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Skidmore College

Commemorating music history

November 22, 2016

A series of events, Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, will commemorate the 150th anniversary of African-American musician (and onetime Saratogian) Harry T. Burleigh. A highlight will be a recital of Burleigh's works by renowned baritone Stephen Salters with pianist Linda Osborn, and with a special appearance by the Skidmore Vocal Chamber Ensemble. The concert is Friday, Dec. 2, at 8 p.m. in the Zankel Music Center's Ladd Concert Hall. Tickets, available here or at the Zankel box office, 581-580-5321, are $8 for adults, $5 for Skidmore employees and senior citizens, and free for students and children. 

burleigh and salters 
Burleigh and Salters

Harry T. Burleigh (1866­–1949) was a trail-blazing singer, composer, and arranger. According to Saratoga historian Field Horne, while the 25-year-old Burleigh was studying at New York City's National Conservatory of Music, he took a summer job as a wine steward at Saratoga's Grand Union Hotel. Next door, at Bethesda Church, the rector routinely offered services for the many African-American hotel employees, and when he noticed Burleigh's voice, he helped enlist him into Bethesda's choir.

Burleigh soon built an international career. For some 50 years he served as soloist at St. George's Church, and for 25 years at the Temple Emanu-El synagogue, both in New York City. His music became essential repertoire for recitalists in the early 20th century, and his performances and arrangements of African-American spirituals helped to preserve and popularize them in his time and beyond.

Baritone Stephen Salters—who sings "like God on a good day . . . intensely imaginative and adventurous," according to a Washington Post review—will perform a wide selection of Burleigh's works on the Zankel stage.

Other commemoration events include:

  • Historical displays by students in Prof. Liz Macy's "Blues and African-American Musical Heritage" course (in collaboration with the Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative), all day Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 in the Zankel lobby

  • Voice master class with Salters, 5 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 1 in Zankel 117

  • "Blacks in Saratoga Springs: Then and Now," a bring-your-lunch lecture by Bard College's Myra Young Armstead, 12:15 p.m. on Dec. 2 in Zankel 117

  • Preconcert talk by Jean Snyder, author of Harry T. Burleigh: From the Spiritual to the Harlem Renaissance, 7 p.m. on Dec. 2 in the Zankel's Ladd Concert Hall

  • Advent lessons and carols with Salters singing Burleigh, 3 p.m. on Dec. 3 at Bethesda Episcopal Church, 41 Washington Street, Saratoga Springs

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