MSO concert hails elemental impact of Black music

MSO concert hails elemental impact of Black music
Trumpet virtuoso Nicholas Payton and his quartet are guest artists

 Jackson, Mississippi — The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra’s highly anticipated February 25 concert puts the spotlight on two-time Grammy Award-winning luminary Nicholas Payton and his quartet, for an evening that salutes the fundamental role of Black artists and culture in American music. 

“Redefined,” 7:30 p.m. February 25 at Thalia Mara Hall, marks the season’s fourth concert in MSO’s flagship Bravo series, with a program that pairs symphonies celebrating American themes from two distinct perspectives, practically a century apart. 

In what is only its second performance in the United States, Payton’s fresh, bold Black American Symphony takes center stage. The work debuted in Europe in 2012. Also on the program is Czech composer Antonin Dvorak’s 1893 New World Symphony, influenced and inspired by African American melodies and Native American music. 

“It’s an innovative approach for a Bravo Series concert,” said Jenny Mann, MSO president and executive director. “This pairing of a non-traditional American orchestral work with a classical masterwork blends American music and the orchestral voice.” 

Provocative as well as visionary, and a vocal advocate for Black American music (a phrase he prefers to the “jazz” label), Payton created a symphonic story of Black music in this country. He says of the work, “The piece was written a couple of months after I started the #BAM Movement, which stands for Black American Music. That’s why many of the movements are called what they are, like “Elegy for the J-Word,” which is for the death of jazz.” 

Roots to modern day, he drew on blues, gospel, jazz, R&B and hip hop to highlight his culture’s dynamic continuum of communal musical expression and its central role in the larger American story. 

Listeners will have plenty to latch onto, from the brilliance of Payton’s multi-instrumental skills to the repetition of motifs, common to both his music and Dvorak’s compositions. “Keep listening for it,” Mann said. “It’s going to come back again and again. It’s almost a treasure-hunt listening adventure.” 

A free pre-concert lecture by Tim Coker, emeritus professor of music at Millsaps College, will be held at 6:45 p.m. on the mezzanine of Thalia Mara Hall. 

MSO’s Bravo season is presented by the Selby and Richard McRae Foundation. The evening’s concert sponsors are Nancy & Ray Neilsen, Branton Shaffhauser Wealth Management Group of Raymond James, Revs. Janet & Luther Ott, The Jackson Advocate, Jack & Hailey Allin, and Nancy Anne Branton.

Individual tickets start at $29 for adults and $5 for students, kindergarten through college (with valid student ID). Visit for advance tickets and information. The box office will open at 6:30 p.m. on the evening of the concert. This season is supported in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency.

What: Redefined, MSO Bravo Series concert
Who: Mississippi Symphony Orchestra
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 25, 2023
Where: Thalia Mara Hall            255 E. Pascagoula Street, Jackson