Presenting the West Coast Premiere of Roy Harris Bicentennial Symphony At The Walt Disney Concert Hall

The first professional performance of the work in 46 years.

By: Jul. 16, 2022
Presenting the West Coast Premiere of Roy Harris Bicentennial Symphony At The Walt Disney Concert Hall
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.

Existing user? Just click login.

The MusicUNTOLD Orchestra and Los Angeles Master Chorale present the West Coast premiere of American composer Roy Harris' Bicentennial Symphony, a choral history lesson covering the Preamble to the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, and controversial original text on Thursday, August 11, 2022, at 8:00 pm at Walt Disney Concert Hall at the Music Center.

The performance will be the first professional performance of the work in 46 years. Julius P. Williams will conduct, and Jenny Wong, Associate Artistic Director of the Master Chorale, is the chorus director.

The concert also includes piano works of Roy Harris performed by pianist Geoffrey Burleson, as recorded on Naxos Records and previously performed by Johana Harris, wife of Roy Harris. Roy and Johana Harris previously taught at UCLA.

Tickets starting at $60 are available at

The concert is presented by the Long Beach Central Area Association; the president is concert promoter, arts presenter and producer of this concert John Malveaux, For more information as well as to donate to the presentation of this Bicentennial Symphony, please visit

The Bicentennial Symphony, Harris' "14th Symphony," renamed the 13th Symphony (its actual order number) after his passing, was commissioned by California State University Los Angeles, and written to celebrate the 200th birthday of the United States for orchestra with large chorus and narrators. It had its premiere at the Kennedy Center in 1976 with the National Symphony Orchestra and 100 singers from Texas. Roy Harris was born on Abraham Lincoln's birthday in Lincoln County, Oklahoma and during his life, he felt the shadow of President Lincoln, who was the inspiration for many of his compositions.

Prior to the world premiere at the Kennedy Center, conductor Antal Dorati got sick upon reviewing the score and was replaced by his assistant conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra Murray Sidlin. The Bicentennial Symphony premiered at the Kennedy Center on February 10, 11, and 12, 1976.

Long Beach resident John Malveaux befriended American composer Roy Harris in 1977. Malveaux, the producer of this Walt Disney Concert Hall performance, staged a non-professional (amateur) performance of Bicentennial Symphony as centerpiece of 'Juneteenth: Celebrating the Bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln' at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Long Beach, California, on June 13, 2009. The performance was co-sponsored by the City of Long Beach Parks Recreation & Marine Department and the Long Beach Central Area Association.

John Malveaux said because American orchestras were unwilling to perform the Bicentennial Symphony, he felt that "Harris, an important voice, had been silenced ... his First Amendment rights had been taken away. I treasured his wisdom and friendship - he spoke deeply to my heritage."

Malveaux continued, "I always felt that the disappointment he felt over the fate of the work contributed to his decline - he felt abandoned and discredited. Harris was a Champion and pioneer of a new American classical music and great achievements are to be celebrated. I am his refuge after death."

Malveaux is the descendant of John Malveaux, Civil War Colored, Soldier, listed among the 209,145 members of the US Colored Troops on the Wall of Honor at the African American Civil War Memorial & Museum in Washington, DC.

Roy Harris was a prolific and renowned American composer. Harris was known as one of America's most significant twentieth-century composers of classical symphonic music, his music always expressing an American spirit theme.

His symphony 1933 (Symphony No. 1) was played by Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony, who recorded it - marking the first time a symphony composed by an American composer had been recorded by a major American orchestra. The keystone event of Harris' career was his Symphony No. 3, a one-movement work of epic ambitions that has held a place in the standard orchestra repertory since its appearance in 1938. Among its many recordings are two conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

He was born LeRoy Ellsworth Harris into a modest family of mixed ancestry in Lincoln County, Oklahoma. He grew up one of five children living in a log cabin until 1903, when his father sold the family farm and moved the family to the San Gabriel Valley, California. His first music training was when he studied piano with his mother, and later on, clarinet while in high school. By the time he was 18, he was a virtuoso performer on the piano and clarinet. He farmed and did odd jobs to support his musical studies.

After serving in the Army during World War I, he began serious musical study at the University of California at Berkeley in 1919. At Berkeley, he studied sociology, philosophy, history and economics and he was mentored by composer Arthur Farwell, who introduced him to Walt Whitman's poetry and helped him to develop a distinctive style. He also studied under Charles Darest, Fannie Dillon, Henry Schoenfeld and Modest Altschuler.

After university, he studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris for three years on Guggenheim Fellowships. He received musical grooming in her master classes and under her guidance, he began to study of Renaissance music and wrote his first noteworthy works. Some of Nadia's other students were Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, also both friends of Harris.

In 1936, he had married Beula Duffey, a young pianist who later changed her name to Johana, who had a successful musical career. She also taught the piano at the Juilliard School and had a great collaboration, working with her husband. The couple had two sons, Shaun and Dan, both musicians. Roy Harris died on October 1, 1979, in Santa Monica, California, after a fall.

Roy Harris was the first American composer to conduct his own works in post-revolutionary Russia, with the Leningrad Philharmonic as a cultural ambassador for the US Department of State. From 1934 -1960, he taught at various universities.

On April 14, 1965, Roy Harris' Symphony No. 10, 'Abraham Lincoln Symphony' had its premiere at Long Beach State College with the Long Beach Symphony, on the centennial of President Lincoln's murder.

In 1957, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and then into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1979. At the end of his life, he was designated Composer Laureate of the State of California. His works and papers are currently archived in the Library of Congress.

Julius Penson Williams Is an award-winning conductor, composer, recording artist, educator, author and pianist. His career has taken him from his native New York to musical venues around the globe, and has involved virtually every musical genre. Williams' Carnegie Hall conducting debut was with the Symphony Saint Paulia's inaugural concerts in 1987.

He has conducted various American orchestras in Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, Connecticut, California, Tennessee, Vermont, Ohio, and Kentucky. In addition, he has conducted the Armor Artist Chamber Orchestra, the Connecticut Opera, Kalistos Chamber Orchestra (Boston) and the Trilogy An Opera Company, where he is music director and conductor.

He was Music Director of the Washington Symphony (the official orchestra of the city of Washington, DC) from 1998-2003, which. One of the most prestigious performances was the 30th anniversary of the Peoples Republic of China, at Constitution Hall as well as conducting a celebration at the Chinese Embassy, later that year. He was also the artistic director of the Music Festival of Costa del Sol (Spain), and was artistic director of the School of Choral Studies at the New York State Summer School of the Arts for 10 seasons. Other appearances include the 1999 Tri-C Jazz Festival in Cleveland, where he opened the season conducting a powerful performance of Duke Ellington's "Sacred Service".

He has served as Assistant Conductor to the late Lucas Foss with The Brooklyn Philharmonic and with The American Symphony in New York. He is presently conductor of the Longar Ebony Symphony Orchestra in New York. In Europe, he has performed and recorded with The Prague Radio Symphony, The Principal Military Orchestra of the Russian Federation, The Moscow Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, The Dvorak Symphony Orchestra, The Volvodanksa Symphony (Serbia), The Dubrovnik Symphony (Croatia), The Brno State Philharmonic, and The Bohuslav-Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra.

His music has been performed by countless symphony orchestras, and chamber ensembles around the globe. He has served as Composer-in-Residence of Connecticut's Nutmeg Ballet, which premiered his ballet, "Cinderella. His "Norman Overture" was premiered by the New York Philharmonic, with conductor Zubin Mehta. The opera "Guinevere" was performed at the Aspen Music Festival and the Dubrovnik Music Festival (Croatia). He was composer of the score for the film, "What Color is Love?" and he scored the theatrical production of "In Dahomey".

The LA Phil and Interdenominational Choir under the baton of African American conductor Calvin Simmons premiered 'SOMEWHERE FAR AWAY' with lyrics by Joe Westmoreland, music by Rene Moore, and orchestration by Coleridge Taylor Perkinson (Julius Williams was a student of Perkinson).

His Cantata "A Journey to Freedom" for the Reston Choral and Festival Orchestra (Virginia) was recorded on his album "Somewhere Far Away" (2009, Albany Records). The Detroit Symphony gave the premiere of his moving tribute to the victims of September 11, "In Memoriam," and then recorded it for Albany records.

Julius Williams composed "Dreams" for the Boston Children's Choir's "Raising the Roof" concert; the concert was televised nationally and recorded on their 2010 album. Williams has served as conductor-composer of the Connecticut Arts Awards for public television. His film score for Lifetime TV's "Fighting for our Future" won the Gracie Allen Documentary Award in 2003.

"Those Heroes Who Healed A Nation "composed by Julius P. Williams was performed July 4, 2022, by the Boston Pops Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus, conducted by Keith Lockhart at the 2022 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular broadcasted LIVE NATIONALLY on BLOOMBERG TV and radio, and on WHDH-TV. The composition is a tribute to The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment- an infantry regiment that saw extensive service in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The unit was the second African American regiment, following the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

A native of Hong Kong based in Los Angeles, Jenny Wong is currently the Associate Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Wong was one of nine national recipients of OPERA America's inaugural Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors, for conducting Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and Kate Soper's Voices from the Killing Jar with Long Beach Opera, in collaboration with WildUp at the Ford in 2021.

This season marks her conducting debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Green Umbrella Series, the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and the Pasadena Symphony. Other recent conducting engagements have included Peter Sellars' staging of di Lasso's Lagrime di San Pietro (US performances, Melbourne International Arts Festival, the Festival Internacionale Cervantino, and Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico); the opera Sweet Land (2021 Award for Best New Opera by the Music Critics' Association) by Du Yun and Raven Chacon for The Industry, directed by Yuval Sharon and Cannupa Hanska-Luger; the GRAMMY-winning ensemble Phoenix Chorale (AZ), the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, as well as the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra.

As a chorus master, Wong has prepared choruses for Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Susanna Mälkki, Eric Whitacre, María Guinand, and Music Academy of the West, including Mahler's Symphony No. 8 (Deutsche Grammophon), winner of the 2022 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance, and the US. premier of Tan Dun's Buddha Passion. Most recently, Wong was Assistant Producer of the Master Chorale's latest album, Eric Whitacre's The Sacred Veil (Signum Classics).

Wong won two consecutive World Championship titles at the World Choir Games (China, 2010) and the International Johannes Brahms Choral Competition (Germany, 2011), conducting the Diocesan Girls' School Choir from Hong Kong.

MusicUNTOLD is the website of the Long Beach Central Area Association, a multidisciplinary organization devoted to presenting arts and educational programs that promote diversity and human dignity. The name MusicUNTOLD was created by John Malveaux in 2009 when the Long Beach Central Area Association began presenting programs outside of the Sixth district in the City of Long Beach where they were founded. The Long Beach Central Area Association also works with community partners to make arts programming accessible to all. All Long Beach Central Area Association programs are free except one ticketed concert per year.

John Malveaux is president of Long Beach Central Area Association and devoted to presenting arts & education concerts and programs that promote diversity and human dignity. He is past recipient of the Arts Volunteer of the Year Award from Arts Council for Long Beach, City of Long Beach Cultural Heritage Commissioner, California Conference for Equality & Justice Volunteer of Year recipient, and recipient of multiple certificates from City, County, State, and Federal elected officials.

John organized the First JUNTEENTH Celebration (2011) at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach. The performance by GRAMMY winner and mezzo soprano Denyce Graves was also the First classical recital at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach.

In 2012, Long Beach Central Area Association and KUSC Classical Radio co-produced 150th Anniversary Emancipation Proclamation Concert at AT&T Center in Los Angeles, that included GRAMMY winner and soprano Latonia Moore, GRAMMY winner and bass/baritone Donnie Ray Albert, legendary Metropolitan Opera tenor George Shirley, legendary New York Philharmonic first violinist Sanford Allen, and composer/violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama. The concert received a delayed broadcast via KUSC 91.5FM.

In 2015, the Long Beach Central Area Association produced a concert to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington D C that included a world premier by composer/Steinway pianist Karen Walwyn, art and opera songs by bass/baritone Kevin Deas, and the Howard University Choir. The program also celebrated an original poem/song honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by South Korean composer Joopoong Kim titled "The Wings" sung by soprano Jumi Kim.

Malveaux is a graduate of Long Beach Poly HS under the name John Champion, he earned a BS in Business Administration from Pepperdine University; he was inducted into Long Beach City College Alumni Hall of Fame Nov 2021. John Malveaux has served as producer of concerts in multiple genres that include the following GRAMMY winning artists: Thelma Houston (R&B), Marvin Gaye (R&B, Hall of Fame), Deniece Williams (Gospel, Pop), Andrae Crouch (Gospel), Shirley Caesar (Gospel), Latonia Moore (Opera), Donnie Ray Albert (Opera), Denyce Graves (Opera) and Paul Williams (Best album recording, Best children recording, Song of Year).


To post a comment, you must register and login.

Vote Sponsor