14:45 PM

Legendary American composers tell stories through music: Apollo Chamber Players

At first glance, the names Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery and Adolphus Hailstork might not mean much. But their contributions as classical music composers are profound, and the Apollo Chamber Players will be showcasing their work at their upcoming performance, entitled “American Legends,” at University of Houston-Clear Lake's Bayou Theater on May 7 at 7:30 p.m.

“Our view of American legends is diverse and expansive,” said Apollo Chamber Players Artistic and Executive Director Matthew Detrick. “All these composers are African Americans and we are interested in showing how composers are inspired by their cultural elements and their own cultural identity. We feel classical music must diversify and evolve to stay alive.”

He explained that Florence Price was a 20th century composer who was the first female composer of color to have her work performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. “That was back in 1935, but she was largely forgotten after her death in 1953. We found a manuscript of one of her quartets, inspired by different spirituals and performed it. It’s called ‘Five Folk Songs in Counterpoint,’ and now it’s being played in orchestras around the world.”

He said Jessie Montgomery was a composer currently making waves with innovative music as the composer-in-residence for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and that the Apollo Chamber had commissioned Adolphus Hailstork to composed the piece to be performed, which was inspired by the spiritual, “Deep River.”

The Players will also be performing a quartet they commissioned from multi-Grammy-winning composer Jennifer Higdon, one of the most-performed living female composers, called “In the Shadow of the Mountain.”

“All these composers are legends in classical music,” Detrick said. “Every composer has a story to tell. The way we commission composers is story telling through culture and heritage. It’s very special. They’re all Americans, and they are all telling an American story.”

For more information about the Bayou Theater, or to purchase tickets, go online.