Freedom Concert July 2017: A Review

Jessica Segers
Communications Intern

Having musicians come together from across the country for a performance is one of the greatest gifts of musical symphony.

On July 1st and 2nd, DC Strings Workshop was proud to perform their first ever “Freedom Concert” series with LA conductor and composer Ahmed Alabaca. Two riveting performances were presented at Sts. Monica St. James Episcopal Church and St. Columba’s Church in Washington, DC; celebrating the works of Beethoven, Britten and Dvorak.

Ahmed Albaca is an American conductor and composer born and raised in San Bernardino California. Albaca finished his BA in music from Hunter College and scored three plays and composed one musical during his time there. Now living in Los Angeles Albaca has scored a number of web series, television shows, short films, and concert music. Ahmed believes in the transformative power of music. Ahmed was proud to travel from Los Angeles to join with us to celebrate freedom and equality through some of his own works.

Many musicians from all around the DC area stepped up and came out to support and collaborate their talents making “Freedom Concert” a unique and transforming collaboration. This went hand in hand to the overall goal of the concert series which was to give musicians local and broad a platform to come together and collaborate.

As for myself and the rest of the DC Strings Workshop staff, the behind the scenes experience of the event was also very rewarding. Many preparations and advancements went into place before and during the events resulting in a great turn out and experience to not only the staff and members of the Orchestra but the audience and members of the DC community as well.

DC Strings future plans are to generate more opportunities throughout the DMV area for local musicians to come together. DC Strings staff and directors are working daily with supporters to make another great event happen in the near future.

“So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it and give it expressive meaning.” - Aaron Copland

Andrew Lee
Easter Sunday at Sts. Monica St. James

Strings and voices were heard during the Easter service at Sts. Monica and James Episcopal, a historic church in Northeast Washington, DC.  The DC Strings Workshop joined the church choir to perform beautiful sacred works by Mozart including the Laudate Dominum from his Vespers, the Allegro from the Kirchensonate in F Major, among other pieces, including hymns arranged by choir member Christopher Hoh.  DC Strings concertmaster, Raycurt Johnson soloed on Allegro by Mozart.  The concert was well-received by the congregation and choir who were happy for the string addition to the service.

 

Although perhaps not as well known for his religious works, many of Mozart’s Vespers and church sonatas are sublime and puts one in mind of his final opus, the Requieum, although the former pieces are much lighter in tone and mood.   Even without extended rehearsals, the pieces came together fairly quickly and helped to give a light classical touch to Easter 2017.

 

Somer Taylor
Chevalier de Sainte George

When Afro-French composer Chevalier died in 1799, he had accomplished a great deal. Not only was he an well respected musician, conductor and composer, but he was also an expert fencer and a regular in the court of King Louis XV.  Yet despite his accomplishments, he was not immune from racism.  He and his black mother had to register with the French government, as France was trying to limit the number of Africans moving to the country at that time.  He was also rejected for a conducting position with the Paris Opera due to his ethnicity.  In spite of this he continued to be a successful musician and a champion for Black freedom, helping to found French anti-slavery group.  Although the son of a White French aristocrat, he survived the French Revolution and continued to conduct toward the end of his life.

This hidden part of Black history was on display during the Black history month concert at the Nannie Helen Burroughs music school in Washington DC. Musicians from the DC Strings Workshop, along with other local musicians, performed Chevalier de Saint-Georges' String Quartet Opus 1, No. 1.  After a brief introduction to the piece by the schools head of the Ottley School of Music, Nevilla Ottley, DC Strings performed the piece and afterwards was greeted with applause. The piece came toward the end of an evening celebration of music by students of the music school, singing songs from various genres, from musicals to spirituals.  Hopefully, learning about and hearing music from one of the great hidden gems of classical music history, inspired the students to overcome obstacles to be great musicians themselves.

Somer Taylor