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Hailstork's Hurricane Katrina Memorial Premieres Tonight in Houston

The Houston Choral Society will debut a commissioned composition by Adolphus Hailstork, the Cultural Laureate for the commonwealth of Virginia and music professor at Old Dominion University. The work, which is the first classical piece written to commemorate the Hurricane Katrina disaster, will be premiered tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Wortham Center in downtown Houston. It honors Houston area residents for opening their doors to the thousands left homeless by the disaster.

Titled "Set Me on a Rock (Songs of Sanctuary from the Great Flood)," the music tells of the struggles and plight of the people of New Orleans who were evacuated from the Superdome in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and arrived in Houston to find compassion and hope.

Betty Devine, conductor for The Houston Choral Society, said the concert will be a powerful evening of music. The audience will be moved by Set Me on a Rock," in particular, because of the way Hailstork tells the story, she said. "I am so pleased with this music, and I think the audience will be awed by it."

Adolphus Hailstork

Composer Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork began his musical studies with piano lessons as a child. He studied at Howard University and Manhattan School of Music, spending the summer of 1963 at the American Institute at Fontainebleau, France.

After service in the U.S. Armed Forces in Germany, he returned to the United States and pursued his doctoral degree at Michigan State University. He also attended the Electronic Music Institution at Dartmouth College and the Seminar on Contemporary Music at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

His career as a teacher includes stints at Michigan State, Youngstown State University and Norfolk State University. He currently is at Old Dominion, where he is an eminent scholar and professor of music.

Hailstork began writing music at an early age. His musical comedy, "The Race for Space," was performed at Howard University during his senior year in college. The Baltimore Symphony performed his master's thesis, "Statement, Variations and Fugue," in 1966. Hailstork writes in a variety of forms and styles - symphonic works and tone poems for orchestra and works for orchestra and chamber groups.

"Set Me on a Rock" is a blending of classic and gospel styles.

Among his compositions are "Celebration," recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; "Out of the Depths," which won the 1977 Belwin-Mills Max Winkler Award presented by the Band Directors National Association; "American Guernica," awarded first prize in a national contest sponsored by the Virginia College Band Directors in 1983; and "Mourn Not the Dead," which received the 1971 Ernest Bloch Award for choral composition. In 1995, the chamber work, "Consort Piece," was awarded First Prize by the University of Delaware Festival of Contemporary Music.

Hailstork was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music to write festival music for the Baltimore Symphony. Other significant performances by major orchestras (Philadelphia, Chicago and New York) have been led by leading conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Daniel Barenboim and Kurt Masur.

The composer's second symphony (commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra) and his second opera, "Joshua's Boots" (commissioned by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and the Kansas City Lyric Opera), were premiered in 1999.

During the summer of 2003, Hailstork was Visiting Artist at the Walden School for young composers. He was proclaimed a Virginia Cultural Laureate in 1992.

Hailstork lives in Virginia Beach.

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This article was posted on: May 2, 2008

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