and popular music, rock, jazz, sports, politics, Broadway, and Hollywood.

Although acclaimed around the world, the Boston Pops—sometimes called “America’s Orchestra”—remains a treasured local fixture, as beloved as the region’s sports teams and historic landmarks. Its reputation has been acknowledged in popular culture, recently in a memorable episode of the animated television series “The Simpsons.” The family decided to take a “hate-cation” to Boston—because of Homer’s resentment of the “Boston Americans” football team and its fans—and ultimately fell in love with the city that has “a Symphony AND a Pops.” Through the years, Keith Lockhart has embraced Boston and in return, Boston has embraced him.

Most of the concerts led by Keith Lockhart take place in Symphony Hall, itself a registered historic landmark, during the orchestra’s spring and holiday seasons. He has also led annual Boston Pops appearances at Tanglewood, Pops concerts at Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall, 45 national tours to more than 150 cities in 38 states, and four international tours to Japan and Korea. He and the Pops have made 80 television shows, including 38 new programs for the PBS series Evening at Pops, and participated in such high-profile sporting events as Super Bowl XXXVI, the 2008 NBA finals, the 2013 Boston Red Sox Ring Ceremony, and the Red Sox Opening Day game at Fenway Park in 2009. The annual July 4 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular draws a live audience of over half a million to the Charles River Esplanade, and millions more view it on television or live webcast. During Keith’s tenure, the July 4 event was televised by a major national network for the first time. In 2017, with Eaton Vance as presenting sponsor and Bloomberg as the exclusive media partner, the Pops organization presented its first self-produced Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, which was broadcast on Bloomberg Television and all its media outlets. Both companies are continuing their commitments to the event.

Lockhart-led albums on the RCA Victor/BMG Classics label include Runnin’ Wild: The Boston Pops Play Glenn Miller, American Visions, The Celtic Album (Grammy-nominated, the first Boston Pops recording to be so honored), Holiday Pops, A Splash of Pops, The Latin Album (Latin Grammy-nominated), Encore!, and My Favorite Things: A Richard Rodgers Celebration. Recent releases on the in-house label, Boston Pops Recordings, include The Red Sox Album, A Boston Pops Christmas—Live from Symphony Hall, and The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers, which was a Boston Pops commission premiered in 2010 during the orchestra’s 125th season. Released at the beginning of the 2017 Pops season, Lights, Camera...Music! Six Decades of John Williams features Keith Lockhart leading the Boston Pops in a collection of Williams compositions from the 1960s onward, including some rarities.

Keith’s personal affinity for American music has led him to program full-length Broadway musicals and invite stars of the musical theater world to perform with the Pops. He has worked closely with hundreds of talented young musicians, including Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center, college students from the Boston Conservatory and Berklee College of Music, and area high school students. He introduced the PopSearch talent competition and the innovative JazzFest and EdgeFest series, featuring prominent jazz and indie artists performing with the Pops. Well aware of the influence of technology on our lives and the concert experience, he was the driving force behind “Pops on Demand,” allowing audience members to vote on their cell phones in such categories as “Favorite Disney Song” and “Favorite John Williams Theme” and see the results in real time. The Lockhart/Pops album Oscar & Tony was the basis of a Pops internet TV broadcast, the first such program offered by a symphony orchestra. In recent seasons, he and the Pops have presented a number of films in concert, both classic (The Wizard of Oz) and contemporary (Home Alone). He is dedicated to building and updating the Boston Pops library of music, which contains over 5,000 arrangements.

With a renewed commitment to bringing the Boston Pops into the Boston community and to important civic events, Keith Lockhart and the Pops have appeared at gubernatorial and mayoral inauguration ceremonies; the holiday tree lighting in Boston’s Public Garden; sporting events including Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics games, and the memorial service for the Boston Marathon bombing victims. He has led free concerts in such major public spaces as the Boston Common and Franklin Park, and each holiday season he brings musicians of the Pops to play for patients at Children’s Hospital and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. He is a recipient of the 2017 Commonwealth Awards for Achievement, the state’s highest honor in the arts, humanities, and sciences presented by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

More recently Keith and the Pops initiated a conducting competition for students aged 18 to 30 during the 2018 season-long celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centennial. As part of a 2019 Pops tour concert in Fort Lauderdale, Keith invited student survivors from the shooting at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland to perform a song, composed by two of them, honoring the resilience of their community. Back at Symphony Hall, both the spring and holiday Pops seasons in 2019 included a sensory-friendly concert designed for families with children or adults diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or sensory sensitivities.

Keith recently completed a decade-long relationship with the BBC Concert Orchestra, first as principal conductor and then as the orchestra's chief guest conductor. During his tenure as principal conductor, he led the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II. He continues to serve as artistic director of the Brevard Music Center Summer Institute and Festival in North Carolina. Prior to his BBC appointment, he spent eleven years as music director of the Utah Symphony, which he led at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. He has appeared as a guest conductor with virtually every major symphonic ensemble in North America, as well as many prestigious orchestras in Asia and Europe. Before coming to Boston, he was the associate conductor of both the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops orchestras, as well as music director of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Born in Poughkeepsie, New York, Keith Lockhart began his musical studies with piano lessons at the age of seven. He holds degrees from Furman University and Carnegie Mellon University, and honorary doctorates from several American universities.

Having the gift of being able to communicate with people of all ages, Keith Lockhart readily conveys his passion for the music he loves, which covers a wide spectrum. His programming reflects this breadth of interest and he is completely at ease articulating his professional and personal perspectives. Above all, he believes in and appreciates the experience that only the Boston Pops can provide—an atmosphere of music-making that is both fun and entertaining. He has called the Pops “the great outreach arm of the classical music industry. There’s no orchestra like it in this country or in the world that plays such a wide variety of music at such a high level.”

For more on Keith Lockhart, visit keithlockhart.com or bostonpops.org.

 

Keith Lockhart, conductor Rhiannon Giddens
Rhiannon Giddens View biography in full page >

Rhiannon Giddens is the co-founder of the Grammy Award-winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops, in which she sings and plays banjo and fiddle. She began gaining recognition as a solo artist when she stole the show at the T Bone Burnett-produced “Another Day, Another Time” concert at New York City’s Town Hall in 2013. The elegant bearing, prodigious voice, and fierce spirit that brought the audience to its feet that night are also abundantly evident on Ms. Giddens’ critically acclaimed debut solo album, the Grammy-nominated Tomorrow Is My Turn, which masterfully blends American musical genres like gospel, jazz, blues, and country, showcasing her extraordinary emotional range and dazzling vocal prowess. Ms. Giddens’ follow-up album, Freedom Highway, was released in February 2017. It includes nine songs that she wrote or co-wrote, along with a traditional song and two civil rights-era songs, “Birmingham Sunday” and the Staple Singers’ well-known “Freedom Highway,” from which the album takes its name. Ms. Giddens has performed for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, appeared on The Late Show, Austin City Limits, Later…with Jools Holland, and both CBS Saturday and Sunday Morning, and duetted with country superstar Eric Church on his powerful anti-racism song “Kill a Word,” performing the song on The Tonight Show and the CMA Awards, among other programs. In 2017, Ms. Giddens was awarded a MacArthur Genius Award, and she has also received the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Singer of the Year and the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo. She has performed a recurring role on the television drama Nashville, playing Hanna Lee “Hallie” Jordan, a young social worker with “the voice of an angel.” Rhiannon Giddens, whose inspired performance at the 2018 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular caused a sensation, makes her Symphony Hall debut with this week’s concerts.

Rhiannon Giddens
Darius de Haas
Darius de Haas View biography in full page >

Darius de Haas, enjoys a multifaceted career as an actor, singer and recording artist. His New York theater credits include the Broadway shows Kiss of the Spider Woman, Rent, Carousel, Marie Christine, The Gershwins’ Fascinating Rhythm, and Shuffle Along. Other credits include Children of Eden (Papermill Playhouse), his Obie Award winning performance in Running Man (Music-Theater Group), Once On This Island (1st National Tour), The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin (Playwrights Horizons), Jesus Christ Superstar- Gospel (Alliance Theater) and As You Like It (Delacorte/ Public Theater).

Currently, Darius is the singing voice of “Shy Baldwin” in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, currently filming Season 3.

As an interpreter of popular song and jazz, notable concerts include Carnegie Hall with Eric Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops, Duke Ellington’s Concert of Sacred Music with The Los Angeles Master Chorale, The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s 50th Anniversary Gala, “Too Hot To Handel” (conducted by Marin Alsop), The National Symphony with Marvin Hamlisch  and Roberta Flack, as well as tours across the country and Asia with Vanessa Williams . He has performed critically acclaimed concerts of music by Stevie Wonder and Billy Strayhorn for The Lincoln Center Songbook- the Strayhorn performance eventually becoming de Haas’ debut solo album “Day Dream: Variations On Strayhorn” (now available for streaming and on CD from PS Classics). Of the album Jazz Times said “"De Haas is blessed with a gorgeous voice and a keen theatrical sophistication. He transforms his first solo album, Day Dream, into one of finest ever captured on disc." Other recordings include Quiet Please (Bridge Records),  Ice On The Hudson (SMK Jazz) as well as many original cast recordings. Please visit www.dariusdehaas.com 

 

 

 

Darius de Haas Lara Downes
Lara Downes View biography in full page >

Lara Downes is one of the foremost American pianists of her generation, a chart-topping recording artist, and a powerfully charismatic performer. Dedicated to expanding the resonance and relevance of live music for diverse audiences, she draws inspiration from the legacies of history, family, and collective memory. Ms. Downes’s forays into the broad landscape of American music have yielded a series of acclaimed recordings, including America Again, selected by NPR as one of “10 Albums That Saved 2016,” and her recent Sony Classical debut release, For Lenny, debuted in the Billboard Top 20 and was awarded the 2017 Classical Recording Foundation Award. On Holes in the Sky, released on Sony Masterworks in March of this year, she collaborates with several of today’s leading female artists to celebrate the contributions of women to the past, present, and future of American music. Ms. Downes enjoys creative collaborations with a range of top artists, including folk icon Judy Collins, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, baritone Thomas Hampson, and former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove. She maintains close partnerships with prominent composers spanning genres and generations, with premieres and commissions coming from Jennifer Higdon, John Corigliano, Stephen Schwartz, Paola Prestini, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and many others. Lara Downes’s fierce commitment to arts advocacy, mentorship, and education sees her working in support of non-profit organizations including the Time In Children’s Arts Initiative, PLAN International, the Sphinx Organization, Women’s Empowerment, Washington Performing Arts, and NPR’s From The Top, on which she appeared as a featured guest host last month. Ms. Downes is represented worldwide by Cadenza Artists and is a member of the Yamaha Artist Roster.

Lara Downes
James Beckel, composer
James Beckel, composer View biography in full page >

James Beckel, composer of From the Earth to the Moon and Beyond, was born in Marion, Ohio. A very active composer and arranger, Mr. Beckel has had his original works performed by professional orchestras across the country and recorded by ensembles such as the Indianapolis Brass Ensemble, the Houston Symphony, and the Indianapolis Symphony, as well as Greg Hustis and members of the Dallas Symphony, who recorded Mr. Beckel’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Glass Bead Game: Concerto for Horn and Orchestra. Mr. Beckel has written a number of successful patriotic works that have been performed by the United States Coast Guard Band and the Air Force Band of Flight. A member of the music faculty at DePauw University, Mr. Beckel was the principal trombonist with the Indiana Symphony from 1969 to his retirement in 2018.

James Beckel, composer Jeremiah Kissel
Jeremiah Kissel View biography in full page >

Jeremiah Kissel is delighted as always to appear with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops, with whom he has narrated The Polar Express, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers, Casey at the Bat, and A Christmas Carol. With other orchestras he has performed The Carnival of the Animals, Ellis Island: The Dream of America, Peter and the Wolf, The Wizard of Menlo Park, A Kennedy Portrait, L’Histoire du Soldat, and The Defiant Requiem. A forty-year veteran of Boston’s professional stages, Mr. Kissel has played leading roles for the Huntington, American Repertory, New Repertory, and Merrimack Repertory theaters, as well as the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, the Lyric Stage, Shear Madness, and various out-of-town companies passing through Boston. Recent appearances include Imagining Madoff at 59E59 in New York, The Trumpiad for Robert Brustein at the Boston Theater Marathon, and Cyrano (earning a 2019 Norton Award nomination) at Gloucester Stage. This fall, he will appear as Richard Nixon in Nixon’s Nixon at the New Rep Theatre, followed by a reprise of Imagining Madoff at the Lion Theatre in New York. Screen credits include The Town, The Fighter, Joy, Stronger, Castle Rock, Body of Proof, and The Wrong Car. Mr. Kissel is the winner of several Norton Awards, several IRNE’s, an Arts Impulse Award, and a Helen Hayes Award, and in 2003 he received Boston’s highest onstage recognition, the Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence.

Jeremiah Kissel
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