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Banned Books Solidarity Concert

Banned Books Solidarity Concert is a celebration of intellectual freedom in support of the annual event, Banned Books Week. This concert aims to raise awareness of the political oppression of artists, journalists, and musicians, as well as highlight the importance of our First Amendment rights and the ongoing work of organizations like the American Library Association and the Freedom to Read Foundation. Banned Books Week is an annual celebration of our freedom to read that takes place in September and is sponsored by a coalition of numerous literary, legal, and government organizations.

First performance: September 24th, 2017

This program is a diverse and compelling array of music that exemplifies various forms of political censorship. Cellist Natalie Raney opens the concert with the Catalonian folk song, “Song of the Birds,” made famous by cellist Pablo Casals during his self-imposed political exile from Spain. Numerous other works, such as Aaron Copland’s “As It Fell Upon A Day” and Claude Debussy’s “Chansons de Bilitis,” were censored in their home countries as well as in China during Mao Zedong’s infamous cultural revolution. Performances of Dorothy Parker’s “Songs of Perfect Propriety” and Maya Angelou’s “Calypso Songs” honor two outspoken literary women who were silenced for their work. Parker was investigated by the FBI and placed on the Hollywood Blacklist for her role in pre-WWII antifascist organizations such as the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, and Maya Angelou’s autobiography remains one of the most contested books in American literary history. Our goal is to honor the legacy of these great artists and their works in appreciation of our freedom to read. 


Catalonian Folk Song: Song of the Birds

Johann Sebastian Bach: Flute Sonata in E Major, BWV 1035

Aaron Copland: As It Fell Upon A Day

Unsuk Chin: Advice From A Caterpillar, from the opera Alice in Wonderland

Pierre Louys, arr. by Claude Debussy: Chansons de Bilitis

Dorothy Parker, arr. by Seymour Barab: Songs of Perfect Propriety

Tribute to Maya Angelou, curated by singer Melinda Becker

Performers: Anne Hepburn Smith, soprano; Melinda Becker, mezzo-soprano; Elizabeth Talbert, flute; Sophie Huet, clarinet; Natalie Raney, cello; and Anne Rainwater, piano

Center for New Music

55 Taylor Street

San Francisco, CA

This concert was presented alongside San Francisco bookstore The Green Arcade and with generous donations from Ritual Coffee Roasters.

Photography by Drew Patterson.

You can book a version of this show in Berlin (with members of 1781 Collective) or request a Banned Books-themed program for your ensemble.

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