As Hamilton celebrates Black History month and the accomplishments of Black Canadians, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to present the symphony of the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the first black composer of the European classical tradition.

ImageThe “Black Mozart”

Joseph Boulogne occupies a truly rare place in the history of orchestral music.  Born in 1745 on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe to a former slave and white plantation owner, Joseph defied the odds to become one of the most accomplished figures of the African Diaspora in the classical era.

Joseph Boulogne, more commonly known as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, began studying the violin as a young boy in Guadeloupe and continued when his family moved to Paris.  Saint-Georges studied under some of the most well-known musical figures in France, who recognized his immense talent from a young age.  He made his solo debut as a violinist performing his own compositions and became music director of one of the finest orchestras in France shortly thereafter.

A master swordsman as well, Saint-Georges focused more on music than fencing as he aged.  His success, against the odds and social customs of 18th century Europe,  are a true testament to his courage, strength and conviction as a musician.  He died in 1799 and left the modern orchestral world with a canon of over 25 orchestral works, five operas and numerous string quartets, sonatas and songs.

His music is similar to the styles of Mozart and his Symphony No. 2 in D major will be performed by the HPO on February 15 in Luminescence, a program of music inspired by Paris.  Also on that program is the work of Saint-Georges’ contemporary, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante.

Black Canadians contribute to
classical music in our community and beyond…

ImageNathaniel Dett, composer

Born in Niagara Falls in 1882, Robert Nathaniel Dett was one of the most successful black composers of his time and known for incorporating Negro spirituals into the classical music style.  An accomplished pianist, Dett performed at Carnegie Hall and Boston’s Symphony Hall.  Dett’s compositions are still performed today by groups such as the Toronto-based Nathaniel Dett Chorale, who perform his works as well as other works by composers of the African Diaspora.

ImageColin Clarke, Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra

As Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, Colin Clarke has shaped the orchestral education of our region’s most skilled and dedicated young symphonic musicians.  A classically trained percussionist, Clarke keeps a busy schedule as founding artistic director of the Toronto Youth Wind Orchestra and as a clinician and adjudicator around Canada and the US.  Clarke received the Clifford Evans Award for conducting and participated in the International Conducting Workshop in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he conducted the symphonies of Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky with the highly celebrated New Symphony Orchestra.

ImageTanya Charles, professional violinist

Violinist Tanya Charles has captivated audiences across Canada and the Caribbean with her passion, energy, flair, and finesse. Born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Tanya began her violin studies, in a group setting, at the age of 10 in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s itinerant strings program and was concertmaster of the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.  Tanya went on to study at the University of Toronto and the Glenn Gould School and regularly performs with many orchestras in Ontario including the Sinfonia Toronto.

ImageKaren Burke, conductor of the Toronto Mass Choir and composer

McMaster trained Karen Burke is the artistic director of the Juno award winning Toronto Mass Choir, a touring choir on the cutting edge of the Canadian gospel music scene.  In 2011 the Toronto Mass Choir performed with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra for a Christmas concert that featured gospel and symphonic greats alike.