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Detroit Symphony to debut piece honoring razed black neighborhoods

The Associated Press

Detroit – The Detroit Symphony Orchestra plans to premiere a work that commemorates two historic, razed black neighborhoods in the city.

The ensemble is scheduled to perform “Black Bottom,” a 22-minute composition, during performances March 6-7. The commissioned piece was composed by Nkeiru Okoye, a native New Yorker born to an African American mother and Nigerian father.

According to a release, “Black Bottom” came out of a roughly year-long research project. Accompanying it is a display of archival photographs at Orchestra Hall.

The piece aims to portray “joys, sorrows and interrelated stories” about Paradise Valley and Black Bottom, the latter of which was so named by French colonial settlers because of its rich soil, the release said. The areas were torn down in part to make way for a highway.

Okoye credited the orchestra for introducing her to other black composers during an ensemble-sponsored conference at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music when she was a student there.

Okoye also is serving as the artist in residence for the orchestra’s 2020 Classical Roots Festival.