Composer in residence Bill Banfield with Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra musicians and Music Director Andrew Sewell.

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra gave the first-ever performance of composer in residence Bill Banfield’s Symphony No. 8 in January—but it was a world premiere with a surprisingly long history. Based on the life of Black bass-baritone and activist Paul Robeson, Banfield eighth’s symphony, Where I Stand, was commissioned in 2000 by the New England Conservatory of Music. The work’s premiere never happened at the Conservatory, and eventually the digital score vanished in a technology upgrade. Banfield’s copyist, Peter Kienle, tracked down the score, and on January 28 Music Director Andrew Sewell led the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in the work’s long-delayed debut at Madison’s Overture Center. Banfield hit the ground running when he started his three-year term as the WCO’s inaugural composer in residence last summer, meeting with students and speaking with audiences. “As a visiting musician, one of the first stops should be the local high schools,” Banfield told Madison’s Cap Times, “because if I’m going to make music that matters, it has to connect.” Banfield will write two pieces for the WCO during his residency: a work featuring the words of Frederick Douglass for this summer, and a symphony for 2024.