About The Atlanta Music Festival

The Atlanta Music Festival is a contemporary annual event that draws on a century-old musical and cultural heritage. In the wake of Atlanta's 1906 race riots, Henry Hugh Proctor, pastor of Atlanta's First Congregational Church, launched programs to improve black communities and encourage racial harmony. In May of 1910 white Atlantans produced a highly publicized grand opera week, featuring New York's Metropolitan Opera. Reverend Proctor in turn formed The Atlanta Colored Music Festival Association, which produced its first concert that August. Thanks to the association's cordial invitation, the 2000 attendees in Atlanta's Auditorium-Armory included a large contingent from the white community. The festival featured the most prominent African American concert artists of the day. Years later, Proctor recalled: "Our Music Festival brought the best musical talent of the race to the city, and attracted great audiences of both races. As a matter of fact, we found that music was a great solvent of racial antipathies, just as David found it a solvent for personal antagonism with Saul." The concert was presented annually through 1917.

Dwight Andrews, current pastor of First Congregational Church, revived his congregation's music festival tradition in 2001 through collaboration with the nonprofit worship-arts organization Meridian Herald, led by Steven Darsey. Since then the music festival, sponsored by Meridian HeraldFirst Congregational Church, and, from 2011, Emory University offers annual performances, engaged scholarship, lectures, a conservatory for youth, and university courses. Honoring Proctor's vision, the Atlanta Music Festival explores evolving racial and societal landscapes.

Reverend Andrews comments, "We are concerned about concert music and cultural activities in America, and, with an ear to voices that have not been heard, are striving to create a musical world of reconciliation and empowerment. We are not taking a quick, small scale view, but, imagining what American musical culture can and should be, are plotting a journey toward that goal. With collaboration among universities and communities—and emphasizing children—we are making an investment, anticipating a return that will shape the American musical and cultural landscape of the future."


Dwight Andrews, pastor of Atlanta's First Congregational Church, has revived his congregation's music festival tradition in a twelve-year collaboration with Steven Darsey and Meridian Herald. The May 2010 concert represented the 100th anniversary of First Church's original music festival. Andrews, artistic director, and Darsey, music director, explore their race's historic relationships through inherited musical forms and their evolutions into contemporary classical expressions. This collaboration among Meridian Herald, First Congregational Church, Emory University, and other community partners, commemorates our shared histories, celebrates progress, and lays claim to an inclusive future.


About the Atlanta Music Festival Conservatory

The Atlanta Music Festival Conservatory is a collaboration between the Atlanta Music Festival, Emory University's Graduation Generation Education and the First Congregational Church. The Conservatory offers an after school program and a two week summer program for 4th-6th graders who learn to play band instruments, study music theory and receive students. The students come from metro Atlanta area schools and community programs, including Toomer Elementary, Whitefoord Elementary, IMAGE Program, Wesley Academy and Stanton Elementary. All are welcome without regard to musical ability. The program is free.

The Atlanta Music Festival History

The Atlanta Music Festival, formerly called the Atlanta Colored Music Festival, harks back to a century-old effort to unite black and white Atlantans through music. The troubled turn of the twentieth century saw a hardening of racial attitudes across the American South, as Jim Crow laws and enforced segregation became entrenched. One legacy of this development was the deadly 1906 race riot in Atlanta. In response to these ugly times, the Reverend Henry Hugh Proctor, pastor of First Congregational Church, turned to a universal language of healing: music. He began a classical music festival.

Proctor had more than music in mind. Tennessee-born and Yale-educated, he wanted to demonstrate the high cultural attainments of black musicians, composers, and audiences. He brought prominent musicians and composers to the Atlanta Armory for the first festival in 1910 and called this and subsequent festivals "interracial cooperative meetings." He enlisted musicians at the cutting edge of American musical creativity, performers such as Sisserati Patti, Roland Hayes, Harry T. Burleigh and the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

Some white Atlantans supported Proctor's vision. Never pointing out that the white opera season denied blacks attendance, Proctor instead encouraged whites to attend the festival, making use of a separate entrance and separate seating. When the first arias filled the Armory, they drew great applause, and none greater than from the white audience... segregated in the balcony. The New Georgia Encyclopedia article on the Atlanta Colored Music Festival includes more information.<

Proctor's current successor to the pulpit at First Congregational, Yale graduate the Reverend Dr. Dwight Andrews, along with others, extends the spirit of those historic concerts. The ongoing collaboration of First Congregational Church and Meridian Herald —now in their thirteen year—and now since 2011 with Emory University, builds on the past and points to the future. The music of African Americans, first wrought in the crucible of slavery, has become a prophetic voice for artistic and moral truth throughout the world. We offer this music with those who sang through the dark past, that their aspirations and hope for progress might be advanced.

Lift Every Voice and Sing: History and Children's Interviews by the late Dr. Rudolph Byrd

Lift Every Voice -- History/ Interview of Children on Vimeo.

JAMES WELDON JOHNSON'S ANTHEM: A SONG OF CELEBRATION

Lift: four letters, one syllable, yet a word freighted with meaning. "Lift" bespeaks effort—even labor—that may be physical or mental or spiritual or all three. It implies position. To lift is to reach higher, to seek something above, stretching from below. "Lift" is the word that James Weldon Johnson summoned to open his justly famed anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing". A deft poet, Johnson uses the imperative. He might have chosen the subjunctive, suggesting, "Let Us Lift Our Voices", the mood so often used in prayer, a way of speaking that would have been familiar to his audience. Instead, he commands, calling in a literal sense the singers and the listeners to lift their voices. And sing.

James Weldon Johnson (back) and his brother John Rosamond, updated, photographed by ASCAP. James Weldon Johnson papers, Manuscript Archives, and Rare Book Library, Robert W. Woodruff, Emory University. 0797-004.tif

Johnson wrote the poem for a program sponsored by the African American community of Jacksonville, Florida (his birthplace) to mark Abraham Lincoln's birthday in 1900. His younger brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, a classically trained composer and singer, set the words to music. In his autobiography, Along This Way (1933), Johnson recalls, "I got my first line….Not a startling line; but I worked along grinding out the next five. When, near the end of the first stanza, there came to me the lines:

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.

Johnson continues, "The spirit of the poem had taken hold of me, and I finished the stanza and turned it over to Rosamond."

The brothers, notes the late Dr. Rudolph Byrd in an account of the song's history, arranged to have a chorus of Jacksonville school children—five hundred children—sing it. For the 2011 Atlanta Music Festival Conservatory performance, Dr. Byrd inspired a reprise of that performance. His colleagues recruited, supervised and led students in grades four, five and six from sixteen Atlanta schools—public and private—as they sang "Lift Every Voice" in Atlanta's Symphony Hall. The children's enthusiasm seemed to echo that felt one hundred eleven years before; the decibel level may have been higher, as the 2011 chorus number 577.

Courtesy of Randall Burkett


Rudolph Byrd died just four weeks after the performance, leaving an impressive scholarly legacy and the haunting reverberation of the children's chorus.

James Weldon Johnson was a man of wide accomplishment. His parents belonged to Jacksonville's African American middle class. His father was a resort hotel headwaiter. His mother was the first female black public school teacher in Florida, and later a school principal. The relatively sheltered Johnson children were encouraged by their parents to study, read widely, enjoy classical music and the arts. They visited relatives in the Bahamas and in New York. After graduating from the school where his mother taught, Johnson enrolled at Atlanta University for both high school and college, earning an A.B. degree in 1894. During two undergraduate summers, he taught African American children in rural Hampton, Georgia and saw the grinding poverty they experienced. He became the principal of the school he had attended in Jacksonville, adding two grades to the school while somehow finding time to study law. He became the first African American to pass the bar in Florida.

James and his brother, who graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music in 1897, began collaborating in writing popular music for the stage. They moved to New York. James took some graduate courses at Columbia and entered the diplomatic service, becoming consul first in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela and then in Corinto, Nicaragua where he wrote a novel. He married, moved back to the U.S. , continued writing prose and poetry. In 1916, he accepted the post of field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and then general secretary of the NAACP in 1920. "Lift Every Voice" had become a fading memory for him, but had earned an honored place in African American culture. In 1921, the NAACP designated it the organization's official song.

In his later years, Johnson continued writing, publishing a second collection of poetry, God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse; a history of black life in New York and the Harlem Renaissance, Black Manhattan; his autobiography; and, in 1934, Negro Americans, What Now?, arguing for integration as the only real solution to America's racial problems, thereby anticipating the momentous civil rights decisions of the fifties. He died in 1938 in an automobile accident. His brother Rosamond, only two years James' junior, lived until 1954.

The brothers might have been amused had they looked into the etymology of the word "lift". According to an online dictionary, it comes from Old Norse, "to raise" but also has some links to Old English, "lyft", meaning "heaven".





2016 Atlanta Music Festival

November 14-18, 2016


Jessye Norman (Photo by: James Alexander)

Jessye Norman

photo: James Alexander

 

Honorary Festival Chair: Congressman John Lewis

Festival Chairs: Lovette and Michael Russell and Jack Sawyer and William E. Torres


Festival Hosts

Support the Atlanta Music Festival

 

Purchase Tickets

Student Ticket Lottery Information

 

The 2016 Atlanta Music Festival will be November 14-18, 2016. Comprising several events devoted to advancing relations among the races through the arts, the Festival will culminate in a gala concert featuring opera star Jessye Norman at Glenn Memorial Auditorium on the Emory University campus, Friday, November 18, 7:00 PM. Having conquered the stages of Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, The Metropolitan Opera as well as the great houses of Europe, and won five Grammy awards, the National Medal of Arts, France's Légion d'honneur, as well as 40 honorary doctorates, Ms. Norman is one of the greatest and most celebrated classical singers of our time. Also featured in the concert are Pultizer Prize winning civil rights scholar Taylor Branch, Atlanta tenor Timothy Miller, the Morehouse and Spelman College Glee Clubs, and the Meridian Chorale. Dwight Andrews is artistic director and Steven Darsey is music director.

The final work of the evening will be an anthem arranged by the renowned composer Adolphus Hailstork. Scored for choirs, soloists, and orchestra, it will conclude with the audience joining the performers in singing words inspired by President Obama's speech "A More Perfect Union": "We will be each other's keeper there, in a land where all are free; where equality and justice rule, we will write our destiny."

In addition to the concert, the Festival will include events to further engage the community: a "Children's Sing" at Ebenezer Baptist Church with five hundred Atlanta elementary students learning of and singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing"; lectures and performances by opera singer Timothy Miller to one thousand middle school and high school students at Woodward Academy; a panel discussion on the power of the arts to build community; a composer's forum; and a continuing legal education seminar on Atlanta's legal history between the 1906 race riot and the formation of Atlanta Legal Aid in 1924. Some proceeds from the Festival support the AMF conservatory, providing year-round music education for underserved youth in Atlanta, with the goal of cultivating the cultural community of the future. Please see schedule of additional events

Please return to this page for event updates.


AMF 2016 - Festival Hosts


Diane and Kent Alexander
Elaine and Miles Alexander
Marlene Alexander
Lisa and Peter Aman
Susan and Rick Andre
Dwight Andrews
Barbara and Kent Antley
Wendy and Neal Aronson
Cyndae Arrendale
Helen Ballard
Barbara and Ronald D. Balser
Lisa and Joe Bankoff
Ursula Jean Baptiste
Juanita and Greg Baranco
Katie Barksdale
Carey and Doug Benham
Paula Lawton Bevington
Rebecca Bily
Susan Booth and Max Leventhal
Justine Boyd
Jennifer Brett and Charlie Gay
Ginny and Charles Brewer
Roz and John Brewer
Hal Brody and Don Smith
Lucinda Bunnen
Donna Burchfield and Penn Nicholson
Nancy and Randall Burkett
Mary Schmidt Campbell
Elaine and John Carlos
Kari Carlos
Jessie Cassar
Marc Castillo
Nina Cheney
Cathy and Bert Clark
Pearl Cleage
Anne Barge Clegg
Barbara Coble
Jan Collins
Tony Conway and Steve Welsh
Shan and Eddie Cooper
Michelle and David Crosland
Teresa Cummings
Kimberlyn and Dexter Daniel
Perky and Wallace Daniel
Suzanne Mott Dansby
Michelle and Tom Davis
Peggy and Bob Dennis
Audra Dial and Matthew Ford
Barbarella and Rene Diaz
Patti Dickey
Martha Dinos
Marcia and John Donnell
Sally Dorsey and Herb Miller
Jennifer and Curley Dossman
Noreen and Eugene Duffey
Rev. Ceci Duke
Brooke and Rod Edmond
Iman Plemon El-Amin
Kevin Esch and Eric Pyne
Michelle and Walter Falconer
Peggy Foreman
Susan and Steve Forte
Cindy and Bill Fowler
David Allen Fox
Robert Franklin
Viki and Paul Freeman
Ron Frieson
James Gavin
Kristina Gedgaudas and Rick McClees
Kristen and Duncan Gibbs
Sieglinde and Jack Gillfillan
Lou and Tom Glenn
Helen and John Gordon
Patrice and Ernest Greer
Amanda and Greg Gregory
Wilton Gregory
Lauren and Jim Grien
Joanne and Alex Gross
Kathleen and F. Stuart Gulley
Rand and Seth Hagen
Elizabeth and Sheffield Hale
Sonya and Daniel Halpern
Laura and John Hardman
Valerie Hartman
Lisa Hasty and Andy Smith
Sara and Gary Hauk
D'Anne and Sean Heckert
Dick Henneman
Marian and Ben Hill
Lynn-Anne Huck
Charlene Crusoe Ingram and Earnest Ingram
Lowell Jacks Julie Jacobson and Dov Wilker
Ben F. Johnson
Edwina and Tom Johnson
Mary and Neil Johnson
Marylin Johnson
Ellen and Ray Jones
Ingrid Saunders Jones
Rebecca Jones
Sarah and Jim Kennedy
Elizabeth Kiss
Elizabeth and Michael Klump
Carolyn and Steve Knight
Danita V. Knight
Eydie and Steve Koonin
Cathy Selig Kuranoff and Steve Kuranoff
Clint Lawrence
Ada Lee and Pete Correll
Jeremy Lennep and Jamie Snow
Christine Eisner Leuthold
Constance and Dale Lewis
Jim Long
Camille Love and Stanley Clemons
Jada and Tom Loveless
Deborah Marlowe
Rhonda and Chris Matheison
Tara and Darrell Mays
Annette and Steven McBrayer
Lorri and Forrest McClain
Teri Plummer McClure
Sally and Allen McDaniel
Deb McFarland
Marilyn and John McMullan
Catherine and Ted McMullan
Penny and Ray McPhee
Jim Miller
Judy Z. Miller and Lester Miller
Jovita Moore
Mary Moore and Betty Willis
Jere Morehead
Sally and Jim Morgens
Vikki and Derrick Morrow
Rhonda and Chris Mullen
Gretchen Nagy and Allan Sandlin
Renee and Jim Nalley
Debbie and Lon Neese
Keisha and Daniel Noel
Mary and Felton Norwood
Vicki and Howard Palefsky
Monica Pantoja
Ruth and Paul Parker
Martha and Al Pearson
Monica and John Pearson
Desiree Pedescleaux
Don Perry
G. P. Peterson
Matt Pieper
Mary Portman
Jenny and Bob Pruitt
Kay and Ron Quigley
Christine and Bill Ragland
Will Ransom
Mayor Kasim Reed
Helen M. Regenstein
Jay and Arthur Richardson
Lisa Robinson
Kathleen and Gary Rollins
Ruth Magness Rollins
Michael Rooks
Carolyn and Steve Roper
Tanya Rozier-DeAnda
Louise Sams and Jerome Grihot
Nina and Bill Schwartz
M. Alexis Scott
Leah Ward Sears
Maggie Seitter
Linda and Steve Selig
Laura and Rutherford Seydel
Kathy and Albert Sheffer
Doug Shipman
Sara and John Shlesinger
Wendy Shoob and Walter Jospin
Katie and Brad Silcox
Lauren and Marc Skalla
Janie and Dan Skinner
Ginger and Miles Smith
Millie and Steve Smith
Stephanie Davis Smith
Sweb and Rand Suffolk
Rabbi Alvin Sugarman
Mary C. and Jim Sutherland
Carolyn and Rhett Tanner
Candy Tate
Todd Tautfest
Bernard Taylor
Anita Thomas
Jane and Wayne Thorpe
Isaiah and Helena Huntley Tidwell
Carol and Ramon Tome
Tania and Jeffrey Tompkins
Judge Amy Totenberg
Donna and Nill Toulme
Claire Travis
Stephanie Travis
Henrie M. Treadwell
Natasha Trethewey
Caroline and Jeff Tucker
Susan Tucker
Adriana Varela
Cindy and Bill Voyles
Krist and Ben Voyles
James W. Wagner
Phebe and Geoff Wahl
Cynthia Widner Wall and James Wall
Charmaine Ward
Ruthie Watts
Maggie and Keehln Wheeler
Sue and John Wieland
Mary and Jay Williams
Susan and Allen Willingham
John Wilson
Brenda Wood
Dina Woodruff
Margie and Robert Wynne
Andrea Young and Jerry Thomas
Jamil Zainaldin
David Driscoll

Sustaining Patron

$ 10,000

  • For your donation you will receive:
  • 20 Tickets
  • Admission to VIP Reception for you and your guests
  • Free valet parking
  • Reserved seating for you and your guests at Gala Concert
  • A photo opportunity with Ms. Norman and Mr. Miller
  • A full page ad in the Gala Concert program
  • Special seating at the "Children's Sing"

Patron

$ 7,500

  • For your donation you will receive:
  • 15 Tickets
  • Admission to VIP Reception for you and your guests
  • Free valet parking
  • Reserved seating for you and your guests at Gala Concert
  • A photo opportunity with Ms. Norman and Mr. Miller
  • A half page ad in the Gala Concert program

Major Supporter

$ 5,000

  • For your donation you will receive:
  • 10 Tickets
  • Admission to VIP Reception for you and your guests
  • Free valet parking
  • Reserved seating for you and your guests at Gala Concert
  • A signed copy of Ms. Norman autobiography
  • A quarter page ad in the Gala Concert program

Supporter

$ 2,500

  • For your donation you will receive:
  • 5 Tickets
  • Admission to VIP Reception for you and your guests
  • Free valet parking
  • Reserved seating for you and your guests at Gala Concert
  • Recognition in the Gala Concert program

Contributor

$ 1000

  • For your donation you will receive:
  • 2 Tickets
  • Admission to VIP Reception for you and your guest
  • Free valet parking
  • Reserved seating for you and your guests at Gala Concert
  • Recognition in the Gala Concert program

Major Friend

$ 500

  • For your donation you will receive:
  • 1 Tickets
  • Admission to VIP Reception for you
  • Free valet parking
  • Recognition in the Gala Concert program

Friend

$ 100

  • For your donation you will receive:
  • 1 Tickets
  • Admission to VIP Reception for you
  • Recognition in the Gala Concert program

Contact Us

Information about Atlanta Music Festival Events may be obtained from contact@AtlantaMusicFestival.org