NHSO’s Week-Long Festival Celebrates Black Voices of the Harlem Renaissance April 6-14

Tuesday • March 19, 2024

The New Haven Symphony Orchestra (NHSO) will present “Renaissance Rhythms: From Harlem to New Haven,” a week of programs spanning the week of April 6- 14, which explore the artistic outpouring of music, theatre, and writing that flourished in both the Harlem Renaissance and New Haven’s Renaissance during the same era.

The week will culminate with the concert “Harlem Renaissance: Orchestral Voices,” on Saturday, April 13 at 3:00 p.m. at the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts at Southern CT State University and Sunday, April 14 at 3:00 p.m. at Shelton Intermediate School. Led by NHSO Principal Pops Conductor Chelsea Tipton, II, the NHSO will perform orchestral works of the Harlem Renaissance by Black composers Duke Ellington, William Grant Still, Margaret Bonds, and James P. Johnson, along with a work by contemporary Black composer, Carlos Simon, showing the Renaissance’s enduring influence on the music of today.

At the center of the program will be James P. Johnson’s piano solo, Yamekraw, a Negro Rhapsody, written in response to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. It will be performed by New Haven native Christian Sands, who has five Grammy Award nominations under his belt, including best Latin jazz piano solo. Wynton Marsalis named him a “jazz star of the future,” and Sands spent six years as the pianist in Christian McBride’s trio and Inside Straight Quartet. Sands’ stylistic range includes stride piano, swing, be-bop, progressive jazz, fusion, Brazilian and Afro-Cuban. In 2016, he was signed to the prestigious Mack Avenue Records label. His debut CD, “REACH,” was released in 2017, holding down the No. 1 spot on Billboard magazine’s Jazz Albums Chart for four weeks. This young Steinway Artist is taking his place as a leader and an emerging jazz force.

The orchestra will also be joined by soprano soloist Dr. Lisa Williamson for Margaret Bonds’ I Got a Home in that Rock and You Can Tell the World. Described by the Washington Post as “silvery of voice” and “a showstopper” for her recent performances with Washington National Opera as The Rose in The Little Prince and The Flamingo in the world premiere of Jeanine Tesori’s The Lion, the Unicorn and Me, soprano Lisa Williamson is a versatile singer who has forged a diverse career that has taken her around the world from Muscat, Oman to the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall to the Indianapolis Brickyard.

Created in collaboration with New Haven leaders, activists, artists, and community centers, the New Haven Symphony will celebrate the vibrancy and social impact of the Harlem and New Haven Renaissances with this series of free events around New Haven:

Saturday, April 6 • 6pm • The Bricks (12 Victor Street Hamden, CT)
This gathering will feature panel discussions on the history of the Harlem Renaissance, the historic New Haven Jazz Era, and the current cultural Renaissance emerging in New Haven today. A selection of musical performances will pay homage to legacy New Haven artists. Registration strongly recommended.

Wednesday, April 10 • 6pm • Stetson Branch, New Haven Free Public Library (197 Dixwell Ave. New Haven, CT)
This event is a film screening and community talkback discussing Jazz Haven’s Unsung Heroes, a documentary that depicts the jazz scene in New Haven from the Harlem Renaissance period through World War II. Talkback panelists include IfeMichelle Gardin, Founder and Executive Director of KulturallyLIT.

Friday, April 12 • 6pm • Possible Futures (318 Edgewood Avenue)
NHSO’s Principal Pops Conductor, Chelsea Tipton II, will facilitate a discussion with Caseen Gaines, author of When Broadway Was Black: The Triumphant Story of the All-Black Musical That Changed The World, andFootnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way. These books provide an in-depth look at Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake’s pioneering 1921 hit Shuffle Along, an all-Black Broadway cast and crew that revolutionized the cultural scene of the 1920s.

For more information about these events, visit NewHavenSymphony.org/Harlem.

Tickets: Tickets for concerts on April 13 & 14  start at $15. Tickets for youth 17 and under are free with the purchase of an adult ticket. To purchase tickets, visit NewHavenSymphony.org or call (203) 693-1486 Monday-Friday from 12-5pm.

Renaissance Rhythms: From Harlem to New Haven is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts; Community Foundation for Greater New Haven; the Connecticut Department of Economic Development, Office of the Arts; Southern Connecticut State University; The Valley Community Foundation; CT Humanities; Frontier; and the New Haven Register. It is produced in partnership with RICHVLLE, Cultured AF, and SHAMAH.

Connecticut Humanities (CTH) is an independent, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. CTH connects people to the humanities through grants, partnerships, and collaborative programs. CTH projects, administration, and program development are supported by state and federal matching funds, community foundations and gifts from private sources. Learn more by visiting cthumanities.org.

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