Famed soprano Kathleen Battle will perform with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on March 8. (DSO photos)
Get your calendars out. Soprano superstar Kathleen Battle will perform with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at the 36th annual Classical Roots Celebration and concert March 8.
Can’t wait for the big event? You’re in luck. For the first time, Classical Roots is sponsoring two mini-concerts in February to honor Black History Month.
Classical Roots is the DSO’s annual tribute to the contributions of African-Americans to classical music and raises money for outreach programs directed at black youngsters. This year, the event honors Detroit’s role in the Underground Railroad.
Tickets and sponsorships are still available, but going fast.
The first performance kicks off at 2 p.m. Sunday, when a DSO chamber quartet led by veteran violinist Joe Striplin will stage a free concert at Detroit’s Second Baptist Church, once the last stop on the Underground Railroad before escape to Canada.
Sunday’s performance will include Daniel Gregory Mason’s “String Quartet on Negro Themes in G minor, Opus 19” and Florence B. Price’s “Five Negro Folk Songs in Counterpoint.”
The program will be repeated the following Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Detroit Historical Musuem.
By contrast, the March 8 Classical Roots concert at Orchestra Hall will feature the full orchestra, Detroit’s Brazeal Dennard Chorale and soloist Battle employing her remarkable instrument. .
“The minute Kathy starts to sing,” writes DSO musical director Leonard Slatkin in an email from Lyon, France, “you know it could be no one else. There is a creamy texture, a strong knowledge of the text and impeccable intonation.”
(In addition to the DSO, Slatkin is also musical director of the Orchestre National de Lyon.)
Spirituals on the program will be familiar to many, ranging from “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” to “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”
Slatkin notes that the American spiritual is very popular in Europe. “When artists such as Kathy Battle or Leontyne Price sing them,” he writes, “the audience is completely spellbound.”
The March 8 concert is just one part of the Classical Roots Celebration. While it’s possible to buy a ticket for just the concert, patrons can also opt for a black-tie strolling dinner beforehand and, once the music’s stopped, a dancing-and-dessert afterglow, widely regarded as one of Detroit’s best parties.
The strolling dinner, with music by the DSO Civic Jazz Ensemble, should be something. Details are hush-hush, but the DSO’s culinary team, led by Chef Michael Polsinelli, is said to be cooking up contemporary takes on regional dishes from states all along the route of the Underground Railroad.
“The dinners and afterglow are so elegant and sophisticated,” says event co-chair Janice Cosby Bridges. “Last year the mood, the ambiance and lighting were spectacular. And it’s always very interesting food.”
The Celebration will also honor two significant individuals in the local classical-music world, DSO emeritus director Robert E.L. Perkins and University of Michigan professor emeritus of voice, Willis C. Patterson.
DSO Classical Roots Chamber Concerts
2 p.m. Sunday
Second Baptist Church,
441 Monroe, Detroit
12:30 p.m. Feb. 23
Detroit Historical Museum, 5401 Woodward, Detroit
Classical Roots Celebration and Concert
5:30 p.m.: Strolling dinner
in Max M. Fisher Center
8 p.m.: Concert in Orchestra Hall
10:30 p.m.: Dessert-and-dancing afterglow
Tickets (all prices per person):
$15-$50: Concert only
$600: Strolling dinner, concert with preferred seating, afterglow
$175: Strolling dinner, concert, afterglow
$75: concert and afterglow
(313) 576-5100 or email
Karly Sherwood at firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations