Tribute to the Work of James Newton, Distinguished Professor of Music, on May 20 at UCLA

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James Newton

For over forty years, James Newton has been one of the most versatile and celebrated working musicians in the world. On Friday, May 20, UCLA will honor the distinguished professor of music with “A Tribute to James Newton” at Schoenberg Hall at 8:00 p.m.

Newton was the leading force in the development of the UCLA Global Jazz Studies Program and has taught many students in the areas of composition and jazz styles, history and analysis. He is is a legendary Blue Note recording artist on the jazz flute and has been chosen top flutist for a record-breaking 23 consecutive years in Downbeat Magazine’s International Critics Poll.

As a composer in both the classical and jazz styles, Newton’s music has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His works have been played by the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Ballet, Coro e Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Toino and all around the world. During his ten years of teaching at the school, Newton was one of the most popular and prolific faculty members in the school of music. 

Friday’s concert will feature Newton’s sacred music, including performances of The Image of the Invisible and Elisha’s Gift to be performed by the Lyris Quartet. Aron Kallay, pianist, will perform Looking Above, the Faith of Joseph. Newton’s Mass for Four Voices and Chamber Ensemble wil also be performed; the piece made its world premiere in Italy and its U.S. premiere at Disney Hall in Los Angeles with Grant Gershon conducting the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

The final performance during the concert will be Newton’s arrangement of Amazing Grace. This spiritual anthem has its genesis in the world’s first human rights movement, the movement to abolish slavery. It has long resonated within spiritual communities and has a special place in the African American church. Newton was moved to score the arrangement after President Barack Obama sang the anthem in a service for the parishioners slain at Mother Emanual AME Church in Charleston in 2015. Amazing Grace premiered at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston as part of Grace Notes, Newton’s collaboration with acclaimed visual artist Carrie Mae Weams.

On Friday, Newton’s luscious arrangement of “Amazing Grace” will be performed by the Lyris Quartet with Eric Shetzen on contrabass.

“The concert represents a broad spectrum of my works in sacred music, which is very dear to me” said Newton. “I’ve been blessed to be an educator, but my true calling is to compose music to glorify God.”

The performance is free and open to the public. RSVP and find more details here.