By Eric Dundon
In June 2021, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra teamed up with long-time partner church Washington Metropolitan AME Zion to celebrate Juneteenth. This inaugural free community concert commemorated this newest federal holiday, which marks the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans. The tradition returns on June 19, 2022, with another free collaborative community concert in partnership with Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church at 1617 Euclid Ave., St. Louis.
No tickets or RSVPs are required for this community celebration, which will be held from 2:00pm-3:00pm CDT.
SLSO musicians, including a trombone quartet and string quintet, will be joined by vocalists from the SLSO’s IN UNISON Chorus and IN UNISON Scholars program to perform works by Black artists including Margaret Bonds and Florence Price, as well as spirituals and hymns from Black American musical expression. Throughout the collaborative program, Rev. Earl Nance, Jr., and leadership from Greater Mount Carmel will teach about the importance of Juneteenth.
Performances of Florence Price art songs, arranged by former IN UNISON Scholar TJ Abernathy for string quintet and voice, link the ideas of freedom and freedom of expression. IN UNISON Scholar Alayna Epps will sing “My Soul’s Been Anchored in Da Lord,” the closing song in a 1939 concert by Black opera singer Marian Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Fellow IN UNISON Scholar Nadia Maddex then joins the quintet for performance of “At the Feet O’ Jesus.”
The program opens with an arrangement of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” embraced as the Black National Anthem, and also includes a spirituals medley and performances of “Free at Last” and “This Little Light of Mine.”
Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church is a charter partner church in the SLSO’s decades-long IN UNISON program.
The SLSO’s IN UNISON Program began in 1992 as a partnership between the institution and predominantly Black churches in the St. Louis area. In the 30 years since its founding, IN UNISON has grown to become the SLSO’s flagship community outreach program, including:
· Partnerships with 30+ churches throughout the region.
· The acclaimed IN UNISON Chorus, a resident chorus that specializes in the performance and preservation of music from African American and African expression. The chorus performs with the SLSO several times each season.
· The IN UNISON Academy, a series of academic support programs that include mentorships, scholarships, fellowships, and Young Artist opportunities with the IN UNISON Chorus.
Bayer Fund has supported IN UNISON since its founding.
Eric Dundon is the SLSO’s Public Relations Manager.