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Weekend concerts celebrate music by African American composers

 

The musicians and guest artists of the African American Composer Initiative are set to deliver another rousing set of concerts next weekend celebrating the music of such legendary composers as Billy Strayhorn and Thelonius Monk as well as contemporary composers, performing works ranging from spirituals and jazz to original modern compositions and genre-blending arrangements.

The ninth annual benefit concerts, "Out of the Blues: The Gift of Song," will feature vocal and instrumental music dawn from "the traditions of spirituals, jazz, blues, popular, and concert music," says pianist Josephine Gandolfi of Menlo Park, who with Judge LaDoris Cordell and Deanne Tucker co-founded the African American Composer Initiative.

They will be performed on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 27 and 28, at 3 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center of Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto.

The AACI presents programs devoted to music by African American composers. In addition to Strayhorn and Monk, composers include William Grant Still and Florence Price, and contemporary composers Valerie Capers, Regina Baiocchi, Roxanna Wright, Andre Meyers, John Robinson, Charles Lloyd and Charles Brown. Music by some of the founders of the spirituals preservation movement, including Roland Hayes, Hal Johnson and Harry Burleigh, also will be performed, according to Ms. Gandolfi.

The concerts will feature a "special offering" in the form of two jazz works arranged by Ms. Capers, "incorporating musical themes from Wagner's Ring Cycle," Ms. Gandolfi says.

Performers include many acclaimed musicians of the Bay Area and beyond: sopranos Yolanda Rhodes and Roxanna Wright; tenor Othello Jefferson; pianists/vocalists LaDoris Cordell and Deanne Tucker; pianist Josephine Gandolfi; violinist Susan C. Brown; cellist Victoria Ehrlich; clarinetist Carol Somersille; percussionist Jim Kassis; trumpeter John Worley; trombonist John Monroe; flutist Stephanie McNab; bassoonist Doug Brown; and saxophonist Oscar Pangilinan.

Featured guests artists are pianist/composer Valerie Capers and bassist John Robinson. The Eastside Choir will also perform, under the direction of Jansen Verplank.

Proceeds from the concert benefit Eastside College Preparatory School. A reception for audience and performers, donated by the Santa Rosa nonprofit culinary apprentice program Worth Our Weight, will follow the Sunday performance.

Tickets are $20 general, $10 for seniors, and $5 for students. They may be purchased online through this Brown Paper Tickets link: brownpapertickets.com/event/3133100.

Eastside College Preparatory School is at 1041 Myrtle St. in East Palo Alto. There is on-campus parking for attendees. For information, call 650-688-0850.

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