GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A symphony in West Michigan plans to honor former first lady Betty Ford this week with the premiere of an orchestral tribute it commissioned in her memory that reflects on her time as a dancer as well as the way she publicly faced breast cancer and substance abuse.
The Grand Rapids Symphony wraps up its 2011-12 season with a "Classical Series" concert Friday and Saturday at DeVos Performance Hall. The performances include "Reflections on a Leading Lady" by Grand Rapids composer David Culross. The 15-minute work incorporates orchestra, narration and ballet.
Ford, who died in July at age 93, helped bring such previously taboo subjects as breast cancer into the public arena as she openly discussed her own battle with the disease. She was equally candid about her struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, and spearheaded the creation of the Betty Ford Center.
"What made her so well loved in Grand Rapids and beyond was the way she stepped forward with that," Culross told MLive.com. "I didn't want to dwell on that portion of her life, just acknowledge it."
The Grand Rapids Symphony previously commissioned a work by Culross titled "One of Us, Portrait of a Humble Healer" honoring former President Gerald Ford, who died in 2006 at age 93. The Grand Rapids Symphony has since recorded "One of Us," which features a narrator, following its 2008 premiere.
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