Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy Festival - 2009


Citywide Festival Features More Than 20 Events Celebrating African American Culture with Wide Array of Performances and Panel Discussions at
Carnegie Hall, Apollo Theater, and Venues throughout New York City

Concerts Honor Pioneers Marian Anderson, Duke Ellington, and Others;
Additional Highlights Include a Weekend Devoted to the Spiritual and Gospel Music and
the World Premiere of Ask Your Mama! Based on Langston Hughes’ Poem

Programs Feature Jessye Norman, Geri Allen, Terence Blanchard, Dee Dee Bridgewater,
Angela M. Brown, Shirley Caesar, James Carter, Ron Carter, Ray Chew,
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harlem Quartet, Gwen Ifill, Imani Winds, Arthur Mitchell,
Toni Morrison, Eric Owens, Toshi Reagon, The Roots, Daniel Bernard Roumain,
George Shirley, Richard Smallwood, Anna Deavere Smith, Esperanza Spalding,
Russell Thomas, James “Blood” Ulmer, Cornel West, Lizz Wright, and Many More

Six Free Neighborhood Concerts, Carnegie Hall’s National High School Choral Festival, and a Curriculum on African American Song for New York City Middle School Students
Comprise Festival’s Education and Community Programs,
All Presented by The Weill Music Institute

(NEW YORK, NY)—Carnegie Hall will present Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy, a festival saluting the enduring vitality, influence, and creativity of African American culture, curated by internationally renowned soprano Jessye Norman, from Wednesday, March 4 through Monday, March 23, 2009.

With a diverse array of more than 20 events—including concerts, panel discussions, and educational events at venues throughout New York City, such as Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Harlem Stage, the Langston Hughes Community Library & Cultural Center, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and the Schomburg Center—Honor! celebrates African American music and its influence worldwide, with programs paying tribute to pioneering artists. The festival will provide a citywide showcase for African American music in its many genres: classical, gospel, the Spiritual, contemporary popular music, blues, and jazz.

The festival is bookended by two special programs at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage featuring contemporary musicians honoring the great African American artists of the past. Honor! launches on Wednesday, March 4 with Honor: Blues, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Soul and Beyond, an event at which some of today’s musical innovators will gather in tribute to the great African American popular music artists of the past. Under the musical direction of Ray Chew, featured artists for this program include: pianist Geri Allen, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, bassist Ron Carter, and saxophonist James Carter from the world of jazz; blues vocalists/guitarists James “Blood” Ulmer and Toshi Reagon; R&B and soul vocalists Freddie Jackson, Leela James, Kem, and Ryan Shaw; with other artists to be announced. The festival concludes with Honor: The Voice on Monday, March 23, a program that brings together acclaimed African American classical singers to pay tribute to icons who paved the way for succeeding generations. Featured singers include sopranos Harolyn Blackwell, Angela M. Brown, and Nicole Cabell; baritone Gregg Baker; bass-baritone Eric Owens; and bass Kevin Maynor.

As part of Honor!, festival curator Jessye Norman will perform Sacred Ellington at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Saturday, March 7—a program that features excerpts from Duke Ellington’s magnificent Three Sacred Concerts. Miss Norman will also perform the world premiere of composer Laura Karpman’s Ask Your Mama! on Monday, March 16 at Carnegie Hall along with jazz vocalist Lizz Wright, hip-hop group The Roots and conductor George Manahan leading the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in a multimedia concert presentation based on the epic poem cycle by Langston Hughes.

Festival partner the Apollo Theater hosts a weekend devoted to the Spiritual and gospel music beginning on Saturday, March 21 with a panel discussion exploring the historical, political, and musical issues associated with these musical genres. Participants include Derrick Bell, Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, Portia Maultsby, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Chapman Roberts, and Olly Wilson. On Sunday, March 22, a concert at the Apollo Theater traces the development of the Spiritual from its African roots in a joyous program that brings together vocalists Shirley Caesar and Richard Smallwood, the Abyssinian Baptist Church Cathedral Choir, Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Choir, and Vy Higginsen's Gospel for Teens with other artists to be announced. Celebrating its 75th Anniversary season in 2009, the iconic Apollo Theater has been a driving force shaping America’s cultural and musical landscape, launching the careers of gospel greats like Clara Ward, the Staple Sisters, and Sam Cooke’s Soul Stirrers. As legends like these graced its stage, the Harlem theater became a catalyst for broadening the audience of Spiritual music, and sparked the development of the many genres that grew out of the gospel tradition.

A trio of panel discussions on Sunday, March 8at Zankel Hall—all featuring performances—focus on various aspects of the African American cultural experience, including insights from such luminaries as Michael Eric Dyson, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Gwen Ifill, Judith Jamison, Arthur Mitchell, Toni Morrison, George Shirley, Anna Deavere Smith, Shirley Verrett, and Cornel West; performances at these panels will be given by baritone Robert Sims, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Imani Winds performing a new work from African American composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, Five Chairs and One Table, commissioned by Carnegie Hall and featuring brief musical portraits of Jessye Norman, Odetta, Miriam Makeba, and the daughters of President Obama and Michelle Obama, Malia and Sasha.

Other festival highlights include an interview with Arthur Mitchell, founding Artistic Director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, as well as a panel discussion on this iconic institution (Thursday, March 12) and a concert of Spirituals (Saturday, March 21), all at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; a Carnegie Hall concert by The Philadelphia Orchestra and Chief Conductor Charles Dutoit featuring bass-baritone Eric Owens performing Mahler in tribute to the great soprano Marian Anderson as well as a performance of African American composer George Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work Lilacs with tenor Russell Thomas (Tuesday, March 17); and an evening with jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater in Zankel Hall (Wednesday, March 18).

Education and community programs presented by The Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall are an integral part of Honor!. A series of free Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concerts will bring exciting music to venues throughout the city with performances offered at CUNY Graduate Center, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harlem Stage, and Apollo Theater’s Soundstage, all in Manhattan; Brooklyn’s Kingsborough Community College; and the Langston Hughes Community Library & Cultural Center of the Queens Library. A free interactive Carnegie Hall Community Sing at the Apollo Theater Soundstage on Friday, March 13 invites vocalists of all ages and levels to make music together with host Vy Higginsen and the Gospel for Teens Choir.

Carnegie Hall’s National High School Choral Festival is presented this season as part of Honor! with four select high school choirs from around the country performing Sir Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time on Friday, March 20. Soloists at this concert include soprano Angela M. Brown, contralto Meredith Arwady, tenor Russell Thomas, and bass Morris Robinson. Tippett’s thought-provoking oratorio, written during World War II, uses the Spiritual in much the same way that Bach employed the chorale in his choral masterworks. Also in support of Honor!, The Weill Music Institute’s Perelman American Roots program for middle school students offers a specially created curriculum drawing connections between African American music and US history.

Throughout the month of March, Carnegie Hall’s Rose Museum will participate in the Honor! festival with a special exhibit entitled The African American Experience at Carnegie Hall. Through items on display from the Carnegie Hall Archives, the New York Library for the Performing Arts, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Columbia University, and Howard University, visitors will have the chance to explore the fascinating history of African American artists and political and social figures who have appeared at Carnegie Hall throughout its 118-year history.

Also in conjunction with Honor!, on January 16, Carnegie Hall launches a revised website, carnegiehall.org/honor, to serve as the online companion to the festival. The site will offer the most up-to-date information about Honor! events, pay tribute to the hundreds of legendary African American performers who have appeared on Carnegie Hall’s stages throughout its history, and provide historical context to the festival’s programming via an interactive timeline (launching later in the month) curated by Professor Portia Maultsby of Indiana University.

Released in conjunction with the festival is LIFT EVERY VOICE!, a two-CD, 21-track musical retrospective, part of the Carnegie Hall/Sony Masterworks series of recordings. The set features historic live performance and studio recordings from an array of great African American artists, all of whom have performed at Carnegie Hall and contributed to the rich cultural legacy in the history of music, including Marian Anderson, Kathleen Battle, Harry Belafonte, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Mahalia Jackson, Wynton Marsalis, Jessye Norman, Bill Withers, Luther Vandross, and more. The audio project, which will be available on February 17, offers a diverse cross-section of musical genres, spanning gospel to swing, classical to contemporary, Spiritual to jazz—complementing the Honor! festival’s programming.

Carnegie Hall has a long, storied history of featuring the greatest African American artists on its stages, from classical trailblazers to jazz pioneers to R&B and popular music icons. Maintaining an open-door policy since its inception—soprano Sissieretta Jones performed in June 1892, one year after the hall opened—Carnegie Hall has been the site for groundbreaking concerts by numerous African American musicians. These history-making events include Marian Anderson’s 1928 debut—more than ten years before being notoriously barred from singing at Washington D.C.’s Constitution Hall—as well as producer John Hammond’s famous 1938 “From Spirituals to Swing” program, a veritable cornucopia of African American styles and performers, and the Kool Jazz Festival’s (now JVC Jazz Festival) “Young Lions” debuts of Wynton Marsalis and Bobby McFerrin in 1982. The very evolution of jazz itself can be traced through Carnegie Hall programs—from James Reese Europe and his Clef Club Orchestra (1912) to W.C. Handy and Fats Waller (‘28) to Benny Goodman’s integrated orchestra (‘38) on through Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown & Beige premiere (‘43), Miles Davis’s Carnegie Hall debut in the year of the “Birth of the Cool” (’49), and John Coltrane jamming with Thelonious Monk (’57). Today’s popular music stars continue to build upon this historic legacy, with performances in the past decade by Wyclef Jean, Mary J. Blige, and Mos Def, among many others.

For a complete list of performances, times & dates, please visit the Carnegie Hall Announces website by clicking here!


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