Sioux City Symphony will open the season with works by the black composer | Weekend
Chances are you’ve never heard the classical music of Florence Price.
This is largely due to the fact that Price (1887-1953) lived in an era when men were dominant both as classical musicians and as composers.
Another reason Price isn’t widely known is the color of his skin.
“Florence Price was a black musician at a time when it was considered a handicap to be in the world of classical music,” said Michelle Cann.
Classical pianist who has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra and New Jersey Orchestra, Cann will perform Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement with the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Orpheum Theater, 528 Pierce St.
The Concerto evokes Price’s experience as a black woman in the post-Civil War South. It will be associated with Beethoven’s powerful and triumphant Symphony No.7 during the concert which also marks the season opening of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra.
“Price’s work has been completely ignored for many years,” Cann said. “It is only in the last few years that his work has received renewed attention.”
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Indeed, Cann was a champion of Price’s repertoire.
“When people first hear the Piano Concerto in one movement, they are amazed,” she said. “They think the music could serve as the soundtrack to a very dramatic film.”
This makes sense to Cann, who noted that Price was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and raised in an era when folk, jazz, and gospel music was exploding in the South.
“Price’s music is accessible and affordable,” she said. “Since receiving classical training, Price has also been influenced by classical composers like Brahms and Tchaikovsky. “
Having made her orchestral debut at the age of 14, Cann said she would have loved to know Price when she was growing up.
“As a black woman, I think it would have been nice to see someone who looks like me,” she said. “It’s hard when you feel like you fit into a certain world.”
Cann said the classical world is still dominated by both composers and male musicians.
“It’s getting better,” she said. “We can see the other side but we’re still there.”
Cann would like to be a role model for women and people of color.
“Finding out more about Florence Price’s accomplishments was meaningful to me,” she said. “I want to be that for the next generation.”
Cann is happy that Price, the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, is experiencing a bit of a rebirth.
“Price’s music needs to be heard because it is powerful, accessible and important,” she said.