Dearborn Symphony spotlights distinguished African American composer

phyllisThe Dearborn Symphony and Maestro Kypros Markou highlighted the work of African American composer Adolphus C. Hailstork in a rare matinee concert Feb. 25 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center.

The novel matinee featured guest violinist Ben Bellman, and celebrated the 100th anniversary of the iconic Leonard Bernstein’s birth, opening with the “Overture to Candide.”

The comic operetta, based on Voltaire’s 1759 satirical novella which tells of the misadventures of Candide challenges classification, but there was no mistaking the spirited and sparkling sounds of the full orchestra.

Markou and the orchestra took great pride in performing Hailstork’s “Symphony No. 2.” About this symphony Hailstork wrote: “In the summer of 1996, I took a trip to Africa. There, I visited the fort along the coast of Ghana, and saw the dungeons where the slaves were held before being shipped overseas. I put my reactions to that sad scene in movement two of this symphony.

“In movement four, I sought to reflect the determination of a people who had arrived in America as slaves, but struggled, with courage and faith against numerous odds.”

Markou gave a brief explanation about the work to help the audience appreciate and enjoy the work’s many colorful and imaginative sounds and special characteristics. Hailstork’s symphony is a powerful work, and the musicians performed with great commitment and passion.

Aaron Robinson deserves special mention for his beautiful rendition of the English horn solo in the second movement.

Beilman masterfully executed Edouard Lalo‘s “Symphonie Espagnole.” Beilman played with a lot of energy and deep feeling. His playing combined youthful exuberance and mature understanding — Markou clearly enjoyed interacting with Beilman and led the orchestra with ease in providing supportive accompaniment to Beilman’s interpretation, and the orchestra’s playing complimented Beilman’s style of playing.

Emmanuel Chabrier’s “Espana,” rhapsody for orchestra, was the closing work of the concert. Markou and the orchestra captured fully the lightness and joy of the work. The performance highlighted the orchestra’s rich and colorful sound and closed the concert with tremendous excitement. The audience clearly had a wonderful time.

Mark your calendar for April 13, as Rich Ridenour, pianist and pops conductor, takes the stage for the Best of Broadway The Dearborn Symphony, Ridenour and special guest will celebrate 70 years of award winning Broadway music. Ticket prices range from $15 to $35 for more information, go to or call 313-565-2424.