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MASTERWORKS 1 – Hear Our Voices Ring

We open our season celebrating music by Black women composers past and present. Pairing their compositions with Antonín Dvořák’s is particularly apt since it was another African-American composer, Harry T. Burleigh, who introduced Dvořák to American folk songs and spirituals, which inspired his Ninth Symphony, From the New World.


Symphony orchestras often open the first concert of the season by performing the “Star Spangled Banner.” From the very first notes of our 2022-23 season, we offer a twist on that tradition – “Banner” by young Black composer Jessie Montgomery is an interpretive take on our national anthem through the lens of the African-American experience and musical heritage.

“Umoja” means “Unity” in Swahili and is one of the signature compositions of flutist, chamber music innovator, and composer Valerie Coleman. The Philadelphia Orchestra commissioned and premiered the symphonic version in 2019—the first classical work by a living African-American woman the orchestra had ever performed—and we are thrilled to bring it to our audiences.

The music of Florence Price (1887-1953), an African-American composer, pianist, and teacher, received renewed attention when many of her works were discovered in her abandoned summer home in 2009. While she has educated at the New England Conservatory of Music and was the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer and the first to have a composition played by a major symphony orchestra, her music did not receive mainstream attention and performance until relatively recently. “Ethiopia’s Shadow in America” was one of those compositions for orchestra discovered in 2009.

As we celebrate composers who infuse their musical heritage into classical music, Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) fits right in. He was one of the first Czech composers to receive worldwide recognition. He was known for his style that combined elements of humble folk music of his region with classical orchestral music. His Symphony No. 5 is a colorful and exciting work that will conclude the concert with a dramatic finish.

For more information, see www.fmsymphony.org or call the FMSO office at 701-478-3676.