Two groups of musicians with a shared passion will join together for a Good Friday performance at the Rolling Hills United Methodist Church.
The RHUMC Chancel Choir, which includes about 50 white folks with an average age in the mid-60s, will combine with about 30 African-American members of the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles whose average age is in the early 20s.
“This is a significant collaboration because the issue of diversity in the arts is in the forefront of national conversations,” said Charles Dickerson, who has served as director of music at RHUMC since 2005, in a press release.
Some orchestra members fit the image of the musicians who were portrayed in the film “Straight Outta Compton,” Dickerson said. But on Good Friday Night, these same young musicians will be on the Palos Verdes Peninsula performing the music of a dead, white composer of Jewish extraction, Felix Mendelssohn, who lived in Europe all of his life.
They also will perform music from contemporary classical composer Mark Hayes, who is white, and Dickerson, who is African-American.
The two ensembles have collaborated at least twice a year since 2009.
Dickerson formed ICYOLA in 2009 when a group of nine African-American high school instrumentalists asked him to work with them on technique and repertoire during the summer of that year, the release said.
Since then, the orchestra has grown to over 100 members and now presents an annual series of eight concerts, including Good Friday and Christmas Season Concerts at RHUMC, and a concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
“Establishing diversity in the arts seems to be a hard push for most American institutions,” Dickerson said. “There is a lot of resistance. But thankfully, the church seems to be much more receptive. The folks at RHUMC warmly and generously embrace these youngsters. Of course, the fact that they play practically as well as the members of the LA Phil doesn’t hurt either!”
The Andrew Mellon Foundation and the League of American Orchestras recently gathered about 40 leaders from around the country to discuss strategies to increase the numbers of minorities in American orchestras, the release said.
The theme of the League’s upcoming national conference is The Richness of Difference, and it will feature symposia on this subject. Late last year, the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland issued a controversial report entitled “Diversity in the Arts” that investigated the challenges facing organizations of color operating in the United States today.
And in November, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted a motion to create an advisory group within the County Arts Commission to make recommendations on how to improve diversity in the arts in Los Angeles County. While there has been and continues to be a lot of talk around the country about these issues, the upcoming free concert represents action, the release said.
The ensembles at 7:30 p.m. on Friday will perform Mendelssohn’s setting of Psalm 42, “Wie der Hirsch schreit” (“As the Hart pants”), Mark Hayes’s “Requiem,” and the world premiere of a new setting of the traditional spiritual “Were You There” by Charles Dickerson at 7:30 p.m. at RHUMC, 26438 Crenshaw Blvd in Rolling Hills Estates. Admission is free. For more information, call 310-377-6771 or visit http://rhumc.org/good-friday-concert-2/.