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RPO to Close Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Celebration


Free concert at Church of Love Faith Center on Oct. 29, 2-3 PM

Rochester, NY –Your Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) will close out Monroe County and the City of Rochester’s Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Celebration (HTBC) with a special Closing HTBC Ceremony on Saturday, October 29, 2022 from 2 – 3 PM at Church of Love Faith Center (700 Exchange St., 14608). The event is free and open to the public.

RPO trumpeter and frequent guest conductor Herb Smith will lead the orchestra in a celebratory program that features the Center for Youth’s Strings for Success, a free, inclusive, and innovative instrumental strings program available to all students in grades 2-8 at the Dr. Charles T. Lunsford School 19 in the Rochester City School District.

“HTBC approached me to help them organize this concert, and I immediately thought that it would be great if the RPO could fit it in after our two free RPO Around-the-Town concerts earlier that week – and they agreed,” explains Smith. “To me, it’s just a match made in heaven.”

Smith found orchestra parts for several Strings for Success’ pieces, and Rochester musician and teacher John Gabriele arranged some of Tubman’s favorite Spirituals for the group: Songs from the Underground Railroad: A Harriet Tubman Celebration. Smith also programmed the second movement of Dvorák (duh-VOR-zhakk)’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” which – since lyrics were added – has become a staple called “Goin’ Home” in Black churches. The program opens with Aaron Copland’s iconic Fanfare for the Common Man, a piece that Smith conducted during Rochester’s 2020 Black Lives Matter rally. It continues with a trio of waltzes by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, called the “Black Mahler,” and closes with Fantasia On Lift Every Voice and Sing by James V. Cockerham, which was performed by the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra at its Carnegie Hall debut in April of this year.

“I hope that the Church of Love Faith Center is jam-packed with a diverse and enthusiastic audience that afternoon,” adds Smith, who admits that the event is a true labor of love for him.

The special concert caps off two months of events that have surrounded the temporary installation of the “Harriet Tubman – The Journey to Freedom” statue at Rochester’s Washington Square Park on September 2, 2022. The nine-foot tall, 2,200-pound monument is traveling to various communities across the nation in honor of the 200th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s birth. It was sculpted by Oscar and Emmy-winning artist Wesley Wofford and features Harriet Tubman in mid stride, hustling towards freedom with a youngster in tow.

“Tubman was a world-renowned abolitionist, human rights activist, suffragist, and freedom seeker. After escaping enslavement in 1849, she led hundreds of slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad and supported the Union Army during the Civil War as a nurse, secret spy, and military leader,” says HTBC Project Director & Strategy Consultant Jacqueline Sprague, a descendant of Rochester Black suffragist Lucy Sprague. “The project’s goal is to inspire diverse youth to restore, renew, and reinvest in our history and to be advocates for racial equity, and I think this concert is the perfect finale.”

Additional information on the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Celebration Project activities can be found on the HTBC website: The HTBC thanks Closing Ceremony Sponsors: Paul Speranza, Susan Taylor-Brown PhD, Nadine Wahl, Asha Willis MD, Tekskil Broadcast Productions, National Susan B Anthony Museum and House, and VisitRochester Limitless.

ABOUT THE RPO: The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has been committed to enriching and inspiring our community through the art of music since its origins in 1922. The RPO presents approximately 150 concerts and broadcasts a year, serving up to 170,000 people through ticketed events, education and community engagement activities, and concerts in schools and community centers throughout the region. Music Director Andreas Delfs joins the ranks of former notable RPO music directors, including Erich Leinsdorf, David Zinman, Mark Elder, Ward Stare, and Conductor Laureate Christopher Seaman. Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik, now in his 29th season, has earned a national reputation for excellence in pops programming during his tenure with the RPO. The RPO reaches more than 15,000 youth through its specific education programs.

The RPO thanks Season Sponsor M&T Bank, Pops Series Sponsors Canandaigua National Bank & Wegmans, and Special Series Sponsor Pittsford Federal Credit Union.

Media please note: High-resolution images and other media assets for the 2022-23 Season can be found at Interviews and photo/footage opportunities are also available.