Maestro Andrew Crust

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Tea & Trumpet Series
A Tribute to Black History Month

WHEN & WHERE February 25, 2021 at 2pm | Live stream at

Featured performers Andrew Cust, host conductor; Garfield Wilson, narrator Special guests Daniel Bartholmew-Poyser and Measha Brueggergosman

Reviewer John Jane

When Otto Lowy conceived the idea of Tea and Trumpets, a matinee concert series tailored for seniors, he would not have foreseen a future concert presented without tea, trumpets or even an audience (actually, there was the briefest of solos by trumpet player Vincent Vohradsky as part of A Fiddler’s Tale excerpt).

This concert is a symphonic tribute to Black History Month, in which black composers, some well-known, some not so much, are lauded, beginning with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s 4 Novelletten for Violin and Orchestra.

London-born Coleridge-Taylor was an English composer and conductor who likely never met his father who was a doctor from Sierra Leone. His Novelletten has the strong romantic melody lines that were typical of European music at the turn of the twentieth century.

Lyric for Strings is one of George Walker’s earliest compositions, yet it has endured as much as Lilacs for voice and orchestra, the work that he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music for. Lyric for Strings is very moving and obviously inspired (though not copied) by Samual Barber’s acclaimed Adagio for Strings.

Next is Jessie Montgomery’s delightfully chaotic Starburst. Essentially scored for strings and as its title might suggest, is cosmically evocative, which is hardly characteristic of the down-to-earth persona of Montgomery who was raised in New York’s Lower East Side. Less than four minutes in length, it ends (abruptly) just at the point when at its most enthralling.

A Fiddler’s Tale, a composition by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, narrated by Garfield Wilson and features Sophie Dansereau on bassoon and Brian Wendel on trombone, is somewhat reminiscent of Benjamin Britten’s Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra where instruments are introduced by a narrator. This performance was hardly more than a preview, though, I will look forward to hearing the orchestra performing the work in its entirety.

Those of us that attended the live streaming of Dee Daniels performing with the VSO last November, surely would not object to seeing part of it again. Particularly the haunting “Nature Boy” and the inspirational “Ballad of John Lewis.” Scored by Daniels herself and based on the essay written by American politician and civil rights leader, the late John Lewis.

The music performances are interspersed with remote conversations between VSO associate conductor Andrew Crust and Daniel Bartholmew-Poyser and Measha Brueggergosman. While their conversations offered stimulating discussion about often overlooked works by black composers, I would have preferred more music and less chat.

© 2020 John Jane