New Jersey Youth Symphony presents works by African American women composers at Princeton University

The New Jersey Youth SymphonySUBMITTED PHOTO
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The New Jersey Youth SymphonySUBMITTED PHOTO

The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) will present a concert focused on women composers featuring five of its ensembles on  Jan. 26 in Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium.

The concert on Sunday will begin at 4 p.m. at the auditorium that is located at 68 Nassau St.

The NJYS’ youth symphony will be led by Helen H. Cha-Pyo, and the youth orchestra will be led by Simon Lipskar. The Fortissimo Flutes will be led by Diana Charos-Reilly, and the CL4tet and Clarinet Ensemble will be led by Bryan Rudderow, who will perform works by Yvonne Desportes and Ann Holler, as well as Julia Perry’s “Short Piece for Large Orchestra” and Florence Price’s “Symphony No. 3 in C minor.”

The concert will also include classical masterworks by Beethoven, Haydn and Verdi. Tickets are $20 per adult and $15 per senior and students. They are available online at www.NJYS.org, or by calling 908-771-5544.

“I am thrilled to present works by two important African American women composers, Florence Price and Julia Perry,” Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Helen H. Cha-Pyo said. “These award-winning composers’ works were performed by the Chicago Symphony and New York Philharmonic in the 1930s and 1960s respectively, and they are now regaining the recognition they deserve after a long period of absence from concert halls. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning these scores for the first time, and the youth symphony and I are excited to perform their music at our concert in Princeton.”

A native of Kentucky, composer and conductor Julia Perry studied at Westminster Choir College and Juilliard, as well as with Luigi Dallapiccola at Tanglewood and in Italy and with Nadia Boulanger in France, winning the Boulanger Grand Prix for her Viola Sonata.

Her compositions, often incorporating influences from black spirituals, include a dozen symphonies, two piano concertos, a ballet and three operas, often writing her own libretto.

Most of her works have been neglected, although her “Short Piece for Large Orchestra” was recorded in a live performance by the New York Philharmonic under William Steinberg in 1965.

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1887, Florence Price received early training on the piano from her mother, a music teacher.

Price went on to attend the New England Conservatory, one of few higher musical institutions accepting African American students at the time, where she studied composition and counterpoint with George Chadwick and Frederick Converse.

She graduated in 1906 with both an artistic diploma in organ and a teaching certificate. After years teaching music privately and serving as the head of the music department at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Price returned to Little Rock, then moved to Chicago.

Frederick Stock, music director of the Chicago Symphony, became a supporter of her music and subsequently programmed her first symphony. Price became the first African American woman to have a work performed by a major U.S. orchestra when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed it in 1933.

Though a prolific composer, she did not gain widespread recognition and many of her works, including two violin concertos, could have vanished if not uncovered during the renovation of her abandoned home. The discovery of dozens of scores in an Illinois attic in 2009 led to renewed interest in her music, including performances and recordings, with critical acclaim.