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Photos: Tribute to Dr. Robert Ray

By Eric Dundon

On May 1, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and its IN UNISON Chorus paid tribute to the life and legacy of Dr. Robert Ray in a free community concert at Powell Hall. Ray was the founding director of the IN UNISON Chorus, a resident SLSO chorus that specializes in the performance and preservation of music from the African diaspora. He passed away in December 2022 at age 76.

The concert celebrated Ray’s many contributions to the country’s arts and music landscape, featuring the IN UNISON Chorus, SLSO musicians, vocalists Jennifer Kelley and Jermaine Smith, and singers from ensembles impacted by Ray’s signature musicianship, led by current chorus director Kevin McBeth and guest conductor Dr. Brandon Boyd.

The program included composers whom Ray championed, vocal music for which Ray was known, and Ray's own compositions, including Gospel Mass and

In addition to the musical selections, touching tributes by Rollo Dilworth, Doris Jones-Wilson, and Phyllis Jackson–Ray's sister–remembered Ray.

Members of the IN UNISON Chorus were joined by singers from the University of Missouri for Isaac Cates' It's Working.

Dr. Brandon Boyd, a protégé of Ray’s and the Assistant Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Choral Music Education at the University of Missouri, shared the podium with IN UNISON Chorus Director Kevin McBeth.

From left, soloists Jermaine Smith and Jennifer Kelley, with conductor Kevin McBeth.

IN UNISON Scholar Alayna Epps sang Evelyn Simpson-Curenton's O Glory.

Soprano Jennifer Kelley.

IN UNISON Chorus member Teresia Simmons read an original poem, dedicated to Ray and her parents, titled "Grateful for All the Years."

Principal Flutist Matthew Roitstein was the featured soloist on works by John Rutter, a composer whose music Ray championed.

Dr. Brandon Boyd leads the combined vocal forces.

More than 250 singers joined together on stage for the final work, Ray's own "He Never Failed Me Yet."
Ray's own Gospel Mass was performed.

IN UNISON Chorus Director Kevin McBeth welcomed the crowd at Powell Hall.

Ray led the IN UNISON Chorus from its formation in 1994 to 2010.


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