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Arts & Culture

Festival Showcasing Black Classical Musicians Comes to University of Houston

The Charleston-based “Colour of Music Festival” travels to only three cities in the country, and this year Houston is one of them.

  • The Paris-based Grimbert-Barré Trio, featuring brothers Romuald, Jonathan and Maxence Grimbert-Barré, will make their Houston debut with Jonathan Grimbert-Barré's “Triple Concerto for String Trio and Orchestra" on Sept. 14, 7pm at the University of Houston. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colour of Music Festival)
    The Paris-based Grimbert-Barré Trio, featuring brothers Romuald, Jonathan and Maxence Grimbert-Barré, will make their Houston debut with Jonathan Grimbert-Barré's “Triple Concerto for String Trio and Orchestra" on Sept. 14, 7pm at the University of Houston. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colour of Music Festival)
  • Soprano Laquita Mitchell will perform the recital "An Ode to Leontyne Price" on Sept. 12, 2pm at the University of Houston. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colour of Music Festival)
    Soprano Laquita Mitchell will perform the recital "An Ode to Leontyne Price" on Sept. 12, 2pm at the University of Houston. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colour of Music Festival)
  • Legendary tenor Roland Hayes (1887 - 1977) is the subject of the presentation "The Life of Roland Hayes in Words and Song," featuring a talk with music by biographer, Dr. Christopher A. Brooks, on Sept. 12, 5pm at the University of Houston. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colour of Music Festival)
    Legendary tenor Roland Hayes (1887 - 1977) is the subject of the presentation "The Life of Roland Hayes in Words and Song," featuring a talk with music by biographer, Dr. Christopher A. Brooks, on Sept. 12, 5pm at the University of Houston. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colour of Music Festival)
  • German violinist Anyango Yarbo-Davenport and Russian pianist Gerard Aimontche will perform Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata on Sept. 12, 7pm at the University of Houston. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colour of Music Festival)
    German violinist Anyango Yarbo-Davenport and Russian pianist Gerard Aimontche will perform Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata on Sept. 12, 7pm at the University of Houston. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colour of Music Festival)
  • African-English composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875 - 1912) is the subject of a talk, and his masterpiece "Hiawatha's Wedding Feast" will be performed at the University of Houston. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colour of Music Festival)
    African-English composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875 - 1912) is the subject of a talk, and his masterpiece "Hiawatha's Wedding Feast" will be performed at the University of Houston. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colour of Music Festival)
  • Violinist Anyango Yarbo-Davenport will lead an all-female Colour of Music Festival Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, featuring soprano Laquita Mitchell, in a tribute to opera legend, Leontyne Price, on Sept. 13, 7pm at the University of Houston. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colour of Music Festival)
    Violinist Anyango Yarbo-Davenport will lead an all-female Colour of Music Festival Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, featuring soprano Laquita Mitchell, in a tribute to opera legend, Leontyne Price, on Sept. 13, 7pm at the University of Houston. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colour of Music Festival)

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The Chevalier de Saint-Georges was a highly accomplished African-French composer, violinist, and conductor, who lived during Mozart's time.

You probably haven't heard of him nor his music, and that's what the Colour of Music Festival hopes to change.

"Most people are not deliberately not programming black composers. They just don't know about black composers' works, so we feel that we're a go-to place that can highlight that," said Artistic Director Lee Pringle.

Through concerts and talks by local and international musicians and scholars of African descent, the festival shines a light on the impact of black classical artists – from centuries ago to the present day.

Pringle founded the festival in Charleston, South Carolina about six years ago, and has presented prominent and emerging artists, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning composer George Walker and cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who famously performed at the Royal Wedding this past summer.

This year, "petit" versions of the annual festival will tour to Pittsburgh, Richmond, and Houston.

With support from the City of Houston and the University of Houston, Pringle chose to bring it to Houston for the first time, partly because of the city's own diversity.

"It gives the patron of the arts a mosaic vision of what the city of Houston represents, what America represents."

That mosaic, or diversity, is important because "classical music is one of the last glass ceilings when it comes to the arts," said Pringle.

"What you see in a subscription brochure is a product of the sum of the life experiences of the decision makers. So if the maestro doesn't know black compositions, you're going to get programming with black composers omitted."

By introducing wider audiences to the contributions of black classical artists, he hopes the festival will impact orchestras around the world – from concert programming to artistic management.

The Colour of Music Festival is September 12 – 16 at the UH's Dudley Recital Hall and Moores Opera House. A schedule of events and ticket information can be found here.

Listen to the complete interview with Lee Pringle below:

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Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Senior Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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