Sphinx Virtuosi “Generations” showcases the beautiful diversity of Black and Latin classical music across the generations at Carnegie Hall.
In the best manner of the West African tradition of “Sankofa,” we look back at our roots, so going forward we can create the best possible future together.
Sphinx Virtuosi “Generations”
The Black and Latin star musicians of Sphinx Virtuosi play chamber music by Black and Latin composers including Blache, Casarrubios, Foley, Villa-Lobos, and Perkinson, with songs by cellist and singer Abel Selaocoe; in the Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall in Midtown, Manhattan; on Friday, October 20, 2023 at 7pm. From $28. carnegiehall.org 🇺🇸 🇧🇷 🇿🇦 🇪🇸
The program is:
- QUENTON BLACHE Habari Gani (NY Premiere)
- ANDREA CASARRUBIOS Herencia (NY Premiere)
- PERKINSON Allegro vivace from Sinfonietta No. 2, “Generations”
- VILLA-LOBOS Aria (Cantilena) from Bachianas brasileiras No. 5
- XAVIER FOLEY Concertante for Two Double Basses and String Orchestra, “Galaxy” (NY Premiere, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall)
- ABEL SELAOCOE “Qhawe”
- ABEL SELAOCOE “Lerato”
- ABEL SELAOCOE “Ka Bohaleng”
Quenton Xavier Blache is an African American cellist and composer from the University of Southern California (USC) Thornton School of Music. He is a Sphinx Virtuosi alumnus. quentonxavierblache.com | @qblache 🇺🇸
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004) was an African American composer of jazz, pop, and classical music for dance, film and television. He had the blues in his soul. He was music director for Jerome Robbins’ American Theater Lab and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and founded the Symphony of the New World. The show’s title comes from the Perkinson piece in the concert. He is now the old generation, but Perkinson himself looked to prior generations for his inspiration. 🇺🇸
Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) is the most famous Latin American classical music composer. He used Brazilian folk traditions and the sound of the Amazon jungle for inspiration. “Bachianas brasileiras” is one of his most famous works. It offers Brazilian themes in the style of J.S. Bach. Perfect because to be Latin is to be a child of both Old and New Worlds. 🇧🇷
Xavier Foley from Marietta, Georgia, is an African American double bassist. He is a 2014 Sphinx Competition winner who is touring the world with his “Galaxy Concertante.” xavierfoley.com | @xavierfoleybass 🇺🇸
Sphinx Virtuosi is a chamber orchestra made up of the best students of The Sphinx Organization, a social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.
The Detroit-based organization turns beginning students into seasoned classical music professionals, cultural entrepreneurs, and arts administrators. It’s important work because our world is more diverse than ever. sphinxmusic.org | @sphinxorg
The Sphinx is African. The riddle of the Sphinx is that cleverness defeats violence. It’s a metaphor for how love conquers hate.
Context of Black and Latin Classical Music
Classical music first developed in Italy and then the salons of Europe. Many Americans don’t realize that Black and Latin America have strong classical music traditions too. But instead of looking to European folk traditions for inspiration, we are inspired by the folk traditions of the Americas.
The Brazilian composer Villa-Lobos is the best known Latin American classical music composer, but there are many, and many great interpreters of classical music too.
Classical music is experiencing a renaissance among young people who are discovering its contemporary forms. That is good because if the music doesn’t evolve, it dies. Many Black and Latin artists are more adventurous than famed American avant-garde composer and music theorist John Cage (1912-1992), who stretched musical forms into new dimensions of meaning, often in his work with contemporary dance icon Merce Cunningham. To paraphrase rock icons The Who, “the kids are alright.”
The Classical Music Renaissance in New York City
Something wonderful is happening in New York City right now. Legendary Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel (Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Paris Opera) takes the baton at the New York Philharmonic in 2026. Dudamel is not only a great violinist and conductor, he is Latin so he builds communities. He is already having an impact in New York.
New Yorkers are giving their children classical music lessons. These teach discipline, how to work in a group, and poise that benefits people for their entire lives, whether or not they become professional musicians.
[Editor “Kiko” Keith: Once upon a time, I was a college violin major, a student of the New York String Quartet. I dreamed of playing the violin at Carnegie Hall like Itzhak Perlman. When Carnegie Hall became a client, I just about fell over because my dream came true in a most unexpected way. It’s because of the classical music education my mother gave me. She was a classical pianist. Thanks Mom! Get your kids music lessons now. You never know where it will lead.]
Now is the time because New York City is having a classical music renaissance, and Carnegie Hall is right in the middle of it all. Do you know the way to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice.