America, Vol. 4

Event details

  • April 20, 2018
  • 8:00 pm
  • Ray Charles Performing Arts Center
  • 770-429-2390

Please note the venue for this performance:
Ray Charles Performing Arts Center
900 West End Ave SW, Atlanta, GA 30310


Volume 4 of the GSO’s multi-year presentation of American music explores black American composers including the world premiere of Moonlight Waltz by the GSO’s own N. E. Wheeler, and the Georgia premier of Daniel Bernard Roumain Human Songs and Stories and William Grant Still’s And They Lynched Him on a Tree.

Joining the GSO Chorus for this performance are artistic partners the Morehouse College Glee Club, Spelman College Glee Club, Georgia Spiritual Ensemble, Oral Moses, and the Uzee Brown Society of Choraliers.

Click here for the April 21, 2016 performance in Marietta

Jonathan Bailey Holland Motor City Dance Mix
N. E. Wheeler Moonlight Waltz*
Adolphus Hailstork Shout for Joy
William Grant Still And They Lynched Him on a Tree**
Daniel Bernard Roumain Human Songs and Stories**
*World Premiere
** Georgia Premiere

America, Volume 4

Friday, April 20, 2018 8:00pm

Ray Charles Performing Arts Center


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Marietta Performing Arts Center


Volume 4 of the GSO’s multi-year presentation of American music explores black American composers, including the world premiere of Moonlight Waltz by the GSO’s own N. E. Wheeler, and the Georgia premiere of Daniel Bernard Roumain’s Human Songs and Stories and William Grant Still’s And They Lynched Him on a Tree.  Joining the GSO Chorus for this performance are artistic partners the Morehouse College Glee Club, Spelman College Glee Club, Georgia Spiritual Ensemble, Oral Moses, and the Uzee Brown Society of Choraliers.


Composer Jonathan Bailey Holland (b. 1974), classically trained at the Curtis Institute of Music and Harvard University, professes a love of all styles and types of music.  His influences include not only the popular and classical music he has heard since childhood - his dad’s eclectic record collection contained “everything from Lou Rawls to Nat Adderley to Miles Davis to Bootsy Collins to Handel's Fireworks” - but his non-musical environment as well, including visual art, poetry, even sleep breathing cycles.  Such all-encompassing interests led Holland to a position as professor of composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston, an environment rich in what he calls a “cross-pollination” of musical styles, and he currently serves as Chair of Composition, Theory and History at Boston Conservatory at Berklee.


Holland has been commissioned, performed and recorded by ensembles across the United States, including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.  Recent highlights include: the release of Synchrony, a statement on Black Lives Matter, on Radius Ensemble’s Fresh Paint CD; the premiere of Equality by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra featuring poetry of Maya Angelou with narration by actor Regina Taylor and rapper/actor Common; and the premiere of Forged Sanctuaries by Curtis on Tour, commemorating the centennial of the National Park Service.  He was recently named Composer-in-Residence of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for its 2018-19 season.


Motor City Dance Mix (2003) was commissioned and premiered by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in commemoration of the re-opening of its Max. M. Fisher Orchestra Hall in 2003.  With this commission, Holland saw an opportunity to “play up” the non-classical musical elements in his music, at the same time reflecting the DSO’s home in Motown.  The result is a work which “hints at various styles of music,” capturing the spirit of Motown and Detroit while not actually quoting its tunes - an “American in Detroit,” if you will.  Says the composer, “it’s a piece that I hope is a fun piece for the orchestra to play and for the audience to hear.”


Nicholas Emanuel Wheeler (b. 1987) is a music educator, violist and string bassist, and a composer of music for film, video games (his favorite genre), orchestra, chorus, and chamber ensemble.  His favorite classical works are those of Brahms and Tchaikovsky.  Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Wheeler says that he has been an Atlanta native since 1995, and it is here that he began his musical studies, from viola in elementary school, to violin, trombone, and piano at the DeKalb School of the Arts, to music education and composition at Columbus State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music in 2009 and became a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity.  Wheeler teaches general music, chorus, band and orchestra at Kings Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta, Georgia.  His favorite hobby is running – he is an avid half/full marathoner – and his youtube site describes him as a “Composer, Gamer, Teacher, Bible believer and Very Politically Incorrect.”  Tonight’s performance of Moonlight Waltz, which marks Wheeler’s debut as a symphonic composer, reveals his traditionally Romantic side, featuring the strings in a pensive lilting waltz with subtle chromatics, framed by softly dissonant passages.   

Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941) is a veritable living dean of classical music in the United States.  Having studied music from an early age, after graduating from Howard University in 1963 he studied at the Manhattan School of Music, at the American Institute at Fontainebleau with Nadia Boulanger, and earned a doctorate in composition from Michigan State University.  Hailstork has written extensively for chorus, solo voice, piano, organ, chamber ensembles, band, and orchestra, and his works have been widely commissioned, performed and recorded by such ensembles as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony and the New York Philharmonic.  Recent commissions include I Speak of Peace (2013) for the Bismarck Symphony in honor of President John F. Kennedy, Robeson (2013) for the Trilogy Opera Company, Hercules (“the veriest dandy slave,” 2014) for the Grand Rapids Symphony, and Ndemara (2017) for the Myrelinques Festival of France.  In 2016, the Atlanta Music Festival, presented by Emory University, commissioned a choral work by Hailstork for choirs, soloists and orchestra, with lyrics inspired by President Barack Obama’s speech “A More Perfect Union,” a speech in which the President addressed the role of race in the presidential campaign.  Hailstork is Professor of Music and Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.


Shout for Joy (1990), commissioned by the Bank Street Baptist Church of Norfolk, Virginia, in celebration of its 150th anniversary, illustrates Hailstork’s rich harmonic choral language which, while traditional, uses dissonance to dramatically express the text. This twelve-minute fanfare literally lives up to its title, featuring the performance ensemble in full force in its opening and closing sections.  A subdued middle section, introduced by the organ and beginning on the words “The word of the Lord….,” is an appropriately introspective passage which gives voice to performers and chorus as soloists.


The son of teachers, William Grant Still (1895-1978) grew up in a home where learning and the arts were valued, where he heard opera and operettas, studied violin, and was immersed in the African-American culture of his time.  While pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree at Wilberforce College, he also directed and wrote arrangements for the college band.  By the mid-1920s, Still had worked in pit orchestras and music groups, including W. C. Handy’s, played professionally the violin, oboe, cello, and clarinet, studied at Oberlin, played violin in the U.S. Navy during World War I, played oboe in Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake’s production of Shuffle Along, conducted and arranged for recordings, and studied composition with the conservative George Chadwick and the ultramodern Edgar Varèse.  Among his awards were Guggenheim and Rosenwald Fellowships and honorary doctorates from, among other institutions, Oberlin College, the Peabody Conservatory, and the New England Conservatory of Music.


In the pursuit of his art, and in the course of earning a living through music, there was no music venue that did not benefit from Still’s original scores, arrangements, and improvisation, from jazz band to orchestra, from radio to movies to recording studios, from stage pit to concert hall.  Even were he not acknowledged as a first in so many ways – the first African-American composer to be performed by major orchestras here and abroad, to conduct a major American orchestra, to have an opera performed by a major company on national television – William Grant Still, with nine operas, five ballets, five symphonies, and numerous chamber and orchestral works to his credit, would have easily left his mark on the world of classical music alone.

…And They Lynched Him on a Tree (1940) is Still’s setting of a poem by Katherine Garrison Chapin (1890-1977).   Born only 30 years after the end of the Civil War in Woodville, Mississippi, and no stranger to racism, Still had already highlighted social issues and injustices in the United States in works such as Three Negro Songs (1922), Darker America (1924), Afro American Symphony (1930), and Ebony Chronicle (1933).  Garrison, a liberal who opposed racial discrimination, was encouraged by Alain Locke, a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, and Charlotte Mason (Garrison’s aunt), a supporter and benefactor of Harlem Renaissance artists, to correspond with Still about setting her poem.

Called by its creators “The Lynching Piece,” …And They Lynched Him on a Tree has rarely been performed, especially in the south.  Harlan Zackery, Jr., in his excellent dissertation, “A Reception History and Conductor’s Guide to William Grant Still’s …And They Lynched Him on a Tree,” cites three reasons for this:  its title, which immediately revives feelings of racial tension;  the designated performance forces, to include a “Negro Chorus” and a “White Chorus,” the latter portraying both lynch mob and victim advocates; and the sheer discomfort of addressing the topic of lynching, called by theologian James Cone “a “memory white Americans would prefer to forget.”  It is no surprise, then, that the state of Mississippi, the state in which Still was born, did not hear a performance of this work until 2009, and that Georgia is first hearing it in performance now, in 2018.


The narrative, as stated in Still’s score, is as follows: “It is night.  In a clearing by the roadside among the turpentine pines, lit by the headlights from parked cars, a Negro has just been lynched.  The white crowd who hung him, and those who watched, are breaking up now, going home.  They sing together, get into their cars and drive away.  Darkness falls on the road and the woods.  Then slowly the Negroes come out from hiding to find the body of their friend.  Among them is the mother of the man who was hung.  In darkness they grope for the tree; when they find it the mother sings her dirge.  The Negro chorus joins her and they retell the story of the man’s life and rehearse the tragedy.  She is humble and broken but as they all sing together, the white voices joining the Negroes’, the song becomes strong in its impartial protest against mob lawlessness and pleads for a new tolerance to wipe this shadow of injustice off the land.”


Known for violin sounds influenced by electronic and urban music, a style he calls “dred violin,” Haitian-American Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR, b. 1970), came from a home filled with music, from Haitian folk music to Beethoven, Stevie Wonder, The Eagles and ABBA, as well as music of South Floridian communities from The Bahamas, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.  Having discovered the violin at age five, he studied with conductor and bandleader Mitch Miller, played electric guitar and synthesizer in rock, hip-hop and jazz orchestras, attended Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, and earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan, where he studied with William Bolcom, Michael Daugherty and Bright Sheng.  He is currently Institute Professor of Practice at Arizona State University, where he teaches courses that “focus on translating personal accounts into creative expression and on the complex artistic, social and cultural impact of artists/activists.”  “For me the arts are like a religion,” he says.  “I still have and play the same violin I played when I was five years old. This inanimate object, the violin, has been the one constant thing in my life.”


One of the most innovative artists of his generation, DBR embraces all genres, writing music that combines tradition and culture in a blend of classical, funk, and rock, broadening and redefining concert music in a way that appeals to young audiences.  His Call Them All (2006) uses a laptop computer in performance and his Hip-Hop Essay (1995) was one of the first works to fuse hip-hop and classical music in concert.  Not one to limit his interests to the stage, DBR’s ESPN E:60 was nominated for a 2009 Sports EMMY Award for Outstanding Music, he has been a featured performer at technology conferences, and he has written large-scale, site-specific music for public parks.  Among his works are scores for the Atlanta Ballet’s “Home in 7,” created in collaboration with choreographer Amy Seiwert and poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph. 


Also committed to arts education, DBR encourages his students to write the music they feel rather than copying classical, or even popular, models.  "I used to be very interested, as a composer, in documenting the African-American experience," he said to The New York Times’ Allan Kozinn. "Now I'm interested in the human experience.  I'm interested in reaching a broader audience, but I'm not as interested in celebrity as community.  I believe that where classical music began was in forwarding an idea for the common good.  It's become something different in some ways.  But I still believe that composers are the priests of that, the keepers of the flame."


Of Human Songs and Stories (2002), DBR writes in the Composer’s Note to his score:


Human Songs and Stories, For Orchestra, Narrator, and The People marks the culmination of an important creative period in my life.  It is the final piece in a series of orchestral essays that includes also Haitian Essay, Hip-Hop Essay, and Harlem Essay.


I was approached in August of 2001, by representatives for the founders of Texas Public Radio, with a commission to write a work honoring the founders of KPAC-FM, San Antonio, on the occasion of the station’s 20th anniversary.  I knew immediately that this composition had to unite and provoke, inform and infuse, delight and demand in the same way that quality radio programming does.


The mission of the founders of public radio, it seemed to me, was to offer the listening public a choice by providing a voice to those who might otherwise remain silent, unseen and unheard.  This was a guiding principle in the composition of Human Songs and Stories, and it extends not only to the work’s “narrative” performers, but also to specific players in the orchestra.


The music you will hear is mine, but the words are not.  The words emanate from two different sources: the perennially resounding Bible (in this case, Genesis), and the minds and mouths of “The People” on stage.  In many important ways, then, this is my story; but it is also the story of the individuals on stage who recite their own words, expressions of their own thoughts and ideas.


It is to all of them that I dedicate this work.



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Boston Conservatory at Breklee, Jonathan Bailey Holland,

Jonathan Bailey Holland on Motor City Dance Mix. October 13, 2010, and Jonathan Bailey Holland:  Style and Recent Work, October 14, 2010, interviews as Columbia Orchestra Guest Composer, and

Broadway World Cincinnati, “Jonathan Bailey Holland Announced as Composer-in-Residence of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, January 26, 2018,

Youtube, Nicholas Emanuel Wheeler,

Nicholas Emanuel Wheeler, email to Michaelene Gorney dated February 3, 2018.

Emory News Center, “Atlanta Music Festival promotes harmony across racial, social landscapes,” October 31, 2016,

Carl Fischer Music, Adolphus Hailstork,

Nseobong Ekpo, Expanding the American Canon: A Conductor's Compendium of Black American Orchestral Composers (Doctoral dissertation), 2015, Retrieved from

Georgetown University Library, :And They Lynched Him On A Tree: William Grant Still (189501978) and Katherine Biddle (1890-1977),” April 1 and August 31, 2006,

The Aquila Digital Community, The University of Southern Mississippi, Harlan Zackery, Jr., “A Reception History and Conductor’s Guide to William Grant Still’s …And They Lynched Him on a Tree,” Spring 5-2016,

Robert L. Zangrando, The NAACP Crusade Against Lynching, 1909-1950 , Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1980.

Wayne D. Shirley, “William Grant Still’s Choral Ballad And They Lynched Him on a Tree,American Music 12 (Winter 1994).

Brandon Williams, “The Shadow Still Lingers:  A Conductor’s Guide for William Grant Still’s …And They Lynched Him on a Tree,” Choral Journal, March, 2018, Vol. 58 No. 8.

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