Sunday: Celebrating Black Classical Artists


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Oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz of Imani Winds (Photo: Shervin Lainez); composer Joel Thompson; composer Jessie Montgomery (Photo: Jiyang Chen); pianist Andre Watts

This Sunday, June 7, WFMT will present a full day of classical music from the perspectives of Black composers, instrumentalists, singers, and conductors. Some of the day’s highlights include performances of music by Valerie Coleman and Paquito D’Rivera by Imani Winds, music by Michael Abels performed by two artists from Chicago’s South Side: Demarre McGill, flute, and Anthony McGill, clarinet with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras. Later on, we’ll also share music by Jessie Montgomery performed by the Chicago Sinfonietta, which is one of the nation’s most diverse professional orchestras.

Of special note: Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, a composition by Joel Thompson airing at 4:00 pm. The seven unarmed men, whose last words are used as texts in this powerful choral composition, were Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Kenneth Chamberlain, Amadou Diallo, and John Crawford. They were all killed by police or by authority figures. Thompson will comment on what moved him to write this piece.

READ MORE: Creating a Space for Empathy: Composer Joel Thompson speaks about The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed

Programming Highlights

10:00 am — Pianist Andre Watts performs Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1

10:15 am — Imani Winds performs music by Valerie Coleman and Paquito D’Rivera

11:35 am — William Grant Still: Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American”

12:30 pm — Leontyne Price and William Warfield perform two arias from Porgy and Bess

12:40 pm — Demarre McGill, flute, Anthony McGill, clarinet perform Michael Abels’s Winged Creatures with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras

1:00 pm — Stewart Goodyear performs Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2

1:35 pm — Wynton Marsalis performs Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto

2:00 pm — James Earl Jones narrates Copland’s Lincoln Portrait

2:40 pm — Jessie Montgomery’s Coincident Dances performed by the Chicago Sinfonietta

3:00 pm — Duke Ellington: Suite from The River

3:55 pm — Nathalie Joachim: Fanm d’Ayiti, the title track from her 2020 Grammy-nominated album with the Spektral Quartet.

4:00 pm — Joel Thompson: Seven Last Words of the Unarmed.