Portland Youth Philharmonic opens its 95th season Nov. 10 in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, with distinguished composer William Grant Still's "The Far West from The American Scene." Known as "the Dean of African-American composers," Still's work captures themes that depict the age-old cultures and natural beauty of America's West Coast.
"William Grant Still was an outstanding American composer who overcame tremendous obstacles to produce bodies of work in many genres," says PYP Musical Director David Hattner. "Although Still's 'Far West' is a little further south than Oregon, it juxtaposes nicely with the music of Czech composer Antonín Dvorák, who came to this country and encouraged American composers to find local inspiration for their art. William Grant Still is one of the finest examples of this philosophy."
Soon to be the first U.S. organization for young musicians to reach its 100th anniversary, PYP commemorates 95 years of fearless artistry by presenting a movement from Still's much larger and rarely-performed work "The American Scene." Still, who was of African-American, Spanish, Native American, Irish and Scots ancestry, envisioned a proudly multicultural America, as harmonious in race and ethnic relations as his music. The result was his "American Scene: Five Suites for Young Americans" (1957), beautifully illustrating his vision of a unified country for future generations of Americans.
"I have to say that 'The Far West' was my father's dream when he was in New York." writes Judith Anne Still, the composer's daughter. "When he worked in L.A., he immediately loved California. It was still full of open country, and it was not as clannish and racist as New York. In 1934, there was integration among many artists and musicians; there were wonderful intellectual discussions. I daresay 'The Far West' was in the soul of William Grant Still."
The program continues with Dvorák's expansive Symphony No. 6, radiant and robust with pastoral elements expressing the sheer joy of being alive. The winners of PYP's upcoming 2018 Soloist Competition will also perform with the orchestra.
Single tickets start at $5, with ticket packages for multiple performances at $27 and up. Tickets are available now at www.portlandyouthphil.org/concerts.
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