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Metropolitan Youth Symphony will present 'America's Florence,' named for pioneering African American composer Florence Price

COURTESY PHOTO  - Composer Florence Prices music will be performed at the Metropolitan Youth Symphony concert May 21 at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland.

Metropolitan Youth Symphony (MYS) will present "America's Florence" at 7:30 p.m. May 21 in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland. Named for the pioneering African American composer Florence Price, the concert features what is believed to be the West Coast premiere of her Symphony No. 1 in E minor, winner of the first place prize for an orchestral work in the progressive Rodman Wanamaker Competition of 1932. Premiered the following year by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, this was the first symphony by an African American woman ever to be performed by a major American orchestra. By marrying the finesse of her traditional, European-style training with the raw and soulful qualities of African American folk music, Price charmingly and effectively captured the spirit of an era in American history.

Also on the program is Price's "Dances in the Canebrakes," which suggests a cakewalk, a rag and a hot and languid summer soiree, all among the sugarcane. Originally composed for piano, this suite is orchestrated by William Grant Still, widely recognized as "the Dean of African American composers."

The Authentic Voice, the season's three-part commissioning project presented in collaboration with contemporary music ensemble Fear No Music, concludes with the World Premiere by MYS voilinist Katie Palka. Developed through the Young Composers Project, Palka's "Letter to Florence Price" honors Price while lending a modern voice to the continuing musical story of our nation.

Filled with shimmering orchestral timbres, this lyrical work incorporates Palka's musical interests that lie outside the classical tradition, reflecting the artistic values of Price herself who often reached beyond the classical canon as inspiration for her own work.

MYS also performs the first movement of Dmitri Kabalevksy's Cello Concerto No. 1, featuring a solo performance by Ethan Tseng, a freshman at Jesuit High School and one of the winners of the 2019 MYS Concerto Competition.

Tickets to the concert range in price from $11 to $40 at or by calling 503-239-4566.

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