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Gospel Returns to Kodak Hall with RPO, Julius Dicks and Company community choir, and Soloists

Rochester, NY – Last year’s City-sponsored Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra  gospel concert filled Eastman Theatre with a diversity of musical talent onstage and a diversity of patrons in the hall.  Capitalizing on the success of that concert, the RPO and conductor Jeff Tyzik will present “The Glory of Gospel” at 7:00 pm on Sunday, May 30 at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, joining forces with Baber AME Church Music Director Julius Dicks leading a community gospel choir.  Dicks, who promises “a spiritual explosion,” is putting together a special choir specifically for this concert of approximately 30 singers from 10 area churches.  Additional musicians include soprano Elena O’Connor and RPO trumpeter Herb Smith as the featured soloists.  Last year’s “pay what you can” policy continues, with a minimum suggested donation of $5.

"The City of Rochester is proud to once again partner with the RPO for a wonderful evening of Gospel music at the Eastman Theatre," Mayor Robert J. Duffy said. "The combination of Jeff Tyzik and Julius Dicks’ leadership in conjunction with soloists Elena O’Connor and Herb Smith is sure to provide a unique treat for Rochesterians. Rochester is fortunate to have such a strong history of diverse musical talent."

The program will include the choir and orchestra performing Richard Smallwood’s arrangement of Total Praise, and Jeff Tyzik’s own gospel arrangement of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” The Gospel Choir will be highlighted alone in various gospel tunes including I Open My Mouth to the Lord.  Additionally, the RPO will perform works chosen for this occasion by Jeff Tyzik, including repertoire featuring Ms. O’Connor and Mr. Smith in solo roles.

“There is a wider range of music here in Rochester than in many other cities,” said Dicks.  “We embrace and embody all of it.  We have a tradition of remembering where we came from in order to appreciate where we are, and where we’re going.”  In addition to his Music Director role at the Baber AME Church, Julius Dicks has been active in the Rochester music community for many years, known specifically for his affiliation with the Colgate-Rochester Divinity School’s Black Student Caucus sponsorship of the Martin Luther King City-wide concert.

Soprano Elena O’Connor, a 1998 Penfield High School graduate, studied at the Eastman School of Music, and graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Music, where she sang one of the lead roles in the American premiere of Luigi Mancinelli’s Paola e Francesca. She also was noted by the New York Times for her “standout” performance at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha.  Ms. O’Connor was a multi-year prizewinner in the Palm Beach Opera International Vocal Competition, as well as a winner of the Aspen Music Festival’s Vocal Concerto Competition.  After her performance with the Cincinnati May Festival, the Cincinnati Enquirer touted her as “a young star to watch.”

Herb Smith is third trumpet in the RPO, trumpet instructor at the Eastman School of Music, the leader of his own Jazz quartet, and a teaching artist, arranger, and composer. A 1991 graduate of the Eastman School, he has played with the Cincinnati Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Chautauqua Symphony, Skaneateles Summer Festival Orchestra, and the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra. Herb has written music for silent films, served as music director on the CD “Just A Little Sly” for his former band Thornwood, and performed a joint recital in Carnegie Hall with baritone Derek Smith. Herb has a trumpet studio at the Eastman Community Music School, plays in the New Millenium jazz quartet, and the RPO jazz combo.  He has appeared with such notable performers as Natalie Cole, Doc Severinson, Wynton Marsalis, Chuck Mangione, The Ojays and Yes. Herb has recorded with Big Roots, the RPO, Gap Mangione Big Band, Joel Segal, and the Eastman Wind Ensemble. His new CD is “The Trumpet Shall Sound.”

“We’re thrilled that the City of Rochester’s support again has made it possible for the RPO to present to the community the musical result of our collaboration with so many wonderful groups and individuals, and with a ‘pay what you can’ policy,” said Charles H. Owens, RPO President & CEO.  “We look forward to concluding our season on such a high note.”

Tickets will be sold under a “pay what you can” policy with a minimum suggested donation of $5 and general admission seating. Tickets may be purchased in advance in-person at the RPO Box Office at 108 East Avenue, or at the door beginning one hour prior to the concert.  Box office hours are 10:00 am-5:00 pm Monday-Saturday (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm). 

Note: Interviews and photos are available on request.