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The United Strings of Color was started in Raleigh, NC, as a project to address racial disparity in classical music through music education and community engagement. United Strings of Color is uniquely comprised of African American musicians, self-named and created in 2018. CVNC's John Lambert reviewed a Violin Vigil by this ensemble in May of 2021, remarking "There's hope for our nation, when there are youngsters like these poets and instrumentalists who are prepared to propel us into a more united, more peaceful future." Through Violin Vigils, mentorship to younger musicians and instrument "zoos," and their unique Yoruba folktale adaptation, Ijapa and Mr. Igbin, composed for the USC by Elmer Gibson, the United Strings of Color has already made an impressive impact on the classical music community in the few years since its conception. This year's quartet personnel consists of Felicia Adizue and CT Thomas, violins; Sterling Elliott viola; and Lexi Etienne, cello; under the direction and support of Margaret Partridge.
United Strings of Color has performed at Raleigh's African American Cultural Festival, with the Durham Symphony, at the North Carolina Museum of Art, the African American Cultural Celebration sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of History, for Cary's Kwanzaa Celebration, for the 2021 and 2022 Juneteenth Celebrations at Dix Park in Raleigh, for the local Omega Psi Phi Quiz Bowl, for the Raleigh-Wake Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, multiple area churches and art galleries, and for Raleigh's Boys and Girls Club. The group has also been featured as a My Brother’s Keeper partner.
Over their history, the quartet has studied and performed music by under-represented female composers, including two African Americans, Florence Price and Undine Smith Moore; prepared a concert of music with African connections; and presented impactful social justice concerts. After the death of Elijah McClain, an amateur violinist, musicians around the country began holding Violin Vigils. United Strings of Color wanted to follow suit in response to our current time of reckoning and desire for societal transformation. The United Strings of Color Violin Vigils were unique in that they incorporated poetry and music to commemorate Black lives lost and to call for equal justice for all. In 2021, the United Strings of Color performed five Vigils including for the Day of Enlightenment (May 25th) and for the Inaugural Juneteenth Celebration at Dix Park.
United Strings of Color will be celebrating African American composers with their performance among the festivities of the African American Cultural Festival this Sunday. Their program will include:
"Shaker" by Black Violin
Adoration by Florence Beatrice Price
"Rise Up!" by Andra Day, featuring Tahmiyah Kelly, soprano
Summerland by William Grant Still
"Race" by DBR
"A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke
Sing A Song: How Lift Every Voice and Sing Inspired Generations, by award-winning author Kelly Starling Lyons
This season, NC State Live and Raleigh Civic Symphony have commissioned a work that will include community youth. Elmer Gibson is also working on a new piece based in African American history, so stay tuned for more announcements from this very active ensemble!