Still Holding On (world premiere, LA Phil commission)
Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941) is one of the illustrious group of American composers who trained with Nadia Boulanger at the American Institute in Fontainebleau. He also studied at Howard University, the Manhattan School of Music (with Vittorio Giannini and David Diamond), and Michigan State University, where he received his doctorate. He has composed widely in most classical genres from solo instrumental and vocal works to cantatas, operas, concertos, and symphonies. James Conlon premiered Earthrise at the Cincinnati May Festival and Rise for Freedom, Hailstork’s opera about the Underground Railroad, was premiered by the Cincinnati Opera. The Baltimore Symphony and the Virginia Symphony have both recorded discs of his music. He is a professor of music at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
Since this premiere is at a concert saluting William Grant Still, the “dean” of African-American composers, I decided to reference some of the motives found in Still’s famous and pioneering Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American.”
This composition is the first movement of my (in-process) Fourth Symphony, SURVIVE. The remaining movements to follow are Still Working and Still Crossing That Bridge. This first movement opens with a quiet, short introduction, followed by a duet for oboe and cello (two instruments that Still played). A suspenseful transition section leads to the conclusion, which features the African-American spiritual “Hold On.” — Adolphus Hailstork