Sunday: Celebrating Black Classical Artists

A full day of classical music from the perspectives of Black composers, instrumentalists, singers, and conductors.

Pianist Lara Downes Joins WFMT for a Moving and Timely Virtual Concert and Conversation

In troubled times, music is a source of hope and healing. In a virtual interview and concert with WFMT’s George Preston, pianist Lara Downes performs selections from her new album, Some of These Days.

WATCH: Pianist Aaron Diehl Plays Scott Joplin, Fats Waller, and Gershwin in Live Video Concert

WFMT is thrilled to bring you this upbeat, swinging concert livestream from pianist and composer Aaron Diehl featuring propulsive Harlem stride hits by James P. Johnson, Thomas “Fats” Waller, and Willie “the Lion” Smith, plus selections by Scott Joplin, Gershwin, and Massenet.

This Friday: A Swinging Stride Piano Livestream with Aaron Diehl

Pianist and composer Aaron Diehl shares virtuosic music by “Fats” Waller, Willie “the Lion” Smith, plus selections by Gershwin, Grieg, and Scott Joplin in a free upcoming livestream co-presented by WFMT.

11 Studs Terkel Conversations for Black History Month

Just a few of the Black voices from the Studs Terkel Radio Archive.

MLK, Mahler, Making Community with the Chicago Sinfonietta

The Chicago Sinfonietta’s longstanding mission of bringing communities and people together through the symphonic experience takes center stage this weekend with the Sinfonietta’s annual tribute concert to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., featuring orchestral settings of spirituals, folksongs, hip hop, and Mahler’s Ressurection Symphony.

Video: Rachel Barton Pine, Daughter Sylvia Pine Help Launch WFMT’s New Family Request Program

What better way to inaugurate a program celebrating music for kids and families than by inviting a very musical family to perform — violinist Rachel Barton Pine and her 8-year-old daughter Sylvia Pine?

Creating a Space for Empathy: Composer Joel Thompson Speaks About ‘The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed’

Thompson’s 2015 piece brings to light an issue that hits close to home in Chicago and countrywide: the killing of unarmed African American men. Thompson parallels Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ; using the liturgy as a guide, he weaves a piece that prompts conversation about race and social injustice.

The Diva Gets Her Way: Larry Johnson Recalls a Signature Jessye Norman Recital

On a sweltering summer evening in the early 1990s, Jessye Norman visited the Chicago area for an intimate recital at Ravinia. Host Larry Johnson recalls the singular concert experience.

Met Opera to hold celebration of Jessye Norman on Nov. 24

Latonia Moore, Eric Owens, Lise Davidsen, J’Nai Bridges, and Leah Hawkins are scheduled to perform, the company said Wednesday, along with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Video: ‘Get Out’ Composer Michael Abels Brings His Horror Score Into the Concert Hall

“Writing music, I believe, is a spiritual practice,” says composer Michael Abels. “Any three notes you can find are either terrible or brilliant depending on the context.” Abels makes his Sinfonietta conducting debut leading the orchestra in a live-to-picture performance of his own score for Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning film Get Out.

Rhiannon Giddens, Francis Johnson to get Americana award

The Americana Music Association said the new award has been created to honor those who have “either made a lasting impression through music or inspired art to recognize the legacy of Americana music traditions.”

Anthony Davis’ The Central Park Five — Opera as Mirror of Modern Society

Classical and jazz composer-pianist Anthony Davis is known for writing operas based on historical figures, notably X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X. His latest opera, The Central Park Five, with a libretto by Richard Wesley, premiered in June 2019. We spoke with the composer and members of the creative team about bringing the opera to life.

Pianist Lara Downes on Drawing Courage, Joy From Women Composers and Artists

“You have these pieces of music that are part of you, part of your DNA, and every time you return to them, it just comes out differently because you are different.”

Finding James Baldwin: Chicago’s Renée Baker Composes Opera Inspired By the Great Writer

Renée Baker’s interest in Baldwin began when she first heard recordings of his voice. “The person that I’d only accessed from books became quite real once I was able to actually hear and listen to him speak.” She notes.

How Violinist Rachel Barton Pine Is Working To #ExpandTheCanon

In addition to the acclaim she has won for her interpretations of music by well-known composers like Bach, Handel, and Paganini, Rachel Barton Pine has long sought to include underrepresented composers in her repertoire.

How a Bach Minuet Got a Motown Makeover

Bach’s Minuet in G major from the Notebooks for Anna Magdalena Bach is famous enough today that you may have had it as your cell phone ringtone. One arrangement, recorded by a ’60s girl group called The Toys, was a #1 single in the US and reached #5 on the UK Global charts.

How D-Composed Aims to Re-Compose the Experience of Classical Concerts

“We want to dismantle the notion that classical music is reserved for a certain group of people,” said D-Composed Chicago founder Kori Coleman.

Playlist: 19 African American Composers to Celebrate on Juneteenth (and Every Day of the Year)

Though African Americans have faced oppression throughout American history and the arts, Black composers’ contributions to music have been nothing short of history-changing.

“I’m reclaiming my time” — Broadway’s Mykal Kilgore talks opera, activism, and singing for Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Did you know Broadway’s Mykal Kilgore is a classically trained opera singer? He spoke about opera, activism, and singing for Maxine Waters backstage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

How Women of the Chicago Black Renaissance Changed Classical Music Around the World

Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Irene Britton Smith, Nora Holt, and countless other women of color contributed to the Chicago Black Renaissance and changed classical music around the world.

Of All US Orchestras, Chicago Sinfonietta Has Programmed the Highest Percentage of Works by Women

The Chicago Sinfonietta has been devoted to diversity and inclusion since it was founded by pioneering African-American conductor Paul Freeman, and that legacy continues to this day.

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee on the Artists Who Have Inspired Him the Most and Why Black Composers Matter

Learn how Lawrence Brownlee, hailed as one of the world’s leading tenors, is developing new works that respond to issues facing men of color today.

Playlist: The Best Classical Music to Serve at Your Next Cookout

As you fire up the grill, we have the perfect soundtrack for you: some of our favorite American works, from classics like Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue to modern masterpieces like John Adams’ City Noir.

Chicago Sinfonietta’s 30th Anniversary Season Showcases ‘Full Spectrum of Voices and Identities’

The Chicago Sinfonietta recently announced its 30th season line-up, as well as the launch of its Commissions by Women Composers Project, a season-long effort to close music’s gender equality gap by commissioning, performing, and recording, works by women composers.