Boston University and the Longwood Symphony Orchestra to Commemorate World AIDS Day with Seminar and Concert

Contact: Kira Jastive, 617-358-1240 |

(Boston) – Boston University and Longwood Symphony Orchestra (LSO)— the award-winning, Boston-based organization composed of highly trained musicians from the city’s medical community, under the direction of conductor Jonathan McPhee – will commemorate World AIDS Day on Saturday, December 1 with a medical symposium at BU and an evening concert at Jordan Hall.

The Symposium
In a collaboration between Boston University and Longwood Symphony Orchestra, a free public symposium on AIDS will be held 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at BU’s George Sherman Union. This event features current research and best-practice treatment for HIV/AIDS, interspersed with presentation of words and music inspired by the AIDS epidemic. Keynote addresses will be given by B.U. School of Public Health Associate Dean Dr. Gerald Keusch, BU School of Music Director Andre de Quadros, and former U.S. Poet Laureat and BU Professor Robert Pinsky.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) entered the public consciousness in 1981 one year before members of Boston’s medical community formed Longwood Symphony Orchestra. Although enormous strides in managing Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) have been made in the proceeding 25+ years, the epidemic still devastates communities and countries around the globe. This symposium weaves together the international, national, and local concerns that loom as the disease enters its second quarter-century.

Organized by Dr. Keusch and other medical experts from Boston University, the symposium provides a day of reflection on the AIDS crisis and explores the disease from a range of experiences – from pathology and public health to the creative arts. Faculty and students from across the BU campus—including the College of Fine Arts, the Medical School, the School of Public Health and Boston Medical Center—will share their experiences in the fight against AIDS and shed light on current best practices, future needs, and potential new solutions for the control and prevention of HIV and AIDS.

The Concert
The 8 p.m. concert at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall features performances of Leos Janáček’s “Glagolitic Mass” with guest artists from the non-profit AIDS organization Classical Action (soprano Marjorie Elinor Dix, alto Mary Phillips, tenor John Bellemer, and bass Gustav Andreassen), Silvestre Revueltas’ “Sensemaya,” and “Coronation Scene” from Modest Mussorgsky’s opera “Boris Godunov” with the New World Chorale, directed by Holly Krafka.

Music Director Jonathan McPhee says the three pieces in this concert focus on the power of human pageantry, ritual and communal experience. Together, they forge a powerful illustration of people’s ability to come together for the purposes of healing, celebrating and surviving.

Janáček’s “Glagolitic Mass” underscores one of humanity’s most sacred rituals. While the piece uses text from the Catholic Mass, in its Old Church Slavonic form, the composer’s intent was more inclusive than deeply religious. An atheist who distanced himself from the church as an adult, Janáček nevertheless wrote the large-scale orchestral mass at the suggestion of a clerical friend. Whether Janáček wanted to or not, he created at age 72 a piece that echoed the primary teachings of a church he had chosen to leave behind. Music critic Alan Rich described the work’s impact this way: “the mood is barbaric and exultant, no less pagan than Christian, a reminder that God is worshipped in many ways.”

Twentieth century Mexican composer Sylvestre Reveultas died young and left a small but vibrant selection of compositions, the most famous of which was “Sensamaya,” a seven-minute tone poem that highlights the composer’s enthralling, brash, maximalist symphonic expression. “Sensamaya” makes use of an asymmetrical and rhythmic repeated melody, much like Stravinsky in his “Rite of Spring.” The piece takes its exotic rhythms from a poem by Afro-Cuban poet Nicolás Guillen about a traditional snake-killing ceremony. But McPhee points out Revueltas’ inspiration was not only the ceremony, but also the spirit of its participants, their vitality, their desires, and their collective strength when brought together in cultural celebration.

When “Boris Godunov” was first staged in 1874, Mussorgsky had introduced to the world a new style of opera—fiercely Russian in plot, themes, and musical approach. Basing his melodies on Russian liturgical and folk traditions, and his libretto on a Russian ruler who reigned at the turn of the 15th century, Mussorgsky rejected the accepted conventions of harmony and orchestration while also celebrating what may be a country’s most solemn and celebratory transitional festival. “Coronation Scene” stands as one of the greatest examples of an upliftingly nationalistic piece — music as a window into the Russian spirit — and highlighting the will of a people to accept and celebrate transition.

As with all LSO performances, the Dec. 1 concert raises funds for charitable medical organizations working to benefit patients and healthcare policy in Massachusetts. Through its Healing Art of Music Program, LSO will work with three beneficiaries to raise money and increase awareness of their work. They include:
• Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS, a unique performing arts organization whose musicians dedicate their free classical music performances to the fight against AIDS.
• The Global Health Initiative at Boston University; and
• Seven Hills Behavioral Health, part of the Seven Hills Foundation.

The Global Health Initiative at Boston University was established to promote multi-disciplinary research, education, outreach and policy studies across and beyond the Boston University community, and to contribute to reducing disparities in health through the generation of new knowledge, the education of students as “global citizens,” and the development of partnerships with global health leaders, scholars, and practitioners around the world. The GHI Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Global Health Program provides a framework for developing important new collaborations and partnerships between BU and leaders in health and science across the globe.

The Boston University School of Public Health is one of the nation’s leading graduate schools of public health, preparing practitioners and scientists for careers that promote health among underserved populations locally and around the world.

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU is comprised of 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the University’s research and teaching mission.