Nobody loves a genius child.
Kill him — and let his soul run wild.
These lines, which conclude Langston Hughes’ “Genius Child,” give voice to the centuries-old plight of Black artists — a constant struggle for recognition, met with suppression and appropriation. To confront this issue, music program faculty in Clark’s Visual and Performing Arts Department have created a virtual concert series showcasing the work of Black composers while bringing the community together.
Three concerts — Sept. 26, Oct. 17, and Nov. 7 — will be livestreamed from Razzo Hall in the Traina Center for the Arts. All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. and can be viewed here.
Cailin Marcel Manson, director of the music performance concentration and leader of the Clark Concert Choir and Chamber Chorus, worked closely on the development of the concerts with curator Ariana Falk. Manson named the series in a nod to Hughes, whose work is featured.
“I wanted to pull together a narrative for the songs in the first concert that would link our thoughts thematically — not just to the Black experience in abstract, but quite pointedly to where we all sit together right now as a society, disrupted by the pandemic and the ever-present onslaught of racial violence,” Manson says.
Falk echoes this sentiment, highlighting the lack of diversity in classical music throughout history. This series aims to celebrate these overlooked artists, she adds, as well as contemporary movements, including Black Lives Matter, which reflect a larger desire for racial equity across all walks of life, including the arts, in the U.S.
The Sept. 26 concert includes the work of composers Jessie Montgomery, Carlos Simon, and Tania Leon, among others, and features Falk, cello; Professor of Practice Peter Sulski, violin and viola; and Manson, baritone.
Sulski, who leads the Clark Sinfonia, planned the second and third concerts of the series. He is the solo performer on Oct. 17, playing works by Jessie Montgomery, Anthony Green, Edward Hardy, and Quinn Mason. On Nov. 7, Sulski will be joined by pianist Yelena Beriyeva, director of the Clark Chamber Ensembles, for a concert of music by Samuel Coleridge Taylor, Laurence Brown, Marcus Norris, and George Walker.
COVID-19 has all but eliminated the possibility of in-person concerts, which is a challenge to performers everywhere. “The essence of music-making is live collaboration,” Sulski acknowledges.
“Playing live music is the soul of life for most performers,” Falk notes. “Music is very physical and social.”
Still, she’s grateful that technology is allowing audiences to hear some wonderful music by important composers.