ASO’s Masterworks 3: American Portraits - TribPapers
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ASO’s Masterworks 3: American Portraits

Bryan Terrell Clark will serve as the narrator for the performance. ASO photo.

Asheville – Asheville Symphony joined by Pulitzer-Prize and Three-Time-Grammy Winning Composer Jennifer Higdon and “Hamilton” Star Bryan Terrell Clark for “Masterworks 3: American Portraits.”

The Asheville Symphony’s November 18 Masterworks performance, “American Portraits” is set to have a star-studded lineup of guests on this all-American program.

Pulitzer Prize and three-time Grammy-winning composer Jennifer Higdon will attend the Asheville Symphony’s performances of her newly commissioned piece, “Cold Mountain Suite,” during “Masterworks 3: American Portraits” on Saturday, November 18, 2023.

The Asheville Symphony co-commissioned “Cold Mountain Suite” along with several orchestras across the nation. While it first premiered in Delaware, the piece’s content is intimately tied to Western North Carolina: it is based on Higdon’s award-winning opera, “Cold Mountain,” which, in turn, is based on the bestselling novel “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier, set in Haywood County, North Carolina.

Higdon will join the Asheville Symphony in the week leading up to the performance, attending rehearsals and coaching the orchestra while guiding their understanding of the piece. She will also participate alongside Asheville Symphony Music Director Darko Butorac during pre-concert lectures held before both performances of “Masterworks 3: American Portraits.”

“We are deeply honored to host Jennifer Higdon here in Asheville for the North Carolina premiere of her ‘Cold Mountain Suite,'” said Asheville Symphony Executive Director Daniel Crupi. “This piece, inspired by her critically acclaimed opera and tied to the famous novel, is deeply rooted in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the culture of Western North Carolina. It is truly poetic and fitting that the Asheville Symphony helped commission this work—and even more so that Dr. Higdon will be here to experience the premiere alongside us!”

The program for “Masterworks 3: American Portraits” promises to be both educational and deeply moving. The centerpiece of the program is Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” a tribute to Abraham Lincoln that combines orchestral music with spoken narration, featuring excerpts from Lincoln’s speeches and writings.

Bryan Terrell Clark will serve as the narrator for the performance. An accomplished actor and singer-songwriter, Clark has played major roles in highly successful Broadway shows, including George Washington in “Hamilton” and Marvin Gaye in “Motown: The Musical.” He will join the Asheville Symphony for Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait.”

Finally, the program will conclude with “Negro Folk Symphony,” a transformational work composed by the 20th-century Black composer William Levi Dawson. This piece, based on Black spirituals, had a significant influence on what came to be defined as the “American sound.”

Also in attendance at this landmark concert will be Simon Woods, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras. Formerly the President and CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Woods now advocates on behalf of the entire field of American orchestras. He is visiting Asheville to celebrate the creativity and innovation of the Asheville Symphony. Donors and patrons of the Asheville Symphony will have a chance to meet both Higdon and Woods at a private reception.

“We are very excited about the program for “Masterworks 3: American Portraits,’” said Crupi. “There are so many interlocking narratives and wonderful stories to tell through this program, from having Jennifer Higdon herself in attendance to hear the North Carolina premiere of her very own “Cold Mountain Suite,” to Copland’s powerful musical depiction of our 16th President, to performing the music of William L. Dawson, whose body of work is experiencing a well-deserved renaissance. This will be a concert to remember for the Asheville Symphony.”

“Masterworks 3: American Portraits” will be held on Saturday, November 18, 2023, at the First Baptist Church of Asheville, with performances at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at www.AshevilleSymphony.org, by calling the Asheville Symphony box office at (828) 254-7046, or in person at 27 College Place, Suite 100, in Asheville.

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