Colour of Music Festival showcases performers of African descent

Colour of Music Festival music director Marlon Daniel conducting.

Now in its fourth year, the Colour of Music Festival offers a musical kaleidoscope of black classical composers and performers from across the globe and will take place Oct. 19-23 at various venues throughout historic Charleston.

The largest black classical music organization ever organized continues to draw inspiration from the grandfather of black classical music, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Few classical music enthusiasts are aware of the tremendous contributions of this African-French composer whose opera and classical masterpieces equaled or far exceeded those of his 18th century contemporaries. Although his compositions are highly recognized overseas, they gather little notice in the United States. Today despite thousands of celebrated and prodigiously talented classical composers and performers of African descent throughout the world, their opportunities to grace concert stages of major American orchestras are rare to non-existent. The Colour of Music Festival seeks to reverse this trend.

Showcasing acclaimed black chamber ensemble players and artists to form the Colour of Music Festival Orchestra, the five-day festival brings leading black artists to Charleston from Canada, France, Britain, Colombia, and the Caribbean among other places.

Highlights include the début of Chevalier de Saint Georges’ only opera every discovered, The Anonymous Lover, featuring Magali Léger, native of Saint George’s birthplace, the Isle of Guadeloupe, showcasing the Festival’s All Things French (Toutes Les Choses Françaises) motif.

Internationally renowned conductor Marlon Daniel will again serve as festival music director with leading black maestros serving as guest conductors to lead the Masterwork Series’ Colour of Music Festival Orchestra.

Opening the Masterworks Series Thursday, Oct. 20, St. Georges’ The Anonymous Lover petit opera makes its world première in South Carolina featuring Magali Léger. Continuing the French musical motif, Maestro Daniel welcomes virtuoso French-born violinist Romuald Grimbert-Barré as guest soloist performing Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 44 in G Minor.

Friday Oct. 21, led by German-born and South American-based Concertmaster Anyango Yarbo-Davenport, the orchestra welcomes 17-year-old piano virtuoso Clayton Stephenson, a founding competitor of the inaugural Van Cliburn Junior Competition, to perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26.

The Festival’s Saturday, Oct. 22, black tie gala performance features guest conductor Roderick Cox, associate conductor of the renowned Minnesota Orchestra, conducting Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. The evening also includes Los Angeles-based composer Ahmed Alabaca’s composition Across the Calm Waters of Heaven, a prayer song written in response to recent losses of life across the globe due to race or religion.

The Festival concludes Oct. 23 with a memorial performance honoring long-time festival friend, attorney, musician, choral conductor and supporter Lon H. Shull, III, with a performance of Johannes Brahms’ Schicksalslied, Op. 54 (Song of Destiny) and Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem under the baton of Atlanta’s Morehouse College conductor Dr. David E. Morrow.

Returning to the historic Avery Normal School, now the Avery Research Center, the Chamber Series features internationally acclaimed Kanneh-Mason Trio, a sensational British family performing a special chamber presentation Wednesday, Oct. 19, showcasing the family’s three virtuoso classical musicians who are paving the way for their even younger siblings to début at a future Colour of Music Festival. New York-based classical guitarist Thomas Flippin joins French violinist Romuald Grimbert-Barré for a special intimate chamber performance of guitar and violin Friday, Oct. 21.

In addition, a free four-part daily morning symposium series featuring thought leaders and musicians will highlight academic perspectives of the cultural contributions of black composers and Charleston’s contribution stemming from the historic Avery Normal School’s music endeavors. Topics include the French contribution to black classical music, black opera legends, and the legacy of black composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

“As we embark upon our most ambitious festival in our young four-year history, I am pleased to introduce the Lowcountry to artists and offerings extraordinary talent from around the globe. Our recent recognition as the largest black classical professional organization is an acknowledgment we accept with humble appreciation. Charleston has become an international destination and this year’s scope and depth is indicative of the city’s appeal,” said Lee Pringle, festival founder and artistic director of the festival.

Maestro Daniel, a resident of both the United States and France added, “I am very excited to be introducing St. Georges’ only surviving opera in a concert stage format with my dear friend and colleague Magali Léger. This is truly a spectacular time for the Festival.”

Colour of Music Festival tickets range from $11 to $72, with special rates available onsite only for active duty and reserve U.S. Military Personnel and College students with I.D., and are available at the Gaillard Center Box Office, by phone at (843) 242-3099 or at colourofmusic.org.

The 2016 Colour of Music Festival embarks upon an ambitious and stunning array of international classical musical motifs solidifying its place as