When Edward Hart ’88 wrote A Charleston Concerto, it was for the 350th celebration of the City of Charleston. Meant to premiere in April 2020, the piece looks back at the discovery of Charleston; grapples with its complicated history of natural disasters, slavery, war and disease; and celebrates its optimistic approach to the future. But, even though the pandemic pushed the premiere back nearly two years to January 2022, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
“While the cancellation of the April 2020 premiere was disappointing,” says the composer and dean of the College of Charleston School of the Arts, “I remember thinking that when the piece is eventually played, it means that our world is in a better and safer place.”
On Jan. 7 and 8, 2022*, the world premiere of A Charleston Concerto will be performed at the Charleston Gaillard Center by the Harlem Quartet and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO) as part of its Masterworks program, Hart of Tchaikovsky.
“I am honored to be working with the Harlem Quartet,” says Hart, who served as the CSO’s composer-in-residence for the 2019–20 season. “Their genre-bending approach to music-making, along with their deep commitment to promoting inclusivity within the classical music world, make them the perfect partner for this project.”
Founded in 2008 by the Sphinx Organization, the Grammy Award–winning Harlem Quartet advances diversity in classical music while engaging new audiences with varied repertoire that includes works by minority composers. Their mission to share their passion with a wider audience has taken them around the world – from a 2009 performance at the White House for then President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, to a highly successful 2012 tour of South Africa and numerous venues in between.
“Their musicianship speaks for itself, and their mission resonates with me greatly,” says Hart, whose A Charleston Concerto has three movements: “Discovery,” “Tragedy and Reconciliation” and “Tomorrow.” Through imagining native people’s discovery of the Charleston Harbor, by celebrating the Gullah culture with nods to its musical heritage and with optimism for what is to come, the concerto does not shy away from history. However, it leaves the listener optimistically looking toward the future.
The full program for Hart of Tchaikovsky also includes Adolphus Hailstork’s Fanfare on “Amazing Grace” and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36: “Andante sostenuto,” “Andantino in modo di canzona,” “Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato” and “Finale: Allegro con fuoco.”
Hart of Tchaikovsky is the final performance in the CSO’s Recording Project, which was launched two years ago to showcase the orchestra’s artistic excellence while celebrating Charleston’s deep musical roots. The project includes two works composed by Hart: The first part of the recording project – Hart’s violin concerto Under an Indigo Sky, which he wrote specifically for violinist and CofC adjunct faculty member Yuriy Bekker, who serves as conductor/director of the College of Charleston Orchestra as well as concertmaster for the CSO – was completed during the CSO’s 2019–20 season. A Charleston Concerto, which Hart composed for string quartet and orchestra, is the second part of the project.
A native of the Holy City, Hart not only has a long lineage of family in Charleston, but also in the music business. His family owned Siegling Music House on King Street, the oldest music store in the country, until 1970. Opened in 1819, the store rented a piano out to composer George Gershwin upon his visit to Charleston.
Hart’s music has been performed in the United States, Latin America, Africa and Europe, including performances in New York, Los Angeles, Kiev, Vienna, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Boston and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Reviewers have described his music as “spiritual and emotional,” “clearly visual,” “well crafted, smartly scored and cast in an accessible style that clearly communicates to audiences” and as having “great sweep and strong appeal.”
Tickets to Hart’s world premiere of A Charleston Concerto and the Hart of Tchaikovsky performance include the opportunity to attend a pre-concert lecture with Hart. Tickets start at $25 (plus fees) and are available now at charlestonsymphony.org or by calling 843.723.7528. College of Charleston faculty and staff may use the special discount code COFC25 at checkout for 25% off the ticket price.
Celebrating its 85th season of serving the community through engaging musical performances and enriching education initiatives, the CSO is committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the arts and strives to provide culturally meaningful and relevant programming for audiences of all backgrounds. As the largest full-time performing arts organization in South Carolina, the CSO hosts more than 150 concerts and activities every year, including education and family experiences, community engagement events, free performances, chamber music and main series concerts. To continue learning about the CSO, visit the Charleston Symphony website.
*The concert dates have been postponed due to a COVID-19 case among one of the musicians. Tickets will be valid for the rescheduled concert dates, which will be announced in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please contact CSO Director of Patron Services Cindy Branch at 843.723.7528 or the Gaillard Center Ticket Office at 843.242.3099 or email@example.com with questions. The Ticket Office is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.