Region celebrates Black History Month with music

by Michael Caruso
Posted 2/16/23

Members of the Fairmount String Quartet will be the principal musical performers in “Healing with the Arts.”

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Region celebrates Black History Month with music


Members of the Fairmount String Quartet will be the principal musical performers in “Healing with the Arts.” The full day of engaging with, creating, and reflecting on the healing power of the arts is set for Saturday, Feb. 25, beginning at 1 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Chestnut Hill.

The day will begin with a lecture by artist, art therapist and author Girija Kaimal on the healing power of the arts. This presentation will be followed by a poetry reading featuring poet and teacher Julia Blumenreich. There will be an opportunity for participants to create their own works in a poetry-writing workshop led by Blumenrich, as well as another workshop in “art journaling” led by artist Barbara Dundon.

Alongside these workshops, the event will also be highlighted by an exhibit of Kaimal’s art works, a book-signing, an opportunity for meditation, reflection and small group sharing, a service of the medieval Roman Catholic liturgy of “Compline,” and a community meal.

The day’s events will culminate with the Fairmount String Quartet – comprised of violinists Rachel Segal and Leah Kyoungwoon Kim, violist Beth Dzwil and cellist Mimi Morris Kim – performing Beethoven’s String Quartet Opus 132 and Caroline Shaw’s “Entr’acte.” The concert only will be repeated Sunday, Feb. 26, at 2:30 p.m. in the Wynnefield Branch of Settlement Music School.


Opera Philadelphia

 Opera Philadelphia opened Black History Month Feb. 3 and 5 with performances of Margaret Bonds’ “Credo” (“I Believe”) and Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” at the Academy of Music. Both concerts drew a packed house – nearly 2,900 patrons – that heard Orff’s masterpiece as well as Bonds’ neglected but fortunately not lost musical treasure.

Margaret Bonds (1913-1972) used W.E.B. Du Bois’ 1904 text of the same name for her score for soprano and baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra, which she composed in 1965. Although it premiered in 1967, it wasn’t published until 2020.

 At the time of its composition, the “classical music orthodoxy” demanded adherence to the motto: “the uglier, the better; the more off-putting the music, the finer it must be.” As an African American woman, Bonds worked mostly outside the boundaries imposed on many American composers not to write new classical music that was beautiful and expressive.


As a result, that’s precisely what she composed: a major score that glows with beauty and trembles with expression. Unlike West Chester’s Samuel Barber (1910-1981), whose late romantic scores were mocked and castigated in his later years – none more so than his overlooked opera, “Antony and Cleopatra” – Bonds was able to compose just as she wished.

In her Opera Philadelphia debut, Lina Gonzalez-Granados conducted the Opera Chorus and Orchestra plus soprano Brandie Sutton and baritone Ethan Vincent (both in their debuts, as well) superbly. She elicited warmly supportive playing from the Orchestra, splendidly projected singing from the Chorus, and impassioned interpretations by both Sutton and Vincent of Dubois’ divinely inspired text. If only all Americans could believe what Dubois wrote in “Credo,” we might have a chance to achieve our national aspirations.


Carl Orff based his 1937 score on medieval texts discovered in long-abandoned monasteries late in the 19th century in Germany. Their only intersection with the sacred texts usually found in such places is that their bawdy, profane, vulgar and even blasphemous nature usually starts with a parody of the real thing.

 Orff set these lyrics to music that shimmers percussively, pulsates rhythmically, provokes harmonically, and dazzles melodically. Once again, Gonzalez-Granados wielded her baton with expert rhythmic precision, magisterial command over the overall structure of the music, a minute appreciation of the telling details of the orchestra, choral and vocal aspects of the score. Once again, Sutton and Vincent sang memorably: the former with a suave and sultry tone despite the death-defyingly high tessitura of her part; the latter with brazen sensuality.

The most noteworthy story here, though, was that of the tenor soloist in the Orff. The originally scheduled Alasdair Kent (an alumnus of Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts), who sang on opening night, Friday, was unable to perform Sunday afternoon. Never at a loss for good singers, Opera Philadelphia’s management contacted Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, which provided one of their students, the 25-year-old Joseph Tancredi, to fill in on little more than an hour’s notice. And fill in he did – scaling the daunting high reaches of his solo aria with stunning brilliance and courageous panache.

Once again, the Chorus and Orchestra performed admirably, efficaciously projecting their singing and playing out into the 2,900-seat auditorium of the Academy of Music. To my ears, their sound had more impact in the Academy of Music than that heard in concerts in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall featuring chorus and orchestra.

You can contact NOTEWORTHY at