Southeast Symphony Holds Season Opening Concert
By Cheryl Tillman Lee
Sentinel Family Editor
The professional musician, the students, and the serious music lovers all appreciated the lively erudition that was displayed by the Southeast Symphony. The event took place at Trinity Baptist Church, in Los Angeles, to a warm and enthusiastic crowd on Sunday, October 4.
The concert was styled, “A Celebration of Themes and Variations in Music,” featuring the Southeast Symphony Orchestra Chorus and renowned Baritone Bradley Baker.
The program opened with “Overture to Saint Paul,” the music of Felix Mendelssohn, one of history’s greatest composers, and included the Hebrides Overture (“Fingal’s Cave”); “He’s Watching Over Israel (from “Elijah”), featuring The Southeast Symphony Chorus; “Symphony No. 4,” and (The Italian) followed by a short intermission. Continuing was: “For the Mountains Shall Depart,” (from “Elijah”) featuring Baritone Bradley Baker.
Baker is familiar with all styles of vocal music from opera to musical theatre, gospel, rhythm and blues, and jazz. He attended USC and the American Center for Musical Theater. While at USC, he sang with the Opera Department and later with the Los Angeles Music Center Opera. He has participated in world premiers too numerous to mention and is a regular singer with “The Glory of Christmas,” and “The Glory of Easter,” at the Crystal Cathedral. Baker has enjoyed working with children in Los Angeles and the South Bay area for more than 20 years. He is the founder, director and producer for W.A.D.E., a dance company for under-privileged children in Los Angeles, and has been a member of the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers. He currently sings with the Spirit Chorale and the Los Angeles Baritones. Baker is a world-renowned artist having performed in concert halls and opera houses in more than 25 countries.
The concert continued featuring symphonic renditions of favorite songs like “The Wedding March (from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”); and “Be Not Afraid,” (from Elijah”), featuring the Southeast Symphony Chorus.
“Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Mozart,” was the grand finale. The crowd roared its approval of appreciation in a standing ovation.
This was the 62nd concert season, and SESA has been an integral part of the Los Angeles Community since 1948 when Mabel Massengill-Gunn, a prominent local African American music teacher founded it.
The Association provides a season of free concerts to the community that features various genres of music. It also sponsors a program of Saturday morning instruction in instrumental music for third through twelfth grade students at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies.
This “Conservatory” is conducted in association with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
Charles Dickerson is the Music Director and Conductor of The Southeast Symphony, and Sandra Wheeler serves as President of the SESA Board of Directors. Alvin Tunstill is the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church. The Church, which has become the traditional venue for SESA’s Season Opening Concerts is located at 2040 West Jefferson Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA.
In celebrating the life and the genius of Felix Mendelssohn, he was born in Hamburg, Germany on February 3, 1809, to a family that included a wealthy banker and a Jewish rabbi. Now long after Felix’s birth, his father Abraham renounced the Jewish faith and Felix and his siblings were baptized into the Lutheran faith.
Felix showed the true talent of a prodigy at a very young age, playing both the piano and the violin, painting and being gifted in languages. He was thought to be the 18th Century equivalent of Mozart. But in recognition of his own ability, Felix later moved to Paris to study formally. By this time, he had already composed 11 symphonies, five operas and numerous pieces for the piano.
From 1826 to 1829, Mendelssohn studied at Berlin University. During the years that followed, he traveled and performed all over Europe, discovering the British Empire, Italy and France. It was during these travels that he visited the coast of Scotland where Fingal’s Cave is located.
His visit to the archeological anomaly inspired his composition of his Hebrides Overture. By the age of 26, he moved to Leipzig and became conductor of the Leipzig Orchestra, where he founded and directed the Leipzig Conservatory, one of the most prestigious institutions in all of Germany even to this day.
Mendelssohn was very much a family man and suffered greatly at the deaths of various family members. He died at the age of 38, and is buried in the cemetery of Holy Cross Church in Berlin next to his sister Fanny. His genius lives on today in his music.