“A Knee On The Neck” Oratorio’s NY Premiere At Lincoln Center In NYC

April 29, 2023

 The New York Choral Society is a pioneering symphonic chorus that explores unique collaboration and dynamic repertory minutes from Harlem, NY.

NYCS is proud to present the highly anticipated New York premiere of Adolphus Hailstork’s A Knee on the Neck on June 13, 2023, at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall.

The concert will pair this new work with Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem in a program that seeks to place Hailstork’s groundbreaking work firmly in the canon of major choral/orchestral works.

Hailstork has dedicated his A Knee on the Neck cantata as “a small requiem for Black men and women” that calls attention to the tragic death of George Floyd and the systemic injustice faced by Black Americans.  In collaboration with poet and historian Herbert Martin, the piece is a forceful recounting of an unspeakable act of violence that sparked a summer of civil rights protests across America.

From the warnings that Black elders give to young Black boys to the final words of Floyd that made headlines all over the world, this cantata is a poignant reflection of the lived Black American experience and includes Hailstork’s and Martin’s own life anecdotes. 

The New York Choral Society and Orchestra is joined by four soloists – Soprano Gabriella Reyes, Mezzo-Soprano Cierra Byrd, Tenor Bernard Holcomb, and Baritone Kenneth Overton – in a program that aims to inspire a collective resolve for justice, freedom, and peace—themes that the New York Choral Society has put center stage throughout its last few seasons.

“We are honored to present the New York premiere of Adolphus’ A Knee on the Neck, notes David Hayes, Music Director of the New York Choral Society. “The New York Choral Society has a long history of presenting the works of important American composers that challenge and inspire our audiences and that may also be a catalyst for meaningful discussions beyond the concert hall. This powerful oratorio speaks to the challenges that Black Americans have endured,” he continues. “It is our hope that this historical performance will inspire us all to work towards a more just and peaceful society.”

A Knee on the Neck is made possible in part with the generous support of Dr. Martin Finkelman.

Performance and Tciket Infromation

A Knee on the Neck will be performed June 13, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. at David Geffen Hall, located at 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, accessible by the 1 train.

Tickets start $40 and are available at https://nychoral.org/event/hailstork/

Repertory Notes

Fratres  (“Brothers”)  (arr. for strings) –  Avro Pärt 1989

Dona Nobis Pacem  – Ralph Vaughan Williams  1936

Chorus, Orchestra, Soloists

A Knee on the Neck – Adolphus Hailstork – 2021    (New York premiere)

Text by Herbert Martin 

Chorus, Orchestra, Vocal Soloists 

The New York Choral Society

Founded in 1959, the NY Choral Society is hailed as one of the mainstays of the city’s music scene, known for its adventurous repertoire. Committed to presenting a diverse repertoire that spans from well-known choral masterworks, great compositions rarely heard in concert halls, and newer culturally significant choral works, innovative collaborations and exceptional artistry highlight the essential joy and power of live choral music for New York patrons each season. Made up of more than 150 voices, ages 19-90, the chorus is led by Music Director David Hayes and has performed at prestigious venues throughout the New York metropolitan area such as Carnegie Hall, and partnered with major arts institutions like American Ballet Theatre, Lincoln Center, the New York City Ballet and Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and many others. From their debut concert at the David Geffen Hall, formerly known as Philharmonic Hall with just over a dozen singers in 1965, the New York Choral Society continues to expand its artistic mission, educational commitment, and legacy, bringing choral music into the twenty-first century and beyond.

The New York Choral Society’s productions and program are made possible by The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, by public fund from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, The Inherent Foundation, The John N. Blackman, Sr. Foundation, and through the generosity of our many individual supporters. 

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