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SLSO Songs of America | Lyric for Strings

Lyric for Strings

by George Walker

Gemma New, conductor

Celeste Golden Boyer, Ann Fink, Nicolae Bica, Asako Kuboki, violin

Jonathan Chu, Chris Tantillo, viola

Alvin McCall, Bjorn Ranheim, cello

Sarah Hogan Kaiser, bass

The Piece

George Walker was an American compositional giant. Over a career lasting seven decades, Walker wrote music for America’s major orchestras, was the first Black composer to win the Pulitzer Prize, and created some 90 works in almost every genre. A barrier-breaking figure in the overwhelmingly white field of classical music, Walker’s achievements as a composer, pianist, and organist included being among the first Black graduates from the Curtis Institute of Music and the doctoral program of the Eastman School of Music, as well as the first Black pianist to give a recital at New York’s Town Hall and to perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1945. He went on to pair these accolades with an impressive academic career.

Lyric for Strings, originally called “Lament,” was written after the death of Walker’s grandmother in 1946. Similar to Samuel Barber’s Adagio, Walker’s piece was originally the middle movement of a string quartet, but its popularity prompted Walker to make a version for string orchestra, which has become one of the most widely performed pieces of twentieth century music today.

The Place

Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, a solemn space between City Hall and the Central Library, honors military service, veterans, and their families through the lens of the city of St. Louis. The memorial was dedicated by Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, and its Court of Honor, constructed in 1948, now bears the names of St. Louisans who died in conflicts from World War II to the present day.


Special thanks to Soldiers Memorial Military Museum.

Special thanks to the Centene Charitable Foundation, the Steward Family Foundation, and World Wide Technology for their support of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.


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