St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Makes Music 'In Unison' with African-American Community

Jan 11, 2018

There was a particular sense of relevance when Brian Owens, a recording artist and Artist in Residence with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's IN UNISON program was putting together plans for the concert this Friday entitled "Keep Pushing! The Music of Curtis Mayfield."

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's IN UNISON Chorus brings together singers from the city's African-American churches for performances throughout the season.
Credit The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

"I think, especially in the times we live in now, the music that was written back then is so well-suited to speak to, address issues, bring hope, all of those kinds of things that I think we need right now," said Owens, reflecting on Mayfield's emphasis on civil rights in his music.

The program, to be performed Jan. 12 at the orchestra's home of Powell Hall, will bring together musicians from the orchestra, IN UNISON scholars and fellows, and students from the orchestra's Peer to Peer diversity initiative, as well as Joey Kibble, a member of the Grammy Award-winning group Take 6 a cappella Gospel ensemble, reflecting many of the original goals the orchestra hoped to achieve when it created IN UNISON a quarter of a century ago.

"The program started as a way to create a familiarity and openness between predominantly African-American churches, and musicians of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra," said Maureen Byrne, the orchestra's director of diversity and community affairs. IN UNISON now includes a chorus comprised of singers from participating churches, scholarships and fellowships, and a mentoring program for area students.

Owens and Byrne will join A Tempo host Rachel Katz Saturday (1/13) at 7 pm to reflect on the IN UNISON program and this week's concert, as well as some of the other programs that the symphony has created to build ties with various communities throughout the area.