Soulful Symphony Kicks Off Inaugural Season At Merriweather Post Pavilion

Soulful Symphony, a visionary orchestra that celebrates, elevates, and reimagines American music and culture, played its first note at the iconic Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, June 29, at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday’s #SoulfulSetList explored the rich diversity of American Roots Music while capturing the magic and wonder of one of the most iconic stages in the country. During the show, Soulful played a mash-up of American anthems that covered every conceivable style and genre.

Soulful Symphony has been performing for audiences for nearly 20 years. The ensemble is made up of nearly 75 predominantly African American and Hispanic musicians. It takes a disruptive approach to how many Americans view a traditional symphony as offering an experience reserved for a select audience.

“#SoulfulSetList reimagines what’s possible with a modern orchestra. Our partnership with Merriweather allows us to break the mold of the traditional experience with an orchestra and offer an interactive, bi-directional experience between the musicians and the audience that is a hallmark of our culture and experiences around music. In this setting, Soulful can continue to innovate and break new ground,” said Darin Atwater, the artistic director and founder of Soulful Symphony and artistic director for the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission.

“We are incredibly excited to introduce Darin and Soulful to the Merriweather audience for its inaugural concert at Merriweather. This is another step in our work toward fulfilling the cultural promise of this storied venue. Soulful and Merriweather celebrate the best of our community, our country, and our culture, and now thousands of people have an opportunity to hear and see our forward-looking and dynamic vision for the future,” said Ian Kennedy, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission

Atwater’s latest original composition, South Side, Symphonic Dances, was commissioned by the Mann Center, where it premiered to great acclaim last summer with the Philadelphia orchestra. As a part of Soulful’s Merriweather residency, new pieces by Atwater will be commissioned and premiered, in addition to the focus on the canon of American music.

Three concerts are scheduled during Soulful Symphony’s first season at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The next two events will be “Slang” on July 28, 2019, and “Under an Open Heaven” on September 14, 2019.


Darin Atwater is the artistic director and founder of Soulful Symphony and artistic director for the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission.

“Slang” will feature a mosaic of American composers in large form orchestral works from people’s musical soil takes center stage in this show. The show is an exploration of modern interpretations of classical music by groundbreaking and visionary composers. The program will include the world premiere ofSlang, a new work by Atwater, excerpts from his South Side, Symphonic Dances, along with iconic works by George Gershwin, Andre Previn, ending the evening with a soulful interpretation of The American Songbook.

In the final show of the season, Soulful gives new life to Columbia’s founder James Rouse’s vision to bring together faith congregations from around the community for an evening of inspiration and hope. Spirituality and Culture are explored – from Vedic mantras to the Islamic Call to Prayer. Hebrew Psalms to Gregorian chant, devotional Bhajans to Bach Chorales, traditional hymns to Gospel music.