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The New York Youth Symphony Plays Works by Florence Price, Jessie Montgomery, Valerie Coleman

Released on Avie Records, this GRAMMY-winning album features pianist Michelle Cann and conductor Michael Repper

 

The New York Youth Symphony (NYYS) recently released their first-ever studio album on the Avie Records label. The album covers great American works by the composers Florence Price, Valerie Coleman, and ex-NYYS player Jessie Montgomery.

The impetus for the disc came in the fall of 2020, when pandemic shutdowns prevented the orchestra from giving one of their annual concerts at Carnegie Hall. NYYS Music Director Michael Repper decided that the time was ripe for the orchestra to record its first album.

However, pandemic restrictions meant that much of the album had to be recorded in a socially-distanced manner, with some musicians recording to a click track while wearing headphones. Producer Judith Sherman and recording engineer Isaiah Abolin stitched the various tracks together to create the final product.

The album contains two works by Florence Price: Ethiopia's Shadow in America and the Piano Concerto in One Movement, on which the orchestra is joined by renowned pianist Michelle Cann. Also included are Jessie Montgomery's work Soul Force and Valerie Coleman's Umoja: Anthem of Unity.

"[These pieces] are tremendous works of American music," Michael Repper told The Violin Channel. "Ethiopia’s Shadow in America hadn’t been recorded before by an American orchestra, and in the case of Soul Force, no recording had yet been made."

"And, critically, both pieces address systemic racism and injustices from the viewpoints of Black women in America," he continued. "Listening to and centering the voices of Black composers is crucially important. It’s imperative that orchestras do so."

 

On February 5, 2023, the album received the GRAMMY Award for Best Orchestral Performance. This is the first time a youth symphony has received this honor.

"I hope listeners will hear the joy that the young musicians had as they played this music together," Repper added. "We hadn’t played together for months. These young musicians played their hearts out. With this Grammy, they prove that there is nothing that young people can’t accomplish when they have the opportunity and resources to follow their dreams."

"I hope this win encourages all professional musicians and all orchestra organizations to empower their communities, and particularly young people. By doing so we can all use music as a vehicle to inspire and create positive change."

You can purchase the album, or listen to it on Spotify or Apple Music, here.

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