The Grand Rapids Symphony explores the many facets of African-American musical expression with its 12th annual “Symphony with Soul” concert, Saturday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. in DeVos Performance Hall. Since its inception, “Symphony with Soul” has been dedicated to bridging cultures through the shared language of music. This year’s concert presents a blend of classical, gospel/spiritual, jazz and blues, and features the talents of the Grand Rapids Community Chorus, a local youth chorus and 2013 Grammy-nominated gospel artist Marvin Sapp. Prior to the concert, the Symphony will host the eighth annual “Celebration of Soul” dinner and Dr. MaLinda P. Sapp Legacy Award presentations.
“Symphony with Soul” Concert
The Grand Rapids Symphony welcomes Guest Conductor Michael Morgan to the podium for this concert program that presents a variety of musical styles and local talent. The concert opens with “Lift Every Voice and Sing” sometimes referred to as the “African-American National Anthem,” and is followed by a selection from a symphonic work, Dawson’s “Negro Folk Symphony.” Written in 1934, the work was premiered the same year by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and was met with critical acclaim.
“Symphony with Soul” audience members will also experience a new musical work created collaboratively during the course of a week by Symphony musicians, Symphony Mosaic Scholars and the Grand Rapids African-American Youth Chorus. Creative Connections, a Baltimore-based organization that provides unique opportunities to explore and express stories, ideas and emotions through music, led the project. Funding for this special project was made possible through a Challenge America Fast-Track grant from the NEA.
The concert’s first half closes with the Grand Rapids Community Chorus performing a work by St. Louis native, Robert Ray. His work, “Gospel Mass,” takes the traditional movements of the mass and infuses elements that are reflective of the gospel tradition.
“Part of the Symphony’s mission through the ‘Symphony with Soul’ concert is to provide opportunities for those in our community to perform with the orchestra at DeVos Performance Hall,” said Music Director David Lockington. “This can be transformative. It’s about access, to expression and performance experience.”
The concert’s second half features Grand Rapids native Marvin Sapp, a seven-time Grammy- nominated gospel artist and 2011 Dove Award winner. The acclaimed gospel-recording artist joins the orchestra and chorus to perform four selections from his award-winning career, including three songs from his 2007 gold-certified and Grammy-nominated album “Thirsty.” Sapp will also perform “Glory” from his 2012 album “I Win,” currently nominated for three 2013 Grammy Awards including “Best Gospel Album.” In addition to his successful recording career, Sapp is Founder and Senior Pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church. Recognized for his professional and philanthropic efforts, Sapp has received Grand Rapids’ highest African-American honor, a Giants Award, as well as the Frederick Douglas Award from the National Association of Negro and Professional Women’s Club.
“Celebration of Soul” Event
The eighth annual awards celebration will begin at 5 p.m. with a social hour at DeVos Place, followed by a three-course gourmet dinner and the presentation of the Dr. MaLinda P. Sapp Legacy Awards honoring local jazz vocalist Edye Evans Hyde, Reverend Nathaniel Moody and the Baxter Community Center. A post-concert reception will be held at 10 p.m. following the “Symphony with Soul” concert.
The Legacy Award was established to honor individuals and organizations for their ongoing diversity efforts and accomplishments. The award celebrates an organization or person’s distinguished leadership and commitment to advancing engagement, inclusion, education, service and cultural bridge building. The award was renamed in 2011 to honor the late Dr. MaLinda P. Sapp, a longtime community leader and educator, and chair of “Celebration of Soul” since its inception.
A portion of event proceeds will benefit the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Mosaic Scholarship Fund, which currently awards 20 scholarships to African-American and Hispanic students, providing instrumental training and mentorship by Symphony musicians.
“Symphony with Soul” Concert Tickets start at $18 and are available at the Symphony office, weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 300 Ottawa NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder), or by calling 616/454-9451, Ext. 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.) Tickets are available at the DeVos Place Box Office, weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or on the day of the concert two hours prior to the performance. Tickets may also be purchased through Ticketmaster, 800/982-2787, online at www.grsymphony.org, or in person in Ticketmaster outlets: select D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare Stores and Walmart. Tickets purchased at these locations will include a Ticketmaster service fee. Student Passport $5 tickets are available for this concert.
“Celebration of Soul” Event Tickets are $125 and include the social hour, dinner, award presentations, concert and post-concert reception. Tickets can be ordered by contacting Annamarie Buller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616/454-9451, Ext. 149.
About the Grand Rapids Symphony
The Grammy-nominated Grand Rapids Symphony was officially organized in 1930 and is recognized as one of America’s leading regional orchestras. Led by Music Director David Lockington, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are presented each year, touching the lives of some 170,000. Nearly half of those who benefit are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities reached through extensive education and community service programs. The Symphony sponsors the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses, and also provides the orchestra for Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit www.grsymphony.org.
These concerts are made possible with support from the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.