Closing Night Concert: March 16, 2024 at Lincoln Center, Alice Tully Hall

Experiential Orchestra performs Perry’s Violin Concerto

James Blachly, Music Director | Curtis Stewart, Violin Soloist | with Youth Ensembles

Presented by National Concerts

Complete programming and the festival schedule will be announced in January

Information: www.experientialorchestra.com/projects/julia-perry-festival

From March 13-16, 2024Experiential Orchestra (EXO) and Videmus will present the Julia Perry Centenary Celebration and Festival in New York City, celebrating her brilliance and legacy and illustrating the vibrance and importance of her music historically, today, and tomorrow.

The festival will include performances of Perry’s chamber music by PUBLIQuartet and the Harlem Chamber Players; a series of talks and discussions organized by Dr. Louise Toppin, founder of the African Diaspora Music Project and Artistic Director of Videmus; and a side-by-side rehearsal and reading of Perry’s music by EXO with students from New York City conservatories and music schools.

A shared performance by Experiential Orchestra and youth ensembles led by EXO Music Director James Blachly and presented by National Concerts on March 16 at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall passes Perry’s musical legacy to the next generation. The concert culminates in four-time-Grammy nominee Curtis Stewart performing Perry’s virtuosic Violin Concerto, with young musicians sitting side-by-side the EXO professionals in the orchestra.

The Julia Perry Centenary Celebration and Festival follows the release of American Counterpoints, a new album from Experiential Orchestra and Curtis Stewart, conducted by James Blachly, that includes the world premiere recording of Perry’s Violin Concerto plus music by Stewart and Coleridge Taylor-Perkinson. The album will be released by Bright Shiny Things on March 1, 2024.

Excerpted from A Biographical Sketch of Julia Perry by Fredara M. Hadley, Ph.D.; The Juilliard School:

Julia Perry may be new to 21st Century listeners, but she was well-known in her lifetime. Listening to her compositions and learning about her life is an act of rediscovery in the purest sense of the word because the world had, indeed, discovered her. Julia Perry was a woman born in 1924 in Lexington, Kentucky, to an educated Black family. She grew up in Akron, Ohio, the fourth of five sisters in a time where classical musical training was typical for a well-to-do Black family such as hers. She was innately gifted and studied both voice and violin.

In the 1940s, Perry continued her studies at Westminster College where she studied voice, piano, and composition. . . the 1950s were a productive era for her in which studied composition with Luigi Dallapiccola at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Massachusetts. While at Tanglewood she completed her Stabat Mater and performed it to great acclaim. She then received two Guggenheim Fellowships in 1952 and 1954 to travel and study with Dallapiccola in Florence, Italy and then with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Yet again, Perry was recognized for her compositional talent when she won the Boulanger Grand Prix for her Viola Sonata. . . One of the clearest examples of her new musical horizons was in her Short Piece for Orchestra which premiered in 1952 and was performed and recorded by The New York Philharmonic in 1965. . .Upon her return to the United States she crafted her own responses to the Civil Rights Era which was then cresting. She wrote pieces including her Fifth Symphony (“Integration Symphony) for Chamber Orchestra and her Tenth Symphony (“Soul Symphony) that incorporated elements of black popular music. . .

Unfortunately, by the 1960s mental and health challenges began to take their toll. Perry, who never married and had no children, was her own primary means of financial and creative support. Through physical paralysis she continued to write. When her right side became incapacitated, she taught herself to write with her left hand. Many urged her to donate her prolific oeuvre to an archive, but Perry, who had received so much commercial success in her lifetime kept her manuscripts in hopes that another publication opportunity would emerge.

Sadly, that was not to be, and Julia Perry passed away on April 24, 1979. Although many of her compositions are lost or only exist in manuscript form, listeners should listen to Julia Perry as a composer who followed her own call to freedom in an era where that was denied for many others. And perhaps Julia Perry was right, and her dreams of continuing acclaim are coming true after all.

Read more about Julia Perry in Garrett Schumann’s feature in The New York Times and in The Marginalian.

For more information about the presenters and participants in the Julia Perry Centenary Celebration and Festival:

Experiential Orchestra: www.experientialorchestra.com

Videmus: www.videmus.org

Dr. Louise Toppin: www.louisetoppin.com

African Diaspora Music Project: www.africandiasporamusicproject.org

James Blachly: www.jamesblachly.com

Curtis Stewart: www.curtisjstewart.com

PUBLIQuartet: www.publiquartet.com

Harlem Chamber Players: www.harlemchamberplayers.org

American Counterpoints, Bright Shiny Things: Paula Mlyn, paula@a440arts.com