Celebrating classical composers from diverse ethnic backgrounds

Chris Dingle

Professor of Music Christopher Dingle, who is part of a diverse composers scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), saw the fruit of his labour on Wednesday (2 February), when the BBC Philharmonic performed the forgotten orchestral repertoire of his research subject, black classical composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges.

Christopher won funding in 2021 to research the music and history of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who was born in the French colony of Guadeloupe to an enslaved mother, and rose through French society to become renowned not only as a virtuoso violinist, composer and conductor, but also the greatest swordsman in Europe, serving in the king’s personal guard.

BBC Radio 3’s ‘Afternoon Concert: Celebrating Diversity in Classical Music’ was broadcast at 2pm on Wednesday with a programme celebrating diversity and forgotten classical music that is the culmination of the research conducted by seven scholars, including Christopher, into ethnically diverse musicians who don’t form a part of the classical canon.

The unknown works of Bologne will be performed alongside those of composers Margaret Bonds, Nathaniel Dett and Ali Osman, and more information about Christopher’s work on Bologne can be found on his project website.

Complementing the concert, two BBC Radio 3 Arts & Ideas podcasts will feature discussions with the seven researchers, including Christopher, who were awarded funding as part of the collaboration.

Christopher said: "It is a thrill finally to hear this music performed and starting to take its rightful place in the repertoire. I feel humbled to play a part in helping this to happen, but there is much more work still to do as there are many other wonderful pieces waiting to be heard."

BBC Radio 3 Controller Alan Davey said: “BBC Radio 3 is all about expanding the classical canon through new commissions and unearthing those from the past that might forever be lost without a platform for audiences to discover them. We’re grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for supporting us and enabling us to take steps to ensure that unfairly forgotten figures are welcomed again into the Western classical canon for future generations.”

If you missed the concert, listen to it.

Pictured: Professor of Music Christopher Dingle.

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