In its most-worthy quest to champion African-American classical musicians, composers and music, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra celebrated 40 years of hosting Classical Roots Concerts at an elegant Orchestra Hall event on Saturday night. The evening raised more than $330,000, the most that has ever been raised at this event. This year’s co-chairs are Janice Cosby and Therese Peace Agboh.
The festivities began with a cocktail reception and seated dinner — a duo entrée of braised beef short ribs and pan-seared salmon. Dinner was followed by a brief program and the concert, which featured a breathtaking performance from “Scenes from the Live of a Martyr,” (to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.) by a 100-plus voice choir called the 40th Anniversary Celebration Choir. This special choir was assembled by Norah Duncan IV, combining members of the Brazeal Dennard Chorale, Detroit Choral Society and choirs from Wayne State University and the Detroit School of Arts.
In addition to increasing the awareness of the contributions African-American composers and musicians have made to classical music, the 40th annual Classical Roots celebration honored pioneering tenor and native Detroiter George Shirley and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation President Earl Lewis, a visionary academic leader.
Guests artists included Josua Williams on horn, soprano Janice Chandler-Eteme, mezzo soprano Olivia Johnson, tenor Issachah Savage and Shirley as narrator. The evening’s conductor was the very gifted Joseph Young.
After the concert, guests retired to the William Davidson Atrium and the Peter and Julie Cummings Cube for dessert and dancing to the music of Notorious. Tickets to the 40th Annual Classical Roots Concert were $85 to $750. Proceeds will provide increased opportunities for African-Americans in classical music and support the DSO’s music development programs, including the African-American Orchestra Fellowship and African-American Composer Residency.