The London Symphony Orchestra marks Black History Month in October 2022 with two concerts at the Barbican curated and conducted by LSO Associate Artist André J Thomas, who was recently announced as LSO Associate Artist for a three-year period.

The first, a Symphonic Gospel concert on Sunday 30 October at 7 pm, includes Ignatius Sancho’s The Sweetest Bar and his 4th & 6th Minuets; Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Danse Negre; and The Chariot Jubilee by Nathaniel Dett. The concert features British Gospel composer’s Ken Burton’s piece The Promised Land, and John Williams’ work Dry Your Tears, Afrika composed for the film Amistad. Leading British Gospel vocalist Lurine Cato joins other guest soloists Christian Mark Gibb (tenor) and Brandon Boyd (piano).

The LSO will be joined by the London Community Gospel Choir, the LSO St Luke’s Community Choir, and the London Symphony Chorus. Songs include I Don’t Know What You’ve Come to Do by Raymond Wise, It’s Working by Isaac Cates, Order my Steps by Glenn Burleigh, This is the Day by Avis Strickling Jones, and a medley of songs by Walter and Edwin Hawkins, and 1980s US supergroup single We are the World.

The following week on Sunday 6 Nov at 7 pm Dr. Thomas showcases voices from the front-line of Black classical music in the US – including Wynton Marsalis’ dramatic new Tuba Concerto, with soloist LSO Principal Tuba Ben Thomson.

The concert opens with Carlos Simon’s Portrait of a Queen, which was written as Simon’s doctoral composition at the University of Michigan in 2017, and is scored for strings, piano, percussion, some audio playback, and a female voice as a spoken narrator, with text written by Courtney D. Ware.

Simon describes the work: “This piece traces the evolution of black people in America through the lens of one figurative black woman who represents strength, courage, and selflessness.”

The evening concludes with Joel Thompson’s Awaken the Sleeper – a musical story of injustice, courage, and endurance. A narrator and an orchestra lead a meditation, based on the words of James Baldwin, on the world as it is – and as it could be. Thompson crafted the piece as a response to the social and political unrest in 2020.

Joel Thompson is an Atlanta-based composer, conductor, pianist, and educator, best known for the choral work Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, which was premiered in November 2015 by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club and Dr. Eugene Rogers and won the 2018 American Prize for Choral Composition.

Listings Information


Sun 30 Oct 2022 7.00pm – 9.00pm 

Barbican Hall, London 

André J Thomas: Symphonic Gospel 

André J Thomas conductor 

London Symphony Orchestra

London Community Gospel Choir

Lurine Cato vocalist

Christian Mark Gibb tenor

Brandon Boyd piano

Tickets: £35 £24 £18 

Sun 6 Nov 2022 7.00pm – 9.00pm 

Barbican Hall, London 

Awaken the Sleeper – American music for our time 

Joel Thompson To Awaken the Sleeper 

Wynton Marsalis Tuba Concerto (UK premiere) 


Carlos Simon Portrait of a Queen 

Carlos Simon Amen 

André J Thomas conductor 

Sir Willard White narrator

Eska narrator

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