“Hailstork pulls out all the stops here, literally (in the playing of the strings) and figuratively, turning the simple tune into something quite complex. In his very brief comments on this piece, Hailstork writes that the theme is “interrupted by abrupt dissonant chords that serve as ‘fate motifs’ to remind the listener that the ‘carry me home’ in the spiritual text is an end of life request.” What continually amazes me with Hailstork’s music is how the formal devices never sound cluttered or affected, as if he is just trying to impress the listener with cleverness. All of it comes from the heart, and I daresay that if you were to start playing this music after the theme is stated you might not even realize for some time what piece it is based on.”
– The Art Music Lounge
Composer, educator, and longtime Virginia resident Adolphus Hailstork has been hailed as “The Dean of African-American Composers,” with an output that includes works for chorus, solo voice, piano, organ, various chamber ensembles, band, orchestra, and opera. His notable works include Rise For Freedom, an opera about the Underground Railroad, Set Me On A Rock (re: Hurricane Katrina), for chorus and orchestra; and the choral ballet, The Gift Of The Magi, for treble chorus and orchestra. Hailstork’s recent works include The World Called (based on Rita Dove’s poem Testimonial), a work for soprano, chorus and orchestra commissioned by the Oratorio Society of Virginia, and Still Holding On, commissioned and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He is currently working on his Fourth Symphony, and A Knee On A Neck, a tribute to George Floyd.
Dr. Hailstork resides in Virginia Beach Virginia, and is Professor of Music and Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, and we were fortunate to spend time with him at the Heifetz Institute last summer, where he offered a masterful masterclass, listening in and adding commentary to an afternoon of performances of his works by Heifetz students and faculty.
Including our resident Borromeo Quartet, whose members not only performed the Hailstork’s String Quartet No. 2, subtitled Variations on “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.,” in his presence, but were then able to incorporate his suggestions into a bravura performance of the piece on the Heifetz stage just a few nights later. Take a listen!
Composer and Virginia resident Adolphus Hailstork. He describes his composing style as ‘cultural hybridity,’ borrowing both from European and Black American traditions.