“Song of America: A Celebration of Black Music” at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg

Thomas Hampson and scholar/performer Dr. Louise Toppin are thrilled to bring their “Song of America: A Celebration of Black Music” project to the Hamburg International Music Festival this month.

Song of America: A Celebration of Black Music” is a mini-festival celebrating the music, poetry, and stories of Black composers, writers, and artists. Curated by Hampson and Dr Toppin, with special assistance in the orchestral repertoire from conductor Roderick Cox, this festival brings the stories and artistry of Black Americans to the international stage with the message that this music is for everyone. Writing Black artistic expression back into the narrative of American art music, this festival – in cooperation with Hampson’s not-for-profit Hampsong Foundation and the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg – invites a global audience to participate in our celebration of Black musicality in all its rich and diverse expressions.

This project is part of Hampson’s long-standing and multi-faceted Song of America project, which was inspired by a collaboration with the Library of Congress in 2005, and launched by the Hampsong Foundation in 2009. Song of America is a multi-faceted project that spans almost two decades. It invites performers, students, and audience members to explore the more than 250-year history of song in American culture through its online database, radio series, resources and events for educators and performers, and various special research ventures. Click here to learn more about Song of America.

Song of America: A Celebration of Black Music” comprises two live concerts and three concert streams that showcase the brilliant and multifaceted range of Black expression. The first live concert will take place on May 31, at the Laeiszhalle. Hampson is joined by sopranos Louise Toppin and Leah Hawkins, tenor Lawrence Brownlee, all under the baton of Roderick Cox. The second live concert will take place on June 1, with Thomas and his co-curator Louise Toppin presenting an intimate song recital with a selection of pieces by Florence Price, William Grant Still and Peter Ashbourne.

Beginning on June 2, the first concert program “Langston Hughes: Singing Harlem in Europe” features musical settings of his texts by composers like Wilhelm Grosz, Florence Price, and Leonard Bernstein. Hampson is joined by Louise Toppin and Leah Hawkins, mezzo-soprano Ema Nikolovska, Lawrence Brownlee, baritone Justin Austin, with pianists Howard Watkins and Joseph Joubert. For the second part of the “Celebration of Black Music”, the concert on June 4 presents several generations of artists, including Florence Price and William Grant Still to Tyshawn Sorey and B. E. Boykin. This event will feature the same artists from the June 2 event, and members of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen.

The final concert on June 6, “Hope in the Night”, offers messages of strength and resilience through operatic excerpts, spirituals, and instrumental music by composers William Grant Still, Valerie Coleman, George Walker, Margaret Bonds, Hale Smith, and William Dawson. This event will feature the artists from the May 31 event.

Note: All three “Celebration of Black Music” concerts are available to stream for free via IDAGIO’s Global Concert Hall until June 2, 2022:

A Celebration of Black Music I
A Celebration of Black Music II
A Celebration of Black Music III

Photo: Jiyang Chen