Blachly conducts Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with Mitchell as soprano soloist, plus Ethel Smyth’s Serenade in D
Program also highlights the work of Metro Detroit’s African Diaspora Music Project with works by Julia Perry (Prelude for Strings arr. Zahab) and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (Sinfonietta No. 1 for Strings)
Tickets on sale now at dso.org
Detroit, (July 5, 2023) – This July, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) will conclude its 2022–2023 William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series with a weekend of concerts featuring Grammy Award-winning conductor James Blachly and soprano Laquita Mitchell.
The program opens with a brooding piece for strings by Julia Perry, the Serenade for Strings (arr. Zahab). Next, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson employs an eclectic mix of musical styles in his Sinfonietta No. 1, beginning in a pensive mood and rushing to a dramatic finale. Mitchell is the soprano soloist in Barber's poignant evocation of American life as seen by a young child in his Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and the program concludes with Dame Ethel Smyth’s Serenade in D, taking the listener on a journey from nostalgia to mirth to triumph.
Conductor James Blachly also serves as Associate Editor and Orchestral Liaison of the Metro Detroit-based African Diaspora Music Project (ADMP). Founded and Directed by University of Michigan professor Dr. Louise Toppin, the ADMP database has thus far compiled nearly 4,000 vocal titles and more than 1,300 published works for orchestra by African diaspora composers, including those by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson and Julia Perry heard on these performances.
These concerts will take place on July 13 at 7:30 p.m. at The Berman Center for the Performing Arts in West Bloomfield, July 14 at 8 p.m. at NorthRidge Church in Plymouth, July 15 at 8 p.m. at Kirk in the Hills Church in Bloomfield Hills, and July 16 at 3 p.m. at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Grosse Pointe.
Single tickets (beginning at $30, with $10 tickets available for students) are on sale now and can be purchased at dso.org/neighborhood or by calling the Box Office at 313.576.5111. The Box Office is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Subscription packages for the 2023–2024 William Davidson Neighborhood Series, which begins in January 2024, are also on sale now.
Currently in its twelfth year, the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series brings world-class DSO performances to seven Metro Detroit communities. Featuring repertoire curated especially for intimate venues, the series creates musical impact by connecting with audiences in their communities. DSO Chamber Recitals feature DSO musicians in a variety of settings in Detroit and across the entire metro area. In addition, DSO musicians regularly perform at schools, hospitals, senior living facilities, places of worship, parks, and other community gathering spaces.
The William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series is made possible by a generous grant from the William Davidson Foundation. WRCJ 90.9 FM also supports the series. Renamed in 2014 in honor of philanthropist William Davidson, the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series brings even more opportunities for Metro Detroiters to experience the DSO close to home. In October 2017, the William Davidson Foundation made a $15 million gift of support to the DSO—one of the orchestra’s largest ever–including continued sponsorship of the series.
William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series
Thursday, July 13 at 7:30 p.m. at The Berman Center for the Performing Arts (6600 W. Maple Rd., West Bloomfield Township, MI)
Friday, July 14 at 8 p.m. at NorthRidge Church (49555 N Territorial Rd, Plymouth, MI)
Saturday, July 15 at 8 p.m. at Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church (1340 W. Long Lake Rd., Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Sunday, July 16 at 3 p.m. at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church (467 Fairford Rd., Grosse Pointe Woods, MI)
James Blachly, conductor
Laquita Mitchell, soprano
Laquita Mitchell is the soprano soloist in Barber's poignant evocation of American life as seen by a young child. Ethel Smyth takes the listener on a journey from nostalgia to mirth to triumph. Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson employs an eclectic mix of musical styles; his Sinfonietta No. 1 is by turns searching and pensive, then rushes to a dramatic finale. A brooding piece for strings by Julia Perry begins the concert.
Conductor James Blachly serves as Associate Editor and Orchestral Liaison for the Metro Detroit-based African Diaspora Music Project (ADMP), directed by University of Michigan professor Dr. Louise Toppin. The ADMP database has thus far compiled more than 1,300 published works for orchestra by African diaspora composers, including those by Perkinson and Perry. The DSO is proud to highlight the work of the ADMP with these performances.
JULIA PERRY (ARR. ZAHAB) Prelude for Strings
COLERIDGE-TAYLOR PERKINSON Sinfonietta No. 1 for Strings
SAMUEL BARBER Knoxville: Summer of 1915
ETHEL SMYTH Serenade in D
About James Blachly
James Blachly is a Grammy Award-winning conductor dedicated to enriching the concert experience by connecting with audiences in memorable and meaningful ways. Blachly serves as Music Director of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra and of the Experiential Orchestra and is a versatile guest conductor in diverse repertoire with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.
With the Johnstown Symphony, Blachly conducted the orchestra at the Flight 93 Memorial (in a former steel mill) for the 20th anniversary of 9/11, in a concert that was featured on Katie Couric’s America Inside Out, and in six seasons the orchestra has increased season ticket sales and annual giving each by more than 50 percent. In 2021, he received a commendation by the City of Johnstown and the Johnstown chapter of the NAACP.
With the Experiential Orchestra, he has conducted the works of Arvo Pärt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, invited audiences to dance to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, sit within the orchestra at Lincoln Center, and engage with Symphonie fantastique and Petrushka with circus choreography at The Muse in Brooklyn. Their world premiere recording of English composer Dame Ethel Smyth’s 1930 masterpiece The Prison, released on Chandos Records, won a 2021 Grammy Award and was widely acclaimed by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Gramophone, San Francisco Chronicle, Financial Times, The Guardian, and many others.
Blachly’s work on The Prison began in 2015. He is the editor for the new Wise Music Group critical edition, which has not only made modern performances and this recording possible, but has also contributed to a new wave of interest in Smyth's work throughout the music world. This is the first-ever Grammy Award for music by Smyth, who lived from 1858–1944 and struggled her entire career to have her music judged on its merits rather than on the basis of her gender.
In 2022, he held a week-long artist residency at Montclair State University featuring composer in residence Jessie Montgomery, where he taught courses on composition, conducting, choral techniques, and delivered several keynote lectures, culminating in an Experiential Orchestra-style immersive performance. At the invitation of founder Charles Dickerson, he assisted in curating a concert celebrating works for orchestra by African Diaspora composers and was one of six conductors to lead the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles at the League of American Orchestras conference.
In 2016, Blachly was the only conductor from the US invited to participate in the Young Conductor’s Showcase as a part of El Sistema’s 40th anniversary celebration, and he was also the only US conductor to be invited as Conducting Fellow in Maestra Marin Alsop's final year at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. In addition to the New York Philharmonic, recent guest conducting engagements include the Williamsburg Symphony, Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, Malaysian Philharmonic, Spokane Symphony, Portland Symphony (ME), Danbury Symphony, and Odyssey Opera (Boston), as well as performances at Trinity Church Wall Street, Roulette, National Sawdust, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center.
A strong supporter of composers of our time, Blachly has commissioned and premiered more than 40 works by composers including Jessie Montgomery, Courtney Bryan, Viet Cuong, Michi Wiancko, Kate Copeland Ettinger, Tommy Daugherty, Patrick Castillo, Brad and Doug Balliett, and many others. In recent seasons, he has collaborated with soloists Paul Jacobs, Michelle Cann, Charles Yang, Julia Bullock, Dashon Burton, Helga Davis, Sarah Brailey, Andrés Cárdenes, Michael Chioldi, Karen Kim, Andrew Yee, and more.
In 2020, Blachly was invited to serve as the Associate Editor and Orchestral Liaison for the African Diaspora Music Project, directed by Dr. Louise Toppin. In that capacity, he has overseen the compilation of a database and website detailing more than 1,300 published works for orchestra by African diaspora composers.
Dedicated to finding new ways of empowering audiences, Blachly is in demand as a speaker on Listening as Leadership, bringing his expertise as a conductor and passion for music to Fortune 500 companies, schools, and other organizations. He has also conducted dozens of educational concerts for thousands of school children. For ten years he conducted workshops and clinics for the New York Philharmonic, served as Ensemble Director for the Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids program, and conducted clinics and appearances throughout western Pennsylvania for the JSO. From 2010 to 2015, he performed benefit concerts of Mahler symphonies with New York freelancers to launch what is now Make Music NOLA, a thriving El Sistema-inspired program in New Orleans.
Also active as a composer, Blachly studied at Mannes with Robert Cuckson and privately with Charles Wuorinen and John Corigliano. His compositions have been celebrated as “vigorous and assured” by Chamber Music America, and a “splendidly crafted…tour de force” by the Miami Herald, and have been performed at The Stone, Zankel Hall, in Europe and across the US, in an audience for the Pope, and broadcast live on the CBC.
About Laquita Mitchell
Soprano Laquita Mitchell consistently earns acclaim on eminent international opera and concert stages worldwide. Mitchell performed the soprano soloist in the world première of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec’s Sanctuary Road at Carnegie Hall with Oratorio Society of New York, which was nominated for a 2021 Grammy Award.
This season, Mitchell will reprise “Julie” in Omar for Carolina Performing Arts, a role she created in the opera’s world premiere at the Spoleto Festival last season. She will also return to the role of Josephine Baker in Josephine with Music of Remembrance. In concert, Mitchell performs Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Madison Symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with Sarasota Orchestra, Sanctuary Road with the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati, Verdi’s Requiem with Rhode Island Philharmonic, and Tippet’s A Child of Our Time with Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra. Next season, Mitchell will return to the role of Countess in Le nozze di Figaro.
Last season, Mitchell created the role of Julie in the world premiere of Omar with Spoleto Festival USA, in addition to performing Robinetta in On Site Opera’s production of Rachel J. Peters’s Lesson Plan and reprising the role of Josephine for the New Orleans Opera. Mitchell delighted concertgoers across the US with performances including The Ordering of Moses for the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park; Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for the Memphis Symphony; Brahms’s Requiem and a Bel Canto Gala with AlbanyPro Musica; Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Lima Symphony Orchestra; Sanctuary Road with the Chautauqua Symphony; and a holiday concert for the Princeton Symphony.
Previously, Mitchell performed Tom Cipullo’s Josephine with Opera Colorado, as well as The Promise of Living, a concert program conceived by Mitchell; Bess in Porgy and Bess with Grange Park Opera in the UK, Lithuanian State Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and Baltimore Symphony; a reprisal of Sanctuary Road with the Columbus Symphony, a Gala Concert for Colorado Symphony, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Barber’s Knoxville: Summer 1915 with the Augusta Symphony.
Mitchell appeared in New York Philharmonic’s Bandwagon concerts and the Kauffmann Music Center’s Musical Storefront series in the spring of 2021 as part of New York City’s Pop-Up Arts Revival and performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 for the Rhode Island Philharmonic. In the summer of 2021, she sang the soprano soloist for the opening night concert of Classical Tahoe’s 10th anniversary season as well as in Bard Music Festival’s concert performances of Nadia Boulanger and Her World.
Notable previous engagements include the role of Coretta Scott King in I Dream with Opera Grand Rapids, Toledo Opera, and Opera Carolina; Violetta in La traviata with Opera Memphis, New York City Opera, and Edmonton Opera; and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with the Florentine Opera and the Portland Opera. Recent concert engagements include the soprano solo in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Berkeley Symphony, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with the Missoula Symphony, and her return to The Philadelphia Orchestra to perform in their Academy Ball alongside Steve Martin and led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
In her compelling debut as Bess in Porgy and Bess with the San Francisco Opera, Opera News said, “Laquita Mitchell, in her first outing as Bess, dazzled the SFO [San Francisco Opera] audience with her purity of tone and vivid theatrical presence.” She has since reprised the role with the Atlanta Opera, the Tanglewood Festival, the Madison Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Toledo Opera, the Springfield Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Santa Barbara Symphony, the Jacksonville Symphony, the Sheboygan Symphony, the Traverse City Symphony, the Margaret Island Open-Air Theatre in Budapest for their summer festival, and as the season opener for the Energa Sopot Classic Festival with the Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra. Additionally, PBS invited Mitchell to perform a solo recital including excerpts from Porgy and Bess with pianist Craig Terry for the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Los Angeles in preparation for the broadcast and DVD release of SFO’s Porgy and Bess.
In her role debut as Violetta in La traviata with New York City Opera, she was labeled “extraordinary,” thanks to her “wide expressive range and big-hearted sound that contains just a hint of sexy smokiness. Her Sempre libera was enlivened by a rhythmic clarity that made it seem almost danceable.” Other appearances include Leonora in Il trovatore in South Carolina as well as with the Nashville Opera; Countess in Le nozze di Figaro with the Toledo Opera; the role of Sharon in Terrance McNally’s Master Class at the Kennedy Center; Musetta in La bohème in a return to the Los Angeles Opera; Mimì in La bohème with the Cincinnati Opera and at the Utah Symphony and Opera; Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with the Florentine Opera, the Portland Opera, and Opera New Jersey; Clara in Porgy and Bess with the Los Angeles Opera, the Washington National Opera, Opéra Comique in Paris, and on tour in Caen and Granada, Spain; and Micaëla in Carmen with the New York City Opera, Opera Pacific, and most recently, the Cincinnati Opera, where the Cincinnati Enquirer hailed “Mitchell shone in the role of Micaëla, the peasant girl who loves Don José. She was a natural actress and sang with expressive beauty whenever she was onstage.”
An active concert artist, Mitchell recently performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with The Philadelphia Orchestra at Saratoga Performing Arts Center; Over the Rainbow–an evening honoring Harold Arlen at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall; Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Louisville Orchestra; a debut with the New World Symphony in Alberto Ginastera’s Cantata para la América Mágica; the world premiere of composer Steven Stucky’s August 4, 1964 with Dallas Symphony Orchestra; her Boston Symphony Orchestra debut as the soprano soloist in Wynton Marsalis’s All Rise under the direction of Kurt Masur; and the soprano solo in Tippett’s A Child of our Time with the Washington Chorus at Kennedy Center. She has also performed with The Philadelphia Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony, Princeton Symphony Orchestra, the New York Symphonic Ensemble at Alice Tully Hall, and with Branford Marsalis and the Garden State Philharmonic. Additionally, she performs in recitals annually at Harare International Festival of the Arts in Zimbabwe.
Mitchell is an alumna of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, where she performed a variety of roles including stand-out performances in contemporary operas such as Orquidea in Daniel Catán’s Salsipuedes (world premiere), Myhrrine in Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata (world premiere), Barena in David Alden’s production of Jenůfa, and The Water in Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince (world premiere) directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Patrick Summers. Mitchell was previously a member of the San Francisco Opera’s world-renowned Merola Program. She then joined Wolf Trap Opera in performances as Alice Ford in Antonio Salieri’s Falstaff, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and presented a recital with renowned pianist Steven Blier.
A native of New York City, Mitchell was a 2004 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Grand Prize Winner and was awarded a Sara Tucker Award. She was also the first prize winner of the Wiener Kammer Oper’s Hans Gabor Belvedere Competition, making her the first American to win this competition in over twenty years. Additionally, Mitchell was the first prize winner of the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, as well as the winner of the Audience Choice award. Mitchell holds a Master of Music and a Professional Studies Certificate from the Manhattan School of Music, and she completed her undergraduate studies at Westminster Choir College.
About the DSO
The acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra is known for trailblazing performances, collaborations with the world’s foremost musical artists, and a deep connection to its city. As a community-supported orchestra, generous giving by individuals and institutions at all levels drives the continued success and growth of the organization. In January 2020, Italian conductor Jader Bignamini was named the DSO’s next music director to commence with the 2020–2021 season. Celebrated conductor, arranger, and trumpeter Jeff Tyzik is the orchestra’s Principal Pops Conductor, while Oscar-nominated trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard holds the Fred A. Erb Jazz Creative Director Chair.
Making its home at historic Orchestra Hall within the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, the DSO offers a performance schedule that features PVS Classical, PNC Pops, Paradise Jazz, and Young People’s Family Concert series. One of the world’s most acoustically perfect concert halls, Orchestra Hall celebrated its centennial in 2019–2020. In addition, the DSO presents the William Davidson Neighborhood Concert Series in seven metro area venues, as well as a robust schedule of eclectic multi-genre performances in its mid-size venue The Cube, constructed and curated with support from Peter D. & Julie F. Cummings.
A dedication to broadcast innovation began in 1922, when the DSO became the first orchestra in the world to present a live radio broadcast of a concert and continues today with the groundbreaking Live from Orchestra Hall series of free webcasts, which also reaches tens of thousands of children with the Classroom Edition expansion. With growing attendance and unwavering philanthropic support from the people of Detroit, the DSO actively pursues a mission to embrace and inspire individuals, families, and communities through unsurpassed musical experiences.