This is the conclusion of a four-part review by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, an oboist and musicologist who is Professor of Music at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin and has specialized in Black classical music for four decades. The review of the series of four CDs appears in the August 2007 eNewsletter of the Myrtle Hart Society and is used by permission of its Founder/Director, Rashida Black, who is also a harpist.
Dance like the wind; Music of today's Black composers
VocalEssence Ensemble; Philip Brunelle, conductor; liner notes by Dominique-René de Lerma; texts; series note; performer bios.
Baker, David. Images, shadows, and dreams. VocalEssence Chorus; Michele Frisch, flute; Chris Kachian, guitar; Charles Kemper, piano; Greg Hippen, double bass; Robert Stacke, drums. (17:14).
Banfield, William. Dance like the wind. Michele Frisch, flute; Kathy Robison, oboe; Joseph Longo, clarinet; Paul Straka, horn; Kevin Coria, bassoon. (9: 45).
Childs, Billy. Piece for string orchestra. 2. Slow. 3. Fast. ( 13:03).
Hailstork, Adolphus. Nocturne. Maria Jette, soprano. (6:59).
Moore, Undine Smith. Mother to son. Yolanda Williams, soprano. (2:41).
Moore, Undine Smith. We shall walk through the valley. (2:54).
Perkinson, Coleridge-Taylor. Lamentations; Black folk song suite. 2. Song form. 4. Perpetual motion. Anthony Elliott, cello. (7:13).
Simpson-Currenton, Evelyn. My soul hath found refuge in thee. Dan Dressen, tenor. (4:54).
If we wonder who is Michael Abels for want of a richer discography, that question may also be raised in the case of David Baker, although his very extensive recorded oeuvre is no excuse. Is there any composer who is so comfortably all over the place? A violin concerto for Josef Gingold with jazz band, a cello sonata for Janos Starker, 12-tone jazz, song cycles, cantatas, liturgical jazz, jivey pieces for string ensemble… is the whole world of music his?
Clearly a most important figure of his generation, Banfield takes films seriously, and his offering here is in direct response to Cat on a hot tin roof, for woodwind quintet.
The senior figure here is Undine Smith Moore, whose career as a major music educator was dedicated to Virginia State University. In the final decades of her life, her choral works began to receive substantial attention.
No longer with us is another giant in Perkinson, composer for films, orchestra and chamber groups, and a conductor of real substance. His contribution here provides an opportunity to hear the work of Anthony Elliott, whose tenure at the University of Michigan followed years of substantial experience as principal cellist with major orchestras in the US and Canada.
The Simpson dynasty flourished from Temple Evangelical Church in Philadelphia – first in the person of Joy Simpson, whose death while protesting apartheid in South Africa deprived us of a voice, equally comfortable with opera as with gospel music. Her career lasted long enough to be joined with Marietta, a mezzo-soprano whose career evolved in international importance. The third member of the family is a most remarkable musician whose imaginative settings of spirituals are unquestionably first-rate.
This set of four CDs belongs readily in any university or public library. It illustrates, not only a chunk of African American legacy, but demonstrates the enviable musical forces available within Minnesota's Twin Cities. The conductor, who as musicologist is acutely aware of the monuments of the history he is tracing here, and he has at his command an exemplary assemblage of splendid choristers and instrumentalists. With these recordings, all of this can be shared with a large and appreciative audience.