Birge's Picks

Birge's Picks: Celebrate composer Adolphus Hailstork's birthday

Composer Adolphus Hailstork celebrates his 80th birthday this week.Courtesy of artist

April 12, 2021

All hail Hailstork!

This Saturday, you can light 80 birthday candles for the African-American composer and educator Adolphus Hailstork.

Hailstork's career has been centered mainly in Norfolk, Virginia, with 23 years at Norfolk State University, and nearly as many at Old Dominion University. But his music and influence spans the classical music world, including a recent Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The Minnesota Orchestra gave a Hailstork premiere at the 1975 Black Music Symposium in Minneapolis; Celebration! was subsequently recorded by the Detroit Symphony for the landmark CBS Black Composers Series, which is still available.

More recently, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra commissioned a new piece for its flutist Alicia McQuerrey; her premiere of St. Paul's Blues is archived on video.

VocalEssence Artistic Director Philip Brunelle included a portrait of Hailstork in a series of Musical Moments, including a gorgeous Hailstork take on We Shall Overcome, with overtones of Bach.

And Performance Today producer Meghann Oglesby produced this beautiful appreciation of Hailstork for the program's Black History Spotlight.

Hailstork is currently at work on a George Floyd requiem cantata titled A Knee On a Neck, for orchestra, chorus, tenor, baritone, and mezzo-soprano. Hailstork says it should be finished this month. Not a moment too soon.