Eugene Concert Choir to Receive $10,000 Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for Black is Beautiful

Eugene, OR (January 12, 2023) — The Eugene Concert Choir has been approved by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) for a Grants for Arts Projects award of $10,000! This grant will support the Black is Beautiful project and is the Eugene Concert Choir’s first grant from the NEA. The award signifies the national significance of the project and its celebration of the nation’s cultural heritage. As a key part of the Black is Beautiful project, the Eugene Concert Choir will host EXIGENCE, directed by Dr. Eugene Rogers, for a 4-day artist residency. Highlighting artistry within Black and Latinx communities, EXIGENCE, located in Detroit, Michigan, is composed of professional vocal artists including solo performers, educators, conductors and composers, and is part of the Sphinx Organization whose mission is “Transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.” During this residency, Rogers and representatives of EXIGENCE and the Sphinx Organization will lead workshops on racial justice through musical expression presented for the community, schools, and at the University of Oregon. The project will culminate in a concert on Sunday, May 7, 2023 at the Hult Center Silva Concert Hall, featuring the combined voices of EXIGENCE and the Eugene Concert Choir in an artistic collaboration of powerful music and social justice.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support arts projects in communities nationwide,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD. “Projects such as this one with the Eugene Concert Choir strengthen arts and cultural ecosystems, provide equitable opportunities for arts participation and practice, and contribute to the health of our communities and our economy.”

“This grant will support the Eugene Concert Choir in bringing this deeply moving, important repertoire to our community,” said Dr. Diane Retallack, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Eugene Concert Choir. “We are honored that the NEA has awarded us this funding, and we are eager to listen and learn from EXIGENCE director Eugene Rogers.” 

The Black is Beautiful project is also supported by funding from the Nils and Jewel Hult Endowment – Arts Foundation of Western Oregon Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, the Oregon Cultural Trust, and A-Squared Productions.

The EXIGENCE residency will include:

  • Two members of EXIGENCE teaching voice masterclasses at the University of Oregon
  • EXIGENCE and Eugene Rogers presenting workshops at University of Oregon with U of O ensembles and local high school choirs
  • A Community Forum with Eugene Rogers, Joel Thompson, representatives from EXIGENCE, Andre Dowell from the Sphinx Organization, Diane Retallack, and a special appearance of EXIGENCE performing “Glory.” 
  • The Black is Beautiful Concert, at Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center.

The Black is Beautiful concert will be performed on Sunday, May 7, 2023 at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in Silva Concert Hall. It is a concert of beautiful classical music by Black composers about beautiful Black lives. Guest professional vocal ensemble EXIGENCE, directed by Dr. Eugene Rogers, joins Diane Retallack and the Eugene Concert Choir & Orchestra in presenting profound choral works, including: 

  • Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, which quotes the last words of seven African American men tragically killed, and ends with the words of Eric Garner, “I can’t breathe.” 
  • Scenes from the Life of a Martyr, a brilliant and moving oratorio on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Undine Smith Moore, which was performed in Carnegie Hall in 1982 but has rarely been heard since, as is historically typical of the works of Black female composers. Acclaimed soloists of the highest professional caliber will relate the story of Martin Luther King Jr., on this 60-year anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • “Glory,” Academy Award-winning song from the film Selma

Tickets for Black is Beautiful are available at EugeneConcertChoir.org or through the Hult Center Box Office, 541-682-5000, Tue-Fri, Noon—5 pm; Saturday Noon—4 pm.

About EXIGENCE and The Sphinx Organization

EXIGENCE is a professional vocal ensemble highlighting artistry within Black and Latinx communities. Led by founding conductor Eugene Rogers and comprised of vocal artists including solo performers, educators, conductors and composers, EXIGENCE celebrates the power of community and expression through choral music.

Inspired by the mission of Sphinx, the mission of EXIGENCE is to promote excellence and diversity through choral music within Black and Latinx communities by creating a platform for soloists and composers of color while inspiring and challenging audiences around the country and world.

The name EXIGENCE is inspired by the definition of the word – ‘an urgent need or demand.’ Like its definition, EXIGENCE believes that vocal concert music continues to need more voices at the table from disparate backgrounds and perspectives. EXIGENCE seeks to foster that perspective through the lens of professional vocal artistry within the Black and Latinx communities.

The Sphinx Organization is a social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. It includes solo performers, chamber music ensembles, the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, and its professional vocal ensemble EXIGENCE.

Focused on increasing representation of Black and Latinx artists in classical music and recognizing excellence, Sphinx programs serve beginner students to seasoned classical music professionals, as well as cultural entrepreneurs and administrators.

Based in Detroit, Michigan, but with nationwide reach, Sphinx envisions a day where the classical music field looks like our communities: where every young person has the opportunity to express themselves and learn classical music; where audiences reflect the people we see on our streets; and where leadership—on stage and off—includes all deserving voices.

For more information on other projects included in the NEA’s grant announcement, visit: arts.gov/news.

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For questions and to schedule interviews, contact Marketing Director Alyssa Morar at alyssa@eugeneconcertchoir.org or 541-687-6865.

About Eugene Concert Choir: The Eugene Concert Choir is now in its 48th season as a vibrant performing arts organization in the Eugene/Springfield region. A resident company of the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, the Eugene Concert Choir, its chamber choir Eugene Vocal Arts, and its professional Eugene Concert Orchestra annually present a 5-concert series and a Kids concert at the Hult Center. Dr. Diane Retallack has been Artistic Director since 1985, and was recently honored to be accepted into the Recording Academy in recognition of the recordings produced by the choir. Now available on streaming platforms everywhere is their recent recording entitled In Celebration of Women, which traces women composers from the 12th century to the present. The Eugene Concert Choir and Eugene Vocal Arts performed the Brahms Requiem by invitation at Carnegie Hall this past June.