Johns Hopkins Gazette | February 23, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 23, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 23
HSO Concerts to Feature 'Songs of Harriet Tubman'

By Edie Stern
Hopkins Symphony Orchestra

The Hopkins Symphony Orchestra will celebrate the life of Harriet Tubman with two performances of a new song cycle, first with a free family concert on Saturday, Feb. 28, and then with a full performance on Sunday, March 1, both in Shriver Hall Auditorium on the Homewood campus.

Music director Jed Gaylin and the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra will welcome composer/narrator Nkeiru Okoye and soprano Kishna Davis to perform Okoye's Songs of Harriet Tubman, which follows Tubman's life from childhood slavery in Maryland to maturity as a liberator in the Underground Railroad. The concerts will also feature Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Symphony No. 2 Antar, which tells the legend of a pre-Islamic Arabian-Ethopian poet and adventurer.

The program will be given in excerpted form as HSO's 17th annual Free Concert for Children and Families, from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday. After that performance, the audience will be invited onstage to meet the musicians and see their instruments up close. The program will be performed in full at 3 p.m. on Sunday, with a pre-concert talk by Okoye at 2 p.m.

Former Morgan State University professor Okoye is one of the most-performed female African-American symphonic composers in the United States. Her music has been praised for its accessible style and the way it combines contemporary classical, African-American, popular music and West African influences. Songs of Harriet Tubman is one of many compositions in which she celebrates African-American women.

Baltimore Opera Competition winner Davis has won acclaim throughout the United States and Europe for her performances in opera, with orchestras and in solo recitals. The Columbia, Md., resident holds degrees from Morgan State University and the Juilliard School of Music. She recently premiered Songs of Harriet Tubman with the Western Piedmont Symphony in North Carolina.

Jed Gaylin, now in his 16th season as HSO music director, also directs the Bay-Atlantic Symphony and the Cape May Music Festival, both in New Jersey. He is principal guest conductor of the National Film and Radio Philharmonic in Beijing.

The Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, a program of the Johns Hopkins University, is the only community orchestra in Baltimore City. Each year, the HSO offers four symphonic and three chamber concerts, and a special children's concert. Orchestra members are Johns Hopkins students, alumni, faculty and staff, as well as talented Baltimore-Washington area musicians.

The Hopkins Symphony Orchestra is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council. An agency of the Department of Business & Economic Development, the council provides financial support and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. The Feb. 28 children's concert has special support from the Mayor of Baltimore and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts.

Featured in other upcoming 2008-2009 season concerts are the winners of the 2008-2009 Johns Hopkins Concerto Competition, Philip Wolf playing the Saint-Saens Cello Concerto and Mengyu Lan playing the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1, Saturday, April 4; and Brahms' Symphony No. 4 and Sanchez-Gutierrez's Ex Machina for Piano, Marimba and Symphony Orchestra, featuring pianist Cristina Valdes and marimbist Makoto Nakura, Sunday, April 26.

Admission to the Feb. 28 children's concert is free for everyone; no tickets are needed. Admission to the March 1 concert is free for Johns Hopkins students. Tickets are $8 for other students, seniors (60+) and Johns Hopkins affiliates. General admission is $10.

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