PSO, AWC collaborate on ‘Tribute’ concert

Classical music and modern African dance will be fused together during the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s sixth annual “Tribute” concert.

The event, which will be held Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture for the first time, will feature the August Wilson Dance Ensemble as the featured soloist.


The event, which was formed in 2007, creates an orchestral concert that reflects the music and cultural contributions of the African-American community. The goal of the concert is to highlight all of the things that African-Americans have done in music. The August Wilson Center for African American Culture has been involved with the “Tribute” concert in some capacity since the concert’s inception.

“We have been partnering with them for years and we wanted to take that relationship to the next level,” said Jessica Schmidt, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s senior director of community programming. “We wanted to feature the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble with the orchestra on stage. It’s very natural to put music and dance on stage together and we wanted people to experience the August Wilson Center. It’s great when you can bring people together and you can get them to see something different.”

The first half of the concert will highlight the talents of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which will perform several arias composed by Black musicians including William Dawson’s “Negro Folk Symphony,” and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “Danse Negre, Opus 35, no. 4.” Lawrence Loh will serve as the night’s conductor.

“We have always wanted to see some kind of chamber piece on our stage and we wanted to deepen the relationship between the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the August Wilson Center,” explained Shaunda Miles, August Wilson Center’s vice-president of programming and cultivation.

The second half of the concert will feature the August Wilson Dance Ensemble dancing to music performed by the symphony.

“Classical music is a part of African-American music like any other music,” said Andre Kimo Stone Guess, president and CEO of the August Wilson Center. “It’s great to have the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on stage. It’s going to be a great showcase for them because of the intimacy of the hall.This is the juxtaposition of things that seem to be dissimilar, but they are the same.”

“The orchestra has been playing music for years and this dance ensemble has been dancing for two years. Art has a way of joining excellence and you see that artistic excellence at the highest level with these two entities working together to find common ground,” Guess continued.

Greer Reed, artistic director of Dance Initiatives at the August Wilson Center, believes the collaboration between the two entities will provide a spectacular night of movement and music for the audience to enjoy.

“It was a no-brainer. We have always wanted to collaborate. The great thing about this is that we are a repertoire company and we can switch from one thing to another. We’re rooted in Black dance, but people will get to see ballet and lyrical dance and other styles,” Reed said. “People will be impressed by the versatility of the company and the concert will also feature some of the dancers individually.” The August Wilson Dance Ensemble was recently named one of the top 25 dance companies to watch in 2012 by New York-based “Dance Magazine.”

“The orchestra audience will enjoy the dance and the August Wilson Center audience will enjoy the music. This is a way for both groups to grow their audiences,” Reed said.

Tickets for the “Tribute” concert range from $16 to $32 and can be purchased by calling the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra box office at 412-392-4900.

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