Colour of Music Festival
Southern Cultural Treasures
Charleston, South Carolina
Year of Award
Grant or Fellowship
Southern Cultural Treasures
Spring of 2022 provides an opportunity for international, national, and regional classically trained talent to fill the streets and halls of one of America’s new beloved destinations with sounds that have been a part of the world’s stage for more than 300 years. A vast array of Charleston notable annual events attract visitors from around the globe and now the Colour of Music Festival (COMF).
Known as the largest black classical musicians’ festival in the world, only a few classical music enthusiasts are aware of the tremendous contributions of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, an African-French composer whose opera and classical masterpieces equaled or far exceeded those of his 18th century contemporaries. Although his compositions are highly recognized overseas, they have garnered little notice in the United States.
Today there are thousands of celebrated and prodigiously talented classical principals, composers, and performers of African descent throughout the world. Yet their opportunities to grace concert stages of major American orchestras are rare to non-existent.
Over the past nine years, the Festival successfully produced musical events of major historical significance in Charleston S.C., Pittsburgh, Richmond, Washington D.C., Columbia S.C., Houston, Nashville, Sacramento and Atlanta highlighting the impact and influence of black classical composers and performers on American and world culture.
With rave reviews from major publications Symphony Magazine, NPR’s Performance Today, with Fred Child, Essence Magazine, and a CBS Evening News story, the Colour of Music Festival draws artists and patrons from around the globe and is repeatedly hailed as a crowning achievement in the cultural life of the cities where the Festival has been presented.
Leadership - Lee Pringle
A visionary leader, with a bold depth of field, and admired among his peers for accomplishing the unimaginable for many players and patrons in the classical music world, Lee Pringle, has proven to be a master in cultivating and curating programs including but not limited to, spirituals, gospel, chamber and orchestral presentations that span the evolution of his life-experiences.
Unwavering, unapologetic and uncompromising when it comes to advocating for the accomplishments and deliverables of those from his community, in the past nine years Lee has amassed an impressive body of work that has provided musicians of African ancestry a platform to showcase their talents.
Movie and television orchestral string soundtracks of the 1970s and 1980s stirred young Lee Pringle to dream of a life far removed from his rural South Carolina Lowcountry home where he was raised. Like many African-American children in the South, he was immersed in music from an early age, from the Sunbeam Choir at his childhood church, Mt. Pisgah AME, to band and choral activities in high school.
Those experiences influenced Mr. Pringle as he vocally matured into an accomplished tenor. He has sung and soloed with professional and community organizations throughout South and North Carolina and abroad. In addition to performing, Mr. Pringle undertook many production activities. Eventually he formed his own marketing and production firm, Buster-Elsie Productions, a minority-owned firm focused on promoting and providing marketing strategy presenting the indigenous music of the African continent to orchestral and opera stages.
Exhibiting a unique and rare skillset, Buster-Elsie Productions has co-produced and assisted in forming the Charleston International Festival of Choirs and the African Choral Festival in Ghana, West Africa. The enterprise has also produced more than 150 orchestral and choral concerts, numerous solo vocal and piano recitals regionally and internationally, and continues to promote emerging vocalists from across the country through ongoing series of recital performances.
Southern Cultural Treasures is a program of South Arts and made possible with support from the Ford Foundation.