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IHS Chorale to Join Ensembles from Cornell and Ithaca College for First-Ever Documented Performance of “Song of Hope"

On Saturday, March 26, the Ithaca High School Chorale will join ensembles from Cornell University and Ithaca College for the first-ever documented performance of “Song of Hope,” a choral-orchestral work by Florence Price.

Born in Arkansas, Price (1887-1953) is known for being the first African-American female composer to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra. She began studying music at an early age, graduating as valedictorian of her high school class at the age of 16. From there, Price went on to study piano, organ, and composition at the New England Conservatory of Music before returning to Arkansas to teach and raise her family.

As the South became increasingly segregated and racial tensions were on the rise, she and her family moved to Chicago. It was around this time, in 1930, that she wrote "Song of Hope," a 12-minute composition for which she herself wrote the poetry. 

The IHS Chorale will join the Ithaca College Madrigal Singers, the Cornell University Chamber Singers, and the Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra to perform Price's “Song of Hope” on March 26. The performance will be conducted by Michael Stern, a 2014 Ithaca High School graduate and current Ithaca College graduate conducting student. Last year, as Stern was making early repertoire plans for his recital, he reached out to IHS Choir Director Kristin Zaryski about the possibility of doing something with singers. 

"Taking on such an enormous project as a graduate student is a daunting task, but it’s reassuring to work on it with people I trust and respect,” Stern said. “I discovered my passion for music at IHS, and it excites me to share that passion with the program once again.”

For Zaryski, the collaboration was a no-brainer. “Working to bring this composition to life has been transformative for the students of the IHS Chorale,” Zaryski said. “They have approached Price’s music with such thoughtfulness and tenacity. We are honored to help bring this work into the world, particularly with so many members of the community and with an IHS alumnus at the helm.”

The performance wouldn’t be possible without ONEcomposer, an organization that provides a platform for the study, performance, and discussion of historically and systemically excluded composers. ONEcomposer co-founder, Stephen Spinelli, is also Assistant Director of Choral Programs at Cornell University and has worked with the IHS Chorale in the past.

“'Song of Hope' is a deeply personal window into Price’s lived experience, and her commitment to bringing beauty to the world through such hardship is remarkable,” Spinelli said. “We all hope that Ms. Price would be proud of the very community-connected effort she has facilitated through her inspiring music and legacy.”

The "Song of Hope" performance will take place this Saturday, March 26, at 8:15 p.m. at the James J. Whalen Center for Music at Ithaca College. Admission is free, and the concert will be live-streamed on the Ithaca College website, at ithaca.edu/academics/school-music/live/watch-live.

Sneak peek: "Song of Hope" rehearsal. Check out photos on Instagram!