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New York Phil Presents First Black Woman Composer Played by Orchestra After Almost 60-Year Hiatus

By Sara Schabas on November 27, 2023

The New York Philharmonic presented Julia Perry’s Stabat Mater for the first time this week.

What’s Up: On November 22nd, the New York Philharmonic presented American composer Julia Perry’s Stabat Mater for the first time. It featured mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges in a performance of the Black composer’s “undeservedly forgotten” 1951 work for voice and orchestra. Conductor Dima Slobodeniouk conducted Perry’s work in between pieces by Holst and Ligeti.

Refresher: Julia Perry’s compositions achieved widespread acclaim during her career, which was cut short by illness. She was the first Black woman to have a piece performed by the New York Philharmonic in 1965. Her output is currently largely unplayed due to copyright issues and a lack of an heir to control licensing, although a lawyer hired by the Akron Symphony is currently investigating this.

Digging Deeper: Next year marks the 100th anniversary of Perry’s birth, which many orchestras will celebrate by programming her “obsessively meticulous” and “logically and beautifully written” works. Further information about Perry can be found on the Akron Symphony’s The Julia Perry Project website.

Sara Schabas
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