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Averett to Host Event in Celebration of Delius

October 1, 2012

Averett University, as part of the 150th celebration of the life of composer Frederick Delius and the cultural influences of the Dan River Region, will host a free reception Thursday, Oct. 11 at 5:30 p.m. in Blount Library. Other events will be held in the community at various locations Oct. 12-14.

During the event, Dr. Ann Garbett, former English professor and poet, will read a poem; the Averett Singers will perform a composition by Robert S. Phifer, who taught at Averett during the 1860's and mentored Delius; and a display of Averett's archives will showcase memorabilia.

Delius, who was born in Bradford, England in 1862, was fascinated with music from the time he was a child. In 1884, he left England for America to manage an orange grove near Jacksonville, Fla. However, despite his father's wishes he ignored the oranges and continued to study music. He arrived in Danville in 1885 and immediately became involved in the city's musical life.

While he was in Danville, Delius met Phifer, who was the acknowledged leader of the city's musical scene. Phifer headed the widely-acclaimed music department at Roanoke Female College, a Baptist school for young ladies (now Averett University). He made arrangements for Delius to teach the music students at the college and welcomed the young Englishman into his home as a frequent visitor. Delius' charm and good looks conquered the young students, while their parents were impressed by his knowledge of music and languages.

Greatly influenced by this region, Delius incorporated southern rhythms and African American spirituals into his music. Delius is now world-renowned for his genius and contribution to music.