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Roy Harris and the Bicentennial Sympony


Roy Harris (1898-1979) was one of America's premier composers of 20th century classical music. Harris was a major creative force in the development of an indigenous American style of Symphonic composition. His works, which number over 200 in a variety of genres and media, are characterized by broad, often powerfully emotional musical gestures. In 1969, Roy Harris became a lecturer and teacher in the Department of Music at California State University, Los Angeles. In honor of the Martin Luther King Holiday the display features Roy Harris' Bicentennial Symphony, which is revered by John Malveaux as “the strongest musical statement on U.S. History, slavery, and race relations ever made by an American composer." The piece was commissioned by California State University, Los Angeles and debuted by the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., on Abraham Lincoln's birthday in 1976 as part of the country's bicentennial celebration. The work was written for an orchestra with a large chorus. The chorus carries the larger part of the work with passages from the Preamble to the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, and the Emancipation proclamation as well as original passages.

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