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'Freedom Rings' – along with the music – at benefit concert

Music of African American composers spotlighted in Jan. 26, 27 performances

The African American Composer Initiative, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, presents its annual concert, a benefit for Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 26 and 27.

The concert, "Where Freedom Rings: The Music of African American Composers," will feature numerous local musicians, including Eastside Prep's school choir, and spotlight music composed by William Grant Still, Zenobia Powell Perry, Duke Ellington, Margaret Bonds, Valerie Capers, Jacqueline Hairston, Shawn Okpebholo, Bill Withers and others.

The African American Composer Initiative (AACI) was co-founded by Menlo Park pianist Josephine Gandolfi, Judge LaDoris Cordell of Palo Alto, and Deanne Tucker of Los Altos to spotlight the works of African American composers.

Since 2009, the AACI has presented the music of 35 African American composers, commissioned more than 15 new compositions, released two CDs, and "established an eagerly anticipated annual community event," Gandolfi said in a press release.

Performers, including many returning musicians who have revved up audiences over the last nine years, include soprano Yolanda Rhodes, tenor Othello Jefferson, pianists/vocalists LaDoris Cordell and Deanne Tucker, clarinetist Carol Somersille, percussionist Jim Kassis, trumpeter John Worley, trombonist John Monroe, flutist Stephanie McNab, bassoonist Rufus Olivier, and saxophonist Oscar Pangilinan. The Picasso Ensemble – pianist Josephine Gandolfi, violinist Susan C. Brown, and cellist Victoria Ehrlich – will also perform.

Featured guest artists, in addition to the Eastside Choir directed by Jansen Verplank, are Valerie Capers on piano and John Robinson on bass.

The concerts will be held at the arts center at Eastside Prep, 1041 Myrtle St. in East Palo Alto. They begin at 3 p.m. both days, and a reception will follow the Sunday performance.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $5 for students. Go to African American Composer Initiative.

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