William Grant Still: Symphony No.1 (Afro-American)
Duke Ellington: A tone parallel to Harlem (Harlem Suite)
Henry Gilbert: The Dance in Place Congo
And Nu Civilisation play their own tribute to the Duke of Jazz
Hidden amongst the many stories of the early 20th century are the voices of those fighting for black emancipation in the USA.
Of these, William Grant Still is one of the most intriguing. A student of arch-modernist emigré composer Edgard Varèse, he worked as an orchestrator for radio shows and Broadway musicals.
In the 'Afro-American', the first of his five symphonies, Still sought a subtle form of valorisation by combining orchestral tradition with the blues - an authentic form of black expression which didn't, as he put it 'exhibit the influence of Caucasian music'.
Later, in the radically transformed post-war era of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement, Duke Ellington's 'A Tone Parallel to Harlem' takes us on a leisurely walk through the district's Sunday morning finery. He introduces us to 'a real hip chick' and a funeral procession where, Ellington remarked drolly, 'you may recognise the passage of those who are making our Civil Rights demands'.
This groundbreaking composition ushered in a new era both politically and technologically - it appeared on one of the first LP records pioneered by Columbia.
Free Pre-concert Talk
The blues and its influence
Sunday 24 March, 6.15pm
From its origins as the spirituals and work songs of the African American communities from "Deep South" United States, the blues has provided an important foundation for modern Western music.
Jazz expert Dr Catherine Tackley from The Open University will be joined by musicians from Dune Music and Tomorrow's Warriors to give an introduction to the blues and how it influenced the music of William Grant Still and Duke Ellington.
The Front Room at Queen Elizabeth HallPerformers
BBC Concert Orchestra
Nu Civilisation Orchestra
Keith Lockhart conductor