New Haven Celebrates Black American Composers Helen Hagan, Florence Price & Margaret Bonds May 3 – 12

Tuesday • May 2, 2023

New Haven Celebrates Black American Women Composers At New Haven Symphony Orchestra Concert Friday, May 12 At Southern CT State University

 Concert Includes Music by Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Quinn Mason & Helen Hagan

 Program to Feature World Premiere of New Orchestration of Helen Hagan’s First Piano Concerto

In 1912, New Haven resident Helen Eugenia Hagan – the first Black woman to earn a degree from Yale School of Music – took the stage with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra (NHSO) to premiere her Piano Concerto. 111 years later, New Haven audiences will once again have the opportunity to experience Helen Hagan’s music live in a concert hall with the New Haven Symphony.

On Friday, May 12 at 7:30p.m. at the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts at Southern Connecticut State University, music director Alasdair Neale will lead the NHSO in a new orchestration of the first movement of Hagan’s Concerto, with guest soloist Michelle Cann at the piano. Cann will also perform Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement. The program will be rounded out by Margaret Bonds’s Montgomery Variations ­– a piece dedicated to the Civil Rights marches in Montgomery, Alabama – and contemporary composer Quinn Mason’s A Joyous Trilogy.

Music Director Alasdair Neale says, “The program unites past and present in a celebration of Black composers, and in particular spotlights the achievement of three remarkable women who blazed a trail in music history.”

Lauded as “technically fearless with…an enormous, rich sound” (La Scena Musicale), pianist Michelle Cann made her orchestral debut at age fourteen and has since performed as a soloist with prominent orchestras such as the Atlanta and Cincinnati symphony orchestras, The Cleveland Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony, and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Ms. Cann was the featured soloist on the 2023 Grammy-Award winning album Works by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, and Valerie Coleman with the New York Youth Symphony.  She is the recipient of the 2022 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, the highest honor bestowed by the Sphinx Organization, and the 2022 Andrew Wolf Chamber Music Award. Ms. Cann studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Curtis Institute of Music, where she serves on the piano faculty as the inaugural Eleanor Sokoloff Chair in Piano Studies.

Tickets: Tickets start at $15. Tickets for youth 17 and under are free with the purchase of an adult ticket. To purchase tickets, visit or call (203) 693-1486 Monday-Friday from 12-5pm.

Exceptional composer, pianist, and teacher Helen Hagan premiered her stirring Piano Concerto with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra in 1912. In that same year, she became the first Black woman to graduate from Yale when she received a degree from the Yale School of Music. She went on to an international solo performance career (including service as a performer entertaining troops in WWI), establishing a teaching studio in Morristown, numerous “firsts” as a concert performer in New York City, and leadership roles in the music departments at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College and Bishop College. Hagan grew up in New Haven; her family attended the historic Dixwell Congregational Church and she attended New Haven High School, which at the time was located immediately adjacent to Yale’s campus. She began her studies at Yale School of Music while she was still in high school.

The NHSO will celebrate the life and legacy of Helen Hagan, as well as Florence Price and Margaret Bonds, at free events around New Haven in the weeks leading up to the May 12 concert:

Wednesday, May 3 • 6:00 p.m. • Stetson Branch of the New Haven Free Public Library

Soprano and scholar Dr. Lisa Williamson partners with New Haven Symphony Orchestra musicians and Harmony FellowsTiffany Wee, Marika Basagoitia, Jennifer Quián-López, Rebecca Patterson, and William Braun to perform and discuss Price’s String Quartet No. 2, Bonds’s vocal music, and Hagan’s newly discovered song titled “Eternity.”

Saturday, May 6 • 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. • BLOOM (794 Edgewood Avenue, New Haven)

Curated by ala ochumare and presented in partnership with BLOOM, the NAACP of New Haven, and Alpha Kappa Alpha, this gathering of networking, music, food and conversation will celebrate the life and legacy of New Haven’s own historic musical icon, Helen Eugenia Hagan. The musical presentation from the May 3 event at Stetson Library will be repeated as part of this program.

Sunday, May 7 • 11:00 a.m. • Dixwell Congregational Church (217 Dixwell Avenue, New Haven)

Dr. Williamson & the NHSO Harmony Quartet offer an abbreviated program of music by Price, Bonds and Hagan works as the sermon for the Sunday service at Dixwell Congregational Church, where Helen Hagan served as organist when she was a young girl.

These events are sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, Oracle, Southern CT State University, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, CT Humanities, Yale University Office of New Haven Affairs, NAACP, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Chamber Insurance Trust, Frontier, New Haven Register, and Inner City News.

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