Colour of Music Festival performs at CUNY in NYC debut


CUNY Graduate Center.

Caryl Anne Francia, Business Editor

The Colour of Music Festival made its New York City debut at the CUNY Graduate Center on June 15.

In a public performance at the Baisley Powell Elebash Recital Hall, attendees could listen to classical music by Black composers for free.

Based in Charleston, South Carolina, the festival has traveled around the United States with Black musicians since 2013. Performances feature baroque, classic and 20th-century musical standards by composers of African descent.

COMF’s goal is to raise awareness of Black composers. These artists, such as African French composer Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, are more well known internationally, according to the festival’s website.

“Thanks to a generous grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, and in partnership with The CUNY Graduate Center and CUNY TV, we are elated to present this history-making performance in America’s cultural capital,” COMF Founder and Artistic Director Lee Pringle told Broadway World. “Our home base Charleston, SC, is known for iconic arts festivals itself and we are proud to bring to New York audiences the black classical contributions from a region where 40% of all Africans arrived on the North America continent.”

The ensemble of musicians includes Alexandria D’Amico, Caleb Georges, Michael Jorgensen, James Keene, Kenneth Law and Ryan Murphy. The group was joined by German-born violinist Anyango Yarbo-Davenport and French violinist Romuald Grimbert-Barré.

The performance featured Black-composed chamber music, including a string quartet arrangement of Valerie Coleman’s “Umoja” and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s String Quartet No. 1 “Calvary.”

The evening also featured “The String Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20” by German composer Felix Mendelssohn.

The event was hosted by CUNY’s Office of Academic Initiatives and Strategic Innovation.  Brian Peterson, the dean of the office and the senior vice president of administration and finance, told Broadway World that he was delighted to host COMF’s debut in the city.

“The performance features the rich and diverse talents of performers and composers at a time when we need to be intellectually inspired and spiritually lifted,” Peterson said. “We are proud to embark on this new partnership with the Colour of Music Festival and know that audience members will be raised up by the live performance.”

Free tickets were available on COMF’s website and the Graduate Center box office on the day of the performance. Tickets were required for entry.

The CUNY performance was the first of two in COMF’s “New York Chamber Music Series.” The festival performed next at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall on June 17.

Both performances were advance celebrations of Juneteenth, which was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021.

“Thanks to civil rights activist Opal Lee, Juneteenth is now a national holiday and the Festival is honored our first New York performance will celebrate this milestone,” Peterson said.