Price, Coleman & Montgomery / Repper, New York Youth Symphony

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A 2023 GRAMMY nominee of historic stature, profiled in the New York Times!

In the midst of the COVID pandemic, the remarkably resourceful personnel and musicians of the New York Youth Symphony (NYYS), with Music Director Michael Repper, found a way to come together during a time of separation to make their debut recording. Featuring four works by three African American women composers – Florence Price, Valerie Coleman and Jessie Montgomery – the orchestra’s first studio recording includes several premieres. The release coincides with the 115th anniversary of Price’s birth. Two recordings of works by Florence Price are firsts. Ethiopia's Shadow in America is the first recording of the work by an American orchestra. Her Piano Concerto in One Movement, with soloist Michelle Cann, is the premiere recording of the composer’s newly-discovered original orchestration.

Price’s compositional voice blends the African American folk songs and dances of her heritage with the central European Romantic tradition in which she was trained. Her tone poem Ethiopia’s Shadow in America evokes the injustices experienced by people of African descent. Her Piano Concerto in One Movement features the exuberant soloist Michelle Cann, a champion of the composer’s music, who gave the New York and Philadelphia premieres of the work.

Umoja – meaning “unity” in Swahili – by Grammy-nominated flutist, entrepreneur, and composer Valerie Coleman originated as a simple song for women’s choir. Its transformation as a work for orchestra – given its first recording here – maintains its feel of a drum circle and sharing of history through a traditional “call and response” form. In her rich and colorful single-movement symphonic work Soul Force, NYYS alum Jessie Montgomery drew on Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in which he states, “We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."


This has to be one of the most assured and exciting recording-debuts from a youth orchestra since the West-Eastern Divan and the Simon Bolivars hit the ground running: there's a wonderful sheen and polish to the sound, ensemble is nigh-on immaculate, and the young New Yorkers revel in Price's juba rhythms and inventive scoring in both the Piano Concerto (given for the first time in her original orchestration here) and Ethiopia's Shadow in America.

-- Presto Music

This particular album is yet another example of a project in a sense fortified by the Covid pandemic, and the fact that it features a youth orchestra – New York Youth Symphony – is a heartening indication of innocent ears opening to both the undiscovered and the entirely new. They give it their all. Price’s Ethiopia’s Shadow in America (recorded for the first time by an American ensemble) is a fitting foundation for the programme, its focus not so much on the indefensible reality and inhumanity of slavery as the enduring spirit to rise above it. For sure, its first pages are marked with a cry of anguish across the entire orchestra – but a nobility of utterance shines through them and it isn’t long before the emergence of a simple Spiritual (in the second section of the piece) finds solace in a solo cello and aspiration in its journey from solo oboe to balmy (and majestic) horns. And don’t for a moment think that a cakewalk is a somehow inappropriate conclusion to what has gone before, because this is the music that Price knew and found joy in. It was something to be celebrated.

-- Gramophone

Product Description:

  • Release Date: April 08, 2022

  • Catalog Number: AV2503

  • UPC: 822252250329

  • Label: AVIE Records

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Florence Beatrice Price, Jessie Montgomery, Valerie Coleman

  • Conductor: Michael Repper

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: New York Youth Symphony

  • Performer: Michelle Cann


  1. Ethiopia's Shadow in America

    Composer: Florence Beatrice Price

    Ensemble: New York Youth Symphony

    Conductor: Michael Repper

  2. Umoja: Anthem of Unity

    Composer: Valerie Coleman

    Ensemble: New York Youth Symphony

    Conductor: Michael Repper

  3. Piano Concerto in D Minor

    Composer: Florence Beatrice Price

    Ensemble: New York Youth Symphony

    Performer: Michelle Cann

    Conductor: Michael Repper

  4. Soul Force

    Composer: Jessie Montgomery

    Ensemble: New York Youth Symphony

    Conductor: Michael Repper