Harlem Renaissance at Symphony Hall

OMGosh was my initial reaction when I heard the musical genius that I was privileged to witness at this concert. OH MY GOSH, seriously.  I’ve been to plenty of symphony performances in my life, especially this past year with my son who has been playing violin for a few years and all, but this last performance of the Chicago Sinfonietta last week was in one word, AMAZING!!

The Chicago Sinfonietta, in its 23rd season with its original conductor, Maestro Paul Freeman and guest conductor, 2007 Grammy Award-winner, John McLaughlin Williams (also the first African-American conductor to ever win a Grammy), were all that I love in a performance; pure culture, diversity, some educating moments and simply moving great musical performances.

While Paul took me through familiar, pleasant Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart favorites as well as other uplifting moments, I realized why he is the standing conductor and maestro of the Sinfonietta. He is GREAT.

I also truthfully appreciated the lessons, given by John McLaughlin Williams, probably intended for the visiting schools in attendance but taken in by me, of “Variants on a Texas Tune” performed by the Sinfonietta Orchestra piece by piece with commentary of how it was assembled by the original composer in 1937. I loved it and it kept my attention and interest.

Special guest artists on this evening were the Harlem Quartet featuring Ilmar Gavilan, violin; Melissa White, violin; Juan-Miguel Hernandez, viola and substituting for Desmond Neysmith was Russell Rolen, cello; who were all magnificent, in my opinion, truly, magnificent.

Thumbnail image for Harlem Quartet photo by Jeffrey Horstein (1).JPG

Harlem Quartet members comprised of four young Black and Latino players who bounced off each other during the performances. They were a pleasure to follow and take in their skills, each in their own right first, as individuals and second as wonderful collaborators that formed works of art.
It was evident that they’ve spent years to bring in the diversity of their cultures to the music they chose to perform for the Chicago audience. They received resounding applause at the end of each performance and the audience immediately embraced their assorted and new way of serving up classics as well as original selections (“A Train”).

The Harlem Quartet knew exactly how to not only keep the attention of the young audience members, who may have been given a whole new respect and enthusiasm towards this type of musical performance, to follow in the performer’s footsteps, but also to audience members like me who knows only simple straight forward classical music to be performed by the symphony. This was a true treat and I loved it and stayed at the edge of my seat the entire performance.

Insert Photo by – Jeffrey Horstein

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