7:30 pm — 9:30 pm
Knowles Memorial Chapel
1000 Holt Ave

Winter Park , FL 32789 United States
$25 - $65
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African American Masterpieces: Symphonic Spirituals

William L. Dawson | Negro Folk Symphony
William Grant Still | And They Lynched Him on a Tree
Nathaniel Dett | The Ordering of Moses

Bethune Cookman University Concert Chorale

Coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Bach Festival Society and Bethune Cookman University Concert Chorale present a program of provocative and passionate works by three of the 20th century’s most important African-American composers-William L. Dawson, William Grant Still, and R. Nathaniel Dett.  These composers fought for their own ability to create lasting works that recorded their experiences and those of their fellow African Americans.

This program will feature the Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra, the Bethune Cookman Concert Chorale, soprano Othalie Graham, mezzo soprano Krysty Swann, tenor Samuel McKelton and bass-baritone Kevin Deas, under the direction of conductor, Dr. John Sinclair.


Orlando Magazine | “African American Composers: Striking a Chord”
Orlando Arts Magazine | “A Dream for All Time”
Orlando Sentinel | Central Florida 100, Rudolph C. Cleare 4/15/2018
Creative City Project | Rehearsal Video (Facebook)

William L. Dawson (1886-1970) Negro Folk Symphony

Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony was completed in 1932 and premiered by Leopold Stokowski in Philadelphia in November 1934. This marvelous and neglected symphony was later revised in 1952 after a visit by the composer to West Africa. The symphony has three striking movements.

Dawson was a composer, performer, and music educator who used the rich vitality of his musical heritage as a basis for all types of music, including arrangements of folk songs and original compositions. Starting his education at Tuskegee Institute at age 13, he went on to receive his master of music degree from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. He became the director of music at Tuskegee Institute, and among his other accomplishments, under the sponsorship of the President of the United States and the State Department, the Tuskegee Choir made a concert tour of international and interracial good will to the British Isles, Europe, and the former U.S.S.R. Leading critics in America and abroad praised the choir highly.

William Grant Still (1895-1978) And They Lynched Him on a Tree

Still’s And They Lynched Him on a Tree (1940), an oratorio for male speaker, mezzo-soprano soloist, chorus, and orchestra – was premiered by the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Artur Rodzinski at Lewisohn Stadium in New York. The performance was attended by an array of important people, including a Supreme Court justice, one of New York’s senators, the Secretary of the Interior, Eleanor Roosevelt, and other dignitaries. The piece was then conducted by Leopold Stokowski with the NBC Symphony.

Still was the first African-American composer with a major career, the first to have an opera performed by a major company, the first to have a work performed by a major orchestra, and the first African-American to conduct a major orchestra.

Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) The Ordering of Moses

Dett’s The Ordering of Moses was commissioned by the May Festival Chorus in 1937 and premiered by the Chorus and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra that same year. The premiere was broadcast live on NBC, but the network cut the program short. Although no official reason was given, it’s alleged that the network caved to complaints about airing Black music. During his lifetime, he was a leading Black composer, known for his use of African-American folk songs and spirituals as the basis for choral and piano compositions in the 19th century Romantic style of classical music. He was among the first Black composers during the early years of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Dett used African-American spirituals and folk music in his composition. He took Dvořák’s admonition that a composer should look to their own culture for inspiration to heart. [


John V.Sinclair | Artistic Director and Conductor

Sponsored by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture

John V. Sinclair, conductor
Dr. John V. Sinclair is celebrating his 25th season as Artistic Director and Conductor of the renowned Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. He serves as Chair of the Department of Music and is the John M. Tiedtke Professor of Music at Rollins College. He also conducts the Moravian Music Festivals and has conducted for The Berkshire Choral Festival.

Dr. Sinclair earned his undergraduate degree from William Jewell College and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. During the past twenty years, he has made over one thousand appearances as conductor, clinician, or lecturer throughout the U.S. and in many foreign countries.

Dr. Sinclair is also a conductor of the Candlelight Processional at EPCOT and has conducted recordings for Warner Brothers, Walt Disney Corporation, Moravian Music Foundation, and numerous Bach Festival events.

A master teacher, Dr. Sinclair has received many awards while at Rollins College, including the Hugh F. McKean Teaching Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, Distinguished Service Award, and the Arthur Vining Davis Fellowship. For two consecutive years he was named “Outstanding Music Educator of the Year” by United Arts of Central Florida, and Florida International Magazine selected him as one of its “Power Players in the Arts.” In 2013, his Alma Mater, William Jewell College, honored him with a prestigious Citation for Achievement.

Terrance Lane, Bethune-Cookman University Concert Chorale Director

Terrance Lane is the Director of Choral Studies at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. As a music educator, Mr. Lane has spent the last fifteen years teaching choral music, piano instruction, and music theory, and he is a Co-Director of Opera Workshop/Music Theater. Mr. Lane earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, followed by graduate studies in Piano Pedagogy and Choral Music at Florida State University. Mr. Lane has also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Phoenix. He is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership.
Mr. Lane received the Young Artist Award and the Frances Walker Performance Award in the Tourgee DeBose Piano Competition. He has collaborated with world-renowned artists including Curtis Rayam, Norm Lewis, Richard Smallwood, Kurt Carr, and Byron Cage.
During the course of his career, Mr. Lane served as Minister of Music for several churches and denominations, developing his knowledge and increasing his experience of an expanded repertoire of musical genres. From 2009 to 2013 Mr. Lane conducted a professional choral ensemble that represented the Dr. Phillip’s Center for the Performing Arts. Additionally, Mr. Lane has served as vocal coach and music director for several productions, including Treemonisha, Porgy and Bess, Black Bird (the story of Josephine Baker), Lady Day, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, and How Sweet the Sound.

Bethune-Cookman University Concert Chorale

Sponsored by a generous gift from the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation
The Bethune-Cookman University Concert Chorale is comprised of 50 undergraduate students. Many are music majors while others are working towards degrees in other fields. The ensemble performs a wide range of choral literature including repertoire from the past five centuries along with Negro Spirituals and Music of African American Composers.

University founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, organized Bethune-Cookman College’s first choral ensemble in 1904. The group’s primary function was to assist in raising funds for the developing college. In 1943, Alzeda Crockett Hacker became the choir’s first faculty-led director and was known for her commitment to musical excellence. Subsequent long tenured directors of the Chorale have included Thomas D. Demps, an alumnus of Bethune-Cookman and Dr. Rebecca W. Steele, who led numerous world-wide tours and helped established the group’s reputation as one of the nation’s premier HBCU Concert Choirs and to earn the designation “The Ambassadors of Goodwill.”

The Chorale has performed at Carnegie Hall, the White House, the 105th Congress, and with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in a concert version of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Tours around the world include Israel, Cuba, Colombia and other South American countries. The Choral has recorded several albums, and the latest project, Hold Fast to Dreams, under the direction of Damon Dandridge, will be released this year on Curb Records. Recently, the Chorale was named the 2017 Best Choir by HBCU Digest.

Othalie Graham, soprano

Sponsored by a generous gift from The Rev. and Mrs. Eric Ravndal, III
Canadian-American soprano Othalie Graham continues to receive critical acclaim throughout North America and is widely known for her interpretations of the title roles in Turandot and Aida and her commitment to Wagnerian repertoire. Concert engagements include a New York recital debut with the Liederkranz Society, Elijah with Bryn Terfel and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with the Washington National Chorus at the Kennedy Center.

Ms. Graham has recently been included on the Brampton Arts Walk of Fame in her hometown of Brampton, Ontario, honoring those who have achieved excellence in the arts and entertainment industry. She previously was the first-place winner of the Joyce Dutka Competition, a recipient of a Sullivan Foundation Grant, a first-place winner in the Wagner Division of the Liederkranz Competition, winner of the Jean Chalmers prize in the Canadian Music Competition, and first-place recipient of the Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques competition.

Upcoming performances include appearances in the final season of Music Director Leonard Slatkin’s tenure with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and a Gala with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra celebrating the 90th birthday of Leontyne Price with works by Strauss, Verdi, and Barber.

Recent concert highlights include all-Wagner programs in Mexico City, Lima, Peru, and with the Washington Chorus at the Kennedy Center; Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Philadelphia Orchestra; the Verdi Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Mississippi Symphony Orchestra; Serena in Porgy and Bess in concert with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and Jacksonville Symphony; Isolde in Tristan und Isolde in Zagreb, Croatia, and with the Washington National Chorus at the Kennedy Center; and the Britten War Requiem with the Fondazione Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi.

Additional appearances have included the Sarasota Opera, the Istanbul International Opera Festival, Utah Festival Opera, and the title role in Elektra at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts.

Krysty Swann, mezzo-soprano

Sponsored by a generous gift from Kathy and Tom Cardwell
Renowned young mezzo-soprano Krysty Swann has been hailed for her beautiful, rich voice, as well as her captivating presence on stage. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Detroit, Krysty arrived in New York City to pursue her professional career and was shortly thereafter featured on the cover of Opera News with the great Dolora Zajick. Her 2016 engagements included Mozart’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall and Verdi’s Requiem at Lincoln Center. In previous seasons, she made her concert debut in South Africa with the acclaimed KZN Philharmonic under the baton of Daniel Boico. She has appeared as soloist in Handel’s Messiah with the Rochester Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Ms. Swann is a winner of the 2013 Marcello Giordani International Vocal Competition in Italy and the Intermezzo Foundation Award (Elardo International Opera Competition), as well as being a two-­time winner of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant (New York City Opera and Manhattan School of Music). Ms. Swann has also taken part in a number of educational programs with New York City Opera. In addition, the singer has been a guest at the Michigan Opera Theater and the International Vocal Arts Institute in Israel.

Samuel McKelton, tenor

Sponsored by Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs
Sam McKelton, whose lyric tenor led the New York Times to proclaim him “a model Mozart tenor,” has traveled throughout the world delighting audiences in both the classical and pop genres.

Mr. McKelton has appeared with many major symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles and traveled the world with superstar Harry Belafonte, with whom he was featured in the 1997 PBS Special, Harry Belafonte and Friends. He starred in an off-Broadway revival of the Broadway and London hit musical Five Guys Named Moe and was an original Broadway cast member of the Tony Award–winning Disney musical The Lion King.

A native of Detroit, Mr. McKelton continues to give concerts around the country and make appearances on behalf of the Negro Spiritual Scholarship Foundation as one of the organization’s Honorary Lifetime Members. He is a member of the famed American Spiritual Ensemble, and he frequently appears as a guest artist and clinician for master classes at schools and universities across the U.S. Mr. McKelton recently sang the world premiere of Adolphus Hailstork’s opera Robeson, and he participated in the production of Anthony Davis’ new work Five, which was based on the Central Park Five case. He has been on two cultural exchange missions to Bolivia and Ecuador on behalf of the U.S. State Department. In the fall of 2015 Mr. McKelton joined the voice faculty at NYU-Tisch School of the Arts as Adjunct Professor of Voice.

Kevin Deas, bass

Sponsored by a generous gift from the Michael John Kakos and Aimee Rusinko Kakos Foundation
Kevin Deas has gained international renown as one of America’s leading bass-baritones. He
is perhaps most acclaimed for his signature portrayal of the title role in Porgy and Bess, having performed it with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony, and the symphonies of Atlanta, Baltimore, Calgary, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Montreal, San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver. This season he is soloist in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with VoxAmaDeus, Mozart’s Requiem with Boston Baroque, Handel’s Messiah at the National Cathedral, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church (NYC), and sings the title role in Porgy and Bess with Duisberg Philharmoniker.
Mr. Deas has recorded Wagner’s Die Meistersinger with the Chicago Symphony and Varèse’s Ecuatorial with the ASKO Ensemble.
Other releases include Bach’s Mass in B Minor; Dave Brubeck’s To Hope! with the Cathedral Choral Society; and Haydn’s Die Schöpfung with the Virginia Symphony and Boston Baroque. His twenty-year collaboration with the late jazz legend Dave Brubeck has taken him to Salzburg, Vienna, and Moscow in To Hope! and he performed Brubeck’s Gates of Justice in a gala performance in New York. Engagements during the 2016-17 season included Handel’s Messiah with the Houston Symphony and National Cathedral; Verdi’s Requiem with the Virginia Symphony, Puccini’s Messa di Gloria with the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the Buffalo Philharmonic, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with the Jacksonville Symphony, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with Baltimore Choral Arts Society, The Trumpet Shall Sound with the PostClassical Ensemble (for whom he is Artist in Residence), and Rachmaninoff’s The Bells with SUNY Potsdam. A strong proponent of contemporary music, he has performed the world premieres of Derek Bermel’s The Good Life with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Hannibal Lokumbe’s Dear Mrs. Parks with the Detroit Symphony. This is Mr. Deas’ fifteenth appearance with the Bach Festival Society.


April 21
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
$25 - $65
Event Category:


About 2 Hours