The Minnesota Orchestra is thrilled to welcome the Sphinx Virtuosi June 2-4 for "Vänskä and Keefe". The Sphinx Virtuosi kick off the program by taking the Orchestra Hall stage on its own to perform two works for string orchestra–then they’ll join forces with the Minnesota Orchestra for the rest of works on the program. The performance is the newest development of the deepening bond between the Minnesota Orchestra and the Sphinx Organization, a Detroit-based, nationally focused social justice organization—founded in 1997 by violinist Aaron Dworkin, and now led by President and Artistic Director Afa S. Dworkin—that is catalyzing change in the classical music world through its various programs that form a pipeline to develop and support diversity and inclusion in classical music.
The Sphinx Virtuosi are deeply committed to the music of today’s composers. Among the newest works commissioned by the Sphinx Organization for performance by the Sphinx Virtuosi is Ev’ry Voice, written in 2020 by Georgia-born composer and double bassist Xavier Foley. The work—an homage to Lift Every Voice and Sing, a song often referred to as the Black National Anthem—brings out the sonority and virtuosity of the strings to feature the familiar melodic material, while uncovering new timbres and sounds. Watch the piece above performed by the Sphinx Virtuosi, then catch it live June 2-4.
About Xavier Foley and Ev’ry Voice
Xavier Foley, who is a 2014 Sphinx Competition First Prize winner and in 2018 was awarded a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, is achieving great success as a composer, performer and educator—and sometimes combines his crafts, including this past March, when he appeared with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as soloist in the world premiere of his own Double Bass Concerto. He has also been a featured soloist with the Dallas Symphony, Musica Chamber Orchestra, Sphinx Orchestra and the Sphinx Virtuosi, with which he performed at Carnegie Hall and on East and West Coast tours, and he plays often in chamber music settings at major venues. He is a 2016 graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied composition and performance with Edgar Meyer and Hal Robinson.
The version of Ev’ry Voice for string orchestra on this week’s program is one of two that Foley has created for the Sphinx Organization—the other incorporating sung parts for Sphinx’s professional vocal ensemble, Exigence. The song’s text was written in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson, who later led the NAACP, and was set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson—and it became the NAACP’s official anthem and deeply intertwined with the African American Civil Rights Movement. The song continues to be well-loved and widely heard today, including with increasing frequency at major American sporting events.
From the Sphinx Virtuosi
The Sphinx Virtuosi offered the following description of Ev’ry Voice in a program note:
“This piece was created in 2020 as a special feature under Sphinx’s program umbrella of ‘Land of the Free,’ which illuminates the wealth of musical talent among American composers. Appearing now as part of our ‘This is America’ digital program, this work has become a beloved standalone. The inspiration for the commission came at a time when the ideals of unity were invoked amidst uncertainty, tragedy, and hope. In his music, Foley brings out the sonority and virtuosity of the string instruments to feature the familiar melodic material, while uncovering new timbres and sounds, almost symbolically encouraging all of us to look and listen anew, beyond the isolation of the global pandemic and the racial and cultural divide in our country. Today’s soundtrack is for the hopeful times ahead, ushered in by Foley’s new tribute to a treasured piece of the American historical and musical heritage.”