In celebration of Southeast Missouri’s 150th anniversary, this All-American concert will present exciting works such as William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony and Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question on Oct. 4 in Bedell Performance Hall at River Campus at 7:30 p.m.

Southeast Missouri Symphony to Present Gala Season Opening Concert Featuring an All-American Concert Program with Notable Composers Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Florence Price, and William Grant Still

The Southeast Missouri Symphony will be presenting its Gala Season Opening Concert on Tuesday, Oct. 10, in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall on the River Campus. The program will feature an All-American program of music, including the iconic Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland, and the blues-inspired Afro-American Symphony by the important composer William Grant Still. Also included will be the Dances in the Canebrakes by Florence Price and Charles Ives’ dramatic work for flutes, trumpet, and strings, The Unanswered Question.

The concert will open with Aaron Copland’s short work, Fanfare for the Common Man, written for brass and percussion. Written in 1942, in the middle of World War II, it has subsequently been used in many films, TV shows, and major sporting events. It has also been adapted and performed by such musicians as Bob Dylan, Mannheim Steamroller, and the rock bands Styx, the Rolling Stones, and Asia. Next on the program, the orchestra will perform Charles Ives’ dramatic work, The Unanswered Question, for string orchestra, flutes, and solo trumpet. Southeast Assistant Professor of Trumpet, Dr. Deborah Caldwell, will be the featured trumpet soloist in this work. The first half of the program will conclude with Florence Price’s Dances in the Canebrakes, arranged by William Grant Still. Dances in the Canebrakes was a short suite for piano, written by Price in 1953, that largely draws upon ragtime and jazz rhythms. William Grant Still orchestrated the work for full orchestra, and that is the version that will be performed on this concert.

On the second half of the concert, the symphony orchestra will perform William Grant Still’s important Afro-American Symphony. This composition, written in 1930, is the first symphony written by an African American composer to be performed by leading orchestras in this country. Its musical language is drawn from the blues and from jazz rhythms of the early twentieth century. Still preceded each movement with an excerpt of poetry by the significant African American poet, Paul Dunbar, which provides a very evocative imagery of the character of each movement. The symphony progresses from movement 1, “Longing,” movement 2, “Sorrow,” and movement 3 (known as the “Halleluiah” movement) to the final movement, “Aspiration.” This wonderfully evocative symphony has moved and inspired audiences throughout its performance history.

“I am very excited about our Gala Season Opening Concert on Oct. 10, 2023,” commented Dr. Sara Edgerton, conductor of the Southeast Missouri Symphony. “I wanted to have a concert program that would celebrate the fantastic traditions of American music and American composers. I am especially thrilled to be able to include music by the important African American composer, William Grant Still, who was the first African American composer to have music performed by major orchestras and opera companies. He was also the first African American musician to conduct a major American symphony orchestra. Likewise, Florence Price was incredibly important as the first African American woman composer to receive widespread recognition during her lifetime. I wanted to have a program that celebrates the rich diversity of American music, and this will certainly provide that experience! With its immediately recognizable tunes, heartfelt melodies, and jazzy rhythms, this program should be very appealing and inspiring to all in the audience!”

This concert will be performed on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bedell Performance Hall on the River Campus of Southeast Missouri State University. For more information, and to purchase tickets, please contact the River Campus Box Office at (573) 651-2265 or visit RiverCampus.org.