ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
The Julia Perry Centenary Celebration and Festival will include performances of Julia Perry's chamber, choral, and orchestral music, as well as a series of talks and discussions organized by Dr. Louise Toppin, founder of the African Diaspora Music Project and Artistic Director of Videmus, illustrating the resurgence of scholarly interest in Perry’s work. Festival performers include the Experiential Orchestra led by Music Director James Blachly, bass-baritone Donnie Ray Albert, pianist Samantha Ege, flutist Brandon Patrick George, baritone Will Liverman, soprano Laquita Mitchell, PUBLIQuartet, violinist and composer Curtis Stewart, and soprano Louise Toppin. Students from New York City conservatories and music schools will participate in a side-by-side rehearsal and reading of Perry's music with EXO. A shared performance by Experiential Orchestra and youth ensembles led by EXO Music Director James Blachly and presented by National Concerts on March 16 at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall passes Perry’s musical legacy to the next generation. The concert culminates in four-time-Grammy nominee Curtis Stewart performing Perry's virtuosic Violin Concerto, with young musicians sitting side-by-side the EXO professionals in the orchestra.
Julia Perry (1924-1979) was an African-American composer, born in Lexington, Kentucky and raised in Akron, Ohio. Her early career was filled with promise: she spent two summers at the Berkshire Music Center, studied with Luigi Dallapiccola and briefly with Nadia Boulanger, won the Prix Fontainebleau and two Guggenheim Fellowships, and her Study for Orchestra was performed by the New York Philharmonic in 1965. But tragically, many of her roughly 100 compositions remain unknown. As J. Michele Edwards writes, “Her career was curtailed because of health problems, especially a paralytic stroke affecting her right side in 1971. Her letters reveal her effort to walk, talk, and conduct again. She did learn to write with her left hand and resumed composing; however, she endured tragic emotional and financial difficulties.”
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
C.W. RUCKEL MIDDLE SCHOOL CHORUS
C.W. Ruckel Middle School Chorus has a long tradition of excellence. With previous directors such as Michelle Tredway and Cheryl Stroope, the chorus program has regularly been recognized as a premier location for music education in the state of Florida. Now in his fourth year leading the chorus, Christian Feazell has continued this great tradition. The Ruckel Chorus has recently been awarded multiple superior with distinction awards in adjudication, an honor only five schools in the state achieved last year. They consistently win best overall choir in “Music in the Parks” festivals including most recently, Orlando, FL and Pigeon Forge, TN. They are the Grand Marshal winners of the Niceville Christmas parade and are very excited to have been invited to be “Featured Performers” in the world famous Tully Hall of the Lincoln Center in New York City. They recently were awarded 2nd place in the national “Sightreading Factory Showdown Competition” for their music reading abilities. This thriving program performs regularly throughout the year at numerous local events and boasts nearly 20% of the schools population.
SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR HIGH SCHOOL ORCHESTRA
The Sandra Day O'Connor High School Orchestra in Helotes, Texas, established in 1998, stands as a beacon of musical excellence within the Northside Independent School District. Led by esteemed directors Mrs. Brenda Johnson and Mr. Joseph Jung, this 6A orchestra program boasts over 100 talented students in grades 9-12.
Their consistent success in the University Interscholastic League (UIL) Concert and Sight-Reading Sweepstakes highlights their exceptional musical prowess and precision. Beyond local acclaim, they've graced renowned venues like Carnegie Hall, the Tobin Center for Performing Arts, and Walt Disney World, captivating audiences with their performances.
The orchestra's excellence extends to individual achievements, with students regularly securing positions in the Texas Music Educator Association (TMEA) Region 29 All-Region Orchestra and Mariachi Ensemble. Notably, select members have earned coveted spots in the prestigious TMEA All-State Orchestra.
This program's success is a testament to the dedication of its instructors, the collaborative spirit among its members, and their unwavering pursuit of musical perfection. Through their passion and relentless practice, the Sandra Day O'Connor High School Orchestra continues to set a high standard of musical achievement, leaving an enduring mark on Texas's musical landscape and beyond.
The Grammy®️-winning Experiential Orchestral (EXO) brings audiences close to the music by engaging listeners through imaginative, immersive, and interactive concert experiences. Founded by Music Director James Blachly in 2009, EXO’s performances and recordings have been described as “strikingly persuasive” by the San Francisco Chronicle and “immaculate” by Musical America, and have been praised for having “luscious tone and poise” by Classics Today.
EXO was founded on collaboration and co-creation, and each curated performance is imbued with a generous spirit of celebration, facilitating the exploration of what Blachly calls, “a new experience of sound” by audiences. The orchestra’s performances take place in and outside the concert hall with audiences invited to participate in unorthodox ways. EXO has performed the music of Arvo Pärt in the Temple of Dendur at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, invited audiences to dance during Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker at National Sawdust, enveloped the audience in concerts at Lincoln Center with audience and orchestra members sitting together, and presented Symphonie fantastique and Petrushka with circus choreography at The Muse in Brooklyn.
Recent highlights have included a subscription concert at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, an immersive performance of Strauss’s Four Last Songs with cellist Andrew Yee and soprano Sarah Brailey, and the New York premiere of Julia Perry’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra with soloist Curtis Stewart. In January 2024, EXO will perform Pärt’s masterwork Passio at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, offering audiences the opportunity to experience the concert while reclining on yoga mats. In March 2024, the orchestra will co-present a four-day Julia Perry Centenary Celebration and Festival in New York, coinciding with Perry’s 100th birthday that month.
EXO is known for imaginative and groundbreaking programming that frequently advocates for under-celebrated masterpieces and composers. The orchestra’s world premiere recording of Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Prison (1930) was released on Chandos Records in 2020 to international critical acclaim in The New York Times, Gramophone, The New Yorker, The Guardian, and many other publications. The album won the Grammy®️ for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album in 2021 – the first Grammy ever awarded for Smyth’s music. EXO’s world premiere recording of Julia Perry’s Violin Concerto, with soloist Curtis Stewart, will be released on the Bright Shiny Things label in March 2024.
EXO is led by Music Director James Blachly and Director of Artistic Planning Pauline Kim Harris. EXO:Chamber, a series of chamber concerts, was inaugurated in 2023, curated by EXO’s Creative Team directed by Pauline Kim Harris. The Creative Team includes Henry Wang, concertmaster; Michelle Ross, co-concertmaster; Alexander Fortes, co-concertmaster; Lady Jess, principal; and Sami Merdinian, principal. EXO’s Artistic Advisors are Patrick Castillo, Brad Balliett, and Doug Balliett. For more information, please visit www.experientialorchestra.com.
JULIA PERRY FESTIVAL
RUCKEL MIDDLE SCHOOL CHORUS
CHRISTIAN FEAZELL, Director
HARRY LARIMER, Collaborative Pianist
TOM SHELTON One Voice
SUSAN LABARR Where the Light Begins
LEE DENGLER Things That Never Die
DOLLY PARTON Light of a Clear Blue Morning
ROLLO DILWORTH Hold Out Your Light
HARRY LARIMER, Conductor
GWYNETH WALKER How Can I Keep From Singing?
SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR HIGH SCHOOL ORCHESTRA
BRENDA JOHNSON, Conductor
JOSEPH JUNG, Assistant Conductor
ARCANGELO CORELLI Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8 (Christmas Concerto)
JEFFREY S. BISHOP Orange Jam
JOSEPH JUNG, Conductor
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY 1812 Overture arr. Sandra Dackow
JAMES BLACHLY, Music Director
JULIA PERRY I’m a Poor Li’l Orphan in this World
arr. Jannina Norpoth LOUISE TOPPIN, Soprano
JULIA PERRY Prelude for Strings
arr. Roger Zahab
JULIA PERRY Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
CURTIS STEWART, Violin
JULIA PERRY Ye, Who Seek the Truth
LOUISE TOPPIN, Soprano
W. RUCKEL MIDDLE SCHOOL CHORUS
SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR HIGH SCHOOL ORCHESTRA