Monday, December 31, 2007

Joshua Nemith's Cincinnati Pianist Blog: Piano Music of Africa now available

[Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora; Compiled and Edited by William H. Chapman Nyaho; Volume 1, Early Intermediate; Oxford University Press (2007)]

Joshua Nemith's Cincinnati Pianist Blog:

There is wonderful news from Oxford University Press: A new anthology of piano music by composers of Africa and the African Diaspora is becoming available over the next few months. The anthology is edited by Dr. William Chapman Nyaho, who has been featured on this blog before. He deserves great credit for the important work of collecting and presenting such a valuable resource. As far as I know, I don't think there has ever been a serious resource for African piano music until now. I thank William Zick for alerting my attention to this project.

The first two volumes are available for order now from OUP's US site through a current promotion. There will be a total of five volumes that are graded from early-intermediate to advanced levels. I think that this offering will be a timely and tremendous addition to the contemporary piano repertory for both teachers and students. The fact that there are offerings at the early-intermediate and intermediate levels confirms that Nyaho and OUP are intent on a wide reception of these works.

I'll be ordering my copies this week!

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

José Silvestre White, Afro-Cuban Composer & Violinist Born Dec. 31, 1835

[Cancion Sin Palabras; La bella Cubana; Martha Marchena, piano; MSR 1054 (2002)]

José Silvestre White, aka José Silvestre White y Lafitte, was an Afro-Cuban composer, violinist and professor at the Paris Conservatory. He is profiled in His mother was Afro-Cuban and his father Spanish. Josephine Wright, Professor of Music at the College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio has published an article Violinist José White in Paris, 1855-1875, in Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, Fall 1990. She explains that White's earliest training in music came from Don Carlos White, his father, who was an amateur violinist. She adds that his subsequent teachers were José Miguel Roman and Pedro Lecerff, and his first concert took place in Matanzas on March 21, 1854. Prof. Wright notes that White's accompanist was the prominent New Orleans composer and pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), and that he raised the travel expenses for the young man's trip to Paris.

Professor Wright tells us José White studied violin with Jean-Delphin Alard, a prominent figure in the violin world, and also studied music with Henri Reber and Ferdinand Tate.
The article tells of José White's success at the Paris Conservatory, as evidenced by his First Grand Prize in Violin on July 29, 1856. It relates that José interrupted his education to return to Cuba when his father fell ill in 1858. He returned to school in 1860, and gave four triumphant performances in 1861, as evidenced by newspapers of the day.

White joined the faculty of the Paris Conservatory, and later toured the Americas from 1875-1877. We learn from Prof. Wright that he appeared with the New York Philharmonic twice during the 1875-1876 season, and also performed in Boston, Washington and Philadelphia. Prof. Wright tells us José White served as director of the Imperial Conservatory in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 1877 to 1889, when she reports he returned to live in Paris until his death in 1918.

Gordon Root gives an overview of White's surviving sheet music in Africana Encyclopedia:

“Many of his works still survive today, including a concerto, a string quartet, a collection of studies for violin, and several nationalistic pieces such as
Marcha cubana, and perhaps his most famous composition, the habanera (a Cuban dance in slow duple time) La Bella cubana.”

A full catalogue of José White's surviving compositions has been compiled by Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music at Lawrence University. It is found in the same issue of Black Music Research Journal as Prof. Wright's article.

One recording of the music of José White is
Violin Concertos By Black Composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries, Cedille 90000 035 (1997), which includes his Violin Concerto in F-sharp Minor (21:34) performed by Rachel Barton, violin and the Encore Chamber Orchestra led by Daniel Hege, Conductor.

Another CD is
Cancion Sin Palabras, MSR 1054 (2002). José White is represented by La Bella Cubana, performed on piano by Martha Marchena.

The website of the IberoAmerica Ensemble features audio and video versions of
La Bella Cubana:

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classical+music" rel="tag">classical music
Black+History" rel="tag">Black History
African+American" rel="tag">African American “City's symphony rose and fell with Calvin Simmons”

On Nov. 14, 2007, AfriClassical published: “Calvin E. Simmons (1950-1982), First African American Conductor of Major U.S. Orchestra”. On Dec. 3, 2007 ran an article by Angela Woodall, staff writer, entitled “City's symphony rose and fell with Calvin Simmons”. Here are some excerpts:

Calvin Simmons was like a meteor when he arrived to conduct the Oakland Symphony Orchestra. He had talent, charisma and his heavy-lidded, doe-like eyes gave him a romantic charm.

The 6-foot-1-inch boy wonder of the classical music scene became the second — and youngest — African American to be named conductor of a major U.S. symphony orchestra at the stunningly young age of 28.

Just four years later, he was dead at the achingly young age of 32.

Several seasons later, the struggling symphony he had galvanized was bankrupt.

On the 25th anniversary of his 1982 death in a boating accident, the Oakland Tribune looks back at his legacy, the demise and rebirth of the symphony and the struggle to support large-scale classical venues in Oakland, a city overshadowed by San Francisco and better known as the home of MC Hammer and Hyphy.”

His career future looked stellar when Lawrence first encountered him as an assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and brought him back to the Bay Area in 1978.

Lawrence, however, had to overcome resistance back in Oakland to hiring a black conductor to direct a symphony.

'It was a racial thing,' Lawrence recalled in a recent interview.

When Simmons was chosen as the symphony's fifth director in its 45-year span he became the first black conductor of a professional symphony west of the Mississippi. He was preceded as the first, nationally, by Henry Lewis of the New Jersey Symphony (1958-66).” Full article

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

WHPK Airs Scott Joplin's “Treemonisha” & Duke Ellington's “Afro-Eurasian Eclipse” Jan. 15

[Scott Joplin'sTreemonisha”; Original Cast Recording; Polygram 435709 (1992)]

Sergio Mims is an African American host and programmer of a classical music radio program on Tuesday afternoons on WHPK-FM, Community Radio of the University of Chicago. He has asked us to announce that he will be airing a complete performance of Scott Joplin's opera “Treemonisha” from the Deutsche Grammophon recording; a performance of Duke Ellington's “Afro-Eurasian Eclipse”; and a a performance of Leonard Bernstein's “Symphony No. 2 - The Age of Anxiety”, on Tuesday January 15, 2008 from 12:00 Noon-3:00 PM (Central Time). Both Scott Joplin and Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington are profiled at

Sergio notes that the program can he heard on 88.5 FM in Chicago, and on-line at

Thursday, December 27, 2007

MP3 Downloads Music: AfriClassical, In Memoriam: Jerome Ashby

Unknown wrote an interesting post today on Jerome Ashby. Here's a quick excerpt:

Ashby appeared at music festivals around the world. He performed with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and performed regularly with New York Philharmonic Ensembles. Mr. Ashby was a faculty member of The Juilliard School, …

Read the rest of this great post here

African American Pianist & Professor William H. Chapman Nyaho Born Dec. 28, 1958

[ASA: William Chapman Nyaho, Piano Music by Composers of African Descent;
MSR Classics (2008)]

William H. Chapman Nyaho was born in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 28, 1958. He was to become a virtuoso pianist, gifted professor of music and dedicated collector and editor of piano music of the African Diaspora. When he was only ten months old his parents returned to their native Ghana with him. He grew up there and graduated from Ghana's Achimota School after studying piano with John Barham. Nyaho received his B.A. in Music from Oxford University in the U.K. After studies in piano at the Conservatoire de Musique in Geneva, Switzerland, and with Henri Gautier, he earned a Master of Music degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Nyaho studied with David Renner at the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his Doctoral degree in Music.

Following a four-year residency as a North Carolina Visiting Artist, Nyaho taught at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 1991-2002. He has performed as a soloist in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and North America. He also plays chamber music as part of the Nyaho/Garcia Duo. His Web site for both solo and duo activities is:

The CD
Senku: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent, Musicians Showcase Recordings 1091 (2003) is comprised of solo piano works by eight composers:

Joshua Uzoigwe (b. 1946), Nigeria
Oswald Russell (b. 1933), Jamaica
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004), United States
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), United Kingdom
Margaret Allison Bonds (1913-1972), United States
Gamal Abdel-Rahim (1924-1988), Egypt
R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943), Canada
Gyimah Labi (b. 1950), Ghana

The liner notes are by the poet Maya Angelou, a mentor to the pianist. Brief audio samples of all eight tracks can be heard at Nyaho's website. Donald Rosenberg wrote a review of Senku for the March 2004 issue of Gramophone, One theme but many styles, all illuminated by some fine playing. He writes that "senku" is a Ghanian word referring to a keyboard instrument. The review ends with these remarks:

“The humanity of the music and Nyaho's gripping performances kept my ears glued to this disc. Let's hope the pianist continues to explore - and record - more such commanding repertoire.”

The Nyaho/Garcia Duo is committed to performing music of composers of African or Hispanic heritage, as well works of contemporary, American and women composers. The Duo has a recording to its credit as well: Aaron Copland: Music for Two Pianos, Centaur 2405 (1998). Nyaho's website explains:

Classical Magazine wrote then that the duo, 'form a perfect match in their style of playing, their tone, and in their genuine feeling for and understanding of the Copland pieces... This CD will be the standard against which any future performances of these dances will be measured.'"

Nyaho's website describes the pianist's active role as pianist in residence:

“Nyaho has served as a guest lecturer on piano technique and on specific composers, offered numerous master classes and specialized activities for students, and traveled into countless schools to wring unexpectedly beautiful music from dubious cafeteria pianos.”

An example of the symposiums in which Nyaho participates is Africa Meets Asia, which was held at the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing, China in October 2005. He performed both solo and duo piano works during the program. The Jamaican choreographer Garth Fagan, Founder and Artistic Director of Garth Fagan Dance, an innovative dance company, choreographed music from Nyaho's CD Senku for a dance and live piano performance October 17, 2006 at New York's Joyce Theater. It was repeated in the dance company's home town of Rochester, New York.

The lack of sheet music for students and performers is a major reason music by Black composers has so few concert performances and recordings. A great deal of music exists, and Nyaho has played a pioneering role in making it available. He has compiled and edited an unprecedented five-volume anthology Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora. The music is organized by skill level, from beginning to advanced. Oxford University Press published Volumes 1 and 2 in March 2007. The rest will follow in 2008.

AfriClassical invited Nyaho to comment for this birthday tribute. He told us Volumes 3 & 4 of the Oxford University Press anthology will be available in the early part of 2008, and Volume 5 and the clothbound edition, which consists of all five volumes, will be published later in 2008. Nyaho added:

"My new CD ASA will be out in early 2008. It consists of music by Fred Onovwerosuoke, Florence Price, Halim El Dabh, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Isaac Roux, Amadeo Roldan y Gardes, Alain-Pierre Pradel, and Ludovic Lamothe. I will be Visiting Artist/Teacher at Williamette University for the Spring 2008. I will be in South Africa in the early part of Spring 2008 where I will be judging the prestigious UNISA International Piano Competition. I have also been invited to be on the Summer faculty of Adamant Music School in Vermont and also Interlochen. I am truly grateful."

In Memoriam: Jerome Ashby, Associate Principal Horn, New York Philharmonic, Dec. 26, 2007

[TOP: Take 9: AMERICAN HORN QUARTET & HORNS of the NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC; MSR Classics MS 1089 (2003); BOTTOM: Jerome A. Ashby, February 15, 1956-December 26, 2007]

Jerome A. Ashby began his tenure with the New York Philharmonic as Associate Principal Horn in July of 1979 at the invitation of Zubin Mehta. He made his Philharmonic solo debut in April 1982. A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Mr. Ashby began his studies in the New York City Public Schools. After attending the High School of Performing Arts, he attended The Juilliard School where he was a student of former Philharmonic Principal Horn James Chambers. An active recitalist and chamber musician, Mr. Ashby appeared at music festivals around the world. He performed with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and performed regularly with New York Philharmonic Ensembles. Mr. Ashby was a faculty member of The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, The Curtis Institute, and the Aspen Music Festival School.

Jerome A. Ashby is survived by his mother, Miriam Ashby; wife, Patricia Cantu Ashby; children, Elizabeth Ashby, Juanita Ashby, Violeta Ashby, and Melody Ashby; and grandchild, Jerome Ashby. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to: Zion Lutheran School, 64 First Avenue, Westwood, NJ 07675. Mr. Ashby will be missed by all who knew him.

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In+Memoriam" rel="tag">In Memoriam

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

CBMR Conference, Session 5: From Talking Drums and “Heebie Jeebies” to Rap and the Art Song

The Center for Black Music Research of Columbia College Chicago,, has announced its
National Conference on Black Music Research, February 14-17, 2008 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. Session 5,
1:15–2:45 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 will be:

From Talking Drums and “Heebie Jeebies” to Rap and the Art Song: Phonological and Poetic Aspects of Black Music

Johann S. Buis (Wheaton College, Illinois), moderator

Kenneth Bilby (Center for Black Music Research), Saying It by Playing It, Playing It by Saying It: Paralinguistic Parallels in African Diasporic Music

Salikoko S. Mufwene (University of Chicago), Emergence or Creation? Rethinking the Formation of Afro-American Vernaculars and Musics

Elaine Richardson (Ohio State University), paper to be announced

The complete Conference Program is available at:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Afro-French Composer, Violinist & Conductor Born Dec. 25, 1745

[Saint-Georges/Mozart String Quartets; Antares Quartet; Integral Classic INT 221.125 (2003)]

Joseph de Bologne, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) was also France's finest fencer, and Colonel of a Legion of Black Volunteers in the French Revolution. His Home Page details his biography and career in fencing and music, and links to sub-pages on Gian Faldoni, a Fencing Rival, and on selected recordings divided into Violin Concertos, Symphonies, String Quartets and Harpsichord Concertos. Two audio samples can be accessed from the Home Page; the full list of 12 audio samples can be found on the Audio page of

The biography of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges was substantially updated this year to include major findings of the most recent biography, Joseph de Saint-George, le Chevalier Noir (The Black Chevalier) (2006) by Pierre Bardin. Joseph's African heritage made him ineligible to inherit his father's status as a member of the nobility. Offices were bought and sold under the monarchy. Bardin documents Joseph's purchase of an office which gave him legal use of the title “Chevalier” among other prerogatives. Pierre Bardin demonstrates the existence of a small but diverse population of Black Parisians during the 18th century, including an African slave on Martinique, who gained his freedom in France, married a White French woman, and opened his own fencing hall in Paris.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

French Human Rights Prize Awarded for Commemoration of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges and Abolition of Slavery, May 10-11, 2007

[TOP: Reenactment of the fencing bout which took place at Carlton House, London, on April 9, 1787 between La Chevalière d’Eon (Brigitte Tillier) on the left and Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (Joseph Blanc) on the right. BOTTOM: Cast of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges – La Table de Marbre]

AfriClassical recently learned from Daniel Marciano and Jean-Claude Halley that Madame Catherine Pizon, Principal of the Collège Victor Hugo (Victor Hugo Junior High School), had traveled to Paris with four students on Dec. 19, 2007 to receive the National René Cassin Human Rights Prize of 2007 from Monsieur Xavier Dancos, National Education Minister of France. It was awarded for Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges – La Table de Marbre, a 2-day commemoration of the life and music of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, and the Abolition of Slavery, on May 10 and 11, 2007.

On August 2, 2007 AfriClassical published an E-mail from Madame Catherine Pizon in which she explained, in part:

As the Principal of a junior high school near Vichy, France, I staged a theatre show on the life and music of Saint-Georges this year with the collaboration of several primary and secondary schools, music schools and a fencing school. This show was exclusively interpreted by 14 year old students. The program included a theatre performance, music, singing, dancing and fencing.”

A DVD of the performance is scheduled for release March 6, 2008. It will be accompanied by a 100-page booklet including the play, educational material and photographs. Jean-Claude Halley's blog is Guadeloupe Attitude.

Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges was born Dec. 25, 1745 on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Several pages are devoted to his life, music and fencing career, at

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Black+Fencer" rel="tag">Black Fencer

Friday, December 21, 2007

“Happy Holidays from Sphinx” December 2007

[Elena Urioste, violinist, Sphinx Laureate; Photo Credit Glenn Triest]

Dear Friends,

It’s hard to believe another year is quickly coming to an end. In 2007, we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Sphinx Competition presented by Chase, earned another rave review in The New York Times for our annual Carnegie Hall performance, and reached thousands of students around the country with our educational programming. This year we saw ten-year olds in Southwest Detroit pick up a violin for the very first time and Elena Urioste (who has picked up her violin more times than I care to count) win 1st place in the Sphinx Competition presented by Chase and go on to perform with the National Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, and Boston Pops Orchestra!

As I reflect on the past ten years, every one of them brought new opportunities.”

...2008 looks to be another banner year for Sphinx. We are especially excited about the inaugural tour of the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

All of us here at Sphinx wish you a happy holiday season filled with music.

Warmest wishes,

Aaron Dworkin
The Sphinx Organization"

[Aaron Dworkin is profiled at]

Thursday, December 20, 2007

CBMR Conference, Session 4: Music in the Black Diaspora of the Northern United States

The Center for Black Music Research of Columbia College Chicago,, has announced its
National Conference on Black Music Research, February 14-17, 2008 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. Session 4, 10:15–11:45 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15 will be:

Music in the Black Diaspora of the Northern United States: Theory and Practice
Moderator to be announced

Jayna Jennifer Brown (University of California, Riverside), "Ancestry in Progress": Cyberspace, Transdiaspora, and Global Pop Music

David Stowe (Michigan State University), Toward Defining a Northern U.S. Black Diaspora through Formal Elements of the Music

Gayle Wald (The George Washington University), Up North: Placing Gospel Music

The complete Conference Program is available at:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Letter to the Editor of The New York Times from Dominique-René de Lerma

The post “Nadine Gordimer on Beethoven: Review by Dominique-René de Lerma” is an article which accompanied a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times from Dr. De Lerma:


Your book review for December 16, 2007 (Beethoven's birthday, incidentally) carried a review of Nadine Gordimer's Beethoven was one-sixteenth Black, by Siddhartha Deb. It was very clear this is a book for fictional short stories, but there remain many individuals who will regard this as fact. The writing may be quite excellent and I am not complaining about that, but I hope this will not be thought additional ammunition for those who still feel he was a composer with African heritage.

Dominique-René de Lerma
Professor of Music
Lawrence University
Appleton WI 54914


Nadine Gordimer on Beethoven: Review by Dominique-René de Lerma

[Beethoven Edition: Complete Works (85CD Box Set); Brilliant Classics (2007)]

The New York Times Book Review for Dec. 16, 2007 included a review by Siddhartha Deb of the fictional work Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black: And Other Stories, by Nadine Gordimer. Dominique-René de Lerma has written a letter to the Editor concerning the book. Dr. De Lerma, principal adviser for, is Professor of Music at Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin. He is also former Director of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago, and has specialized in Black Classical Composers for four decades.

Beethoven as a Black composer

Dominique-René de Lerma
Lawrence University

It is time to put to rest the belief/theory/hope that Beethoven had African ancestry, a factor somewhat implied during his life and intensified by Joel Augustus Rogers. When Rogers published a picture of Beethoven the portrait was darkened.

On the facing page was a picture of Clarence Cameron White, as I remember, whose picture was very lightened by contrast.

The work of Rogers should not be belittled but, unable to interest publishers he approached, he was forced to publish his own works, thereby not having these reviewed in advance by an outside jury.

In 2005, Cecil Adams of the Chicago reader stated that, as far as he was aware, “no one in a position to know has taken the idea of Beethoven’s being Black seriously, but the story survives. Too bad.” (cited at

I have searched all scholarly literature that might be relevant in German, Dutch, Flemish, Italian, and English. It is not at all uncommon for European musicologists to dedicate monographs to such matters as a composer’s physicians or ancestry, and I have not found even a single suggestion that Beethoven had any Caribbean, Moorish, or Spanish heritage. Rogers did locate Frederick Hertz’
Rasse und Kulture from 1925, which includes the statement “Man kann in Beethovens Physiognomie leicht negerähnliche Zuge finden,” but this, to which Beethoven’s friends observed obliquely, offers no more proof than the 15 other sources Rogers consulted. Darryl Pickney, at Harvard University’s Alain LeRoy Locke lectures , dismisses the theory (published in his Out there; mavericks of Black literature, New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2002).

On his father's side, the great grandfather was Henry Adelard, a tailor who died in 1745. His son, Louis van Beethoven (born in 1712), a tenor, moved from Louvain to Bonn and was appointed Kappelmeister to the Elector in 1733. His wife was Maria Josepha Poll. The youngest of their three children, Johann (born about 1740) was Beethoven’s father. He was married in 1767 to Maria Magdalena Keverich who was the widow of Johannes Leym, of Trier. Maria’s mother had the maiden name of Westorff. When confronted with these facts advocates of the “Black Beethoven” theory argue that Beethoven’s mother was from the Caribbean. This was not so. If it were, and it would certainly have been fully documented, it would be reason for extraordinary discomfort on the part of the Nazis, who regarded those of African ancestry as half apes. This would also certainly have been noted by Maud Cuney-Hare in her study of her own people in 1936,
Negro musicians and their music.

There is certainly no doubt that, despite his fervent romanticism, Beethoven was heir to the age of enlightenment and that his musical pun of including a Turkish march in the finale of his last symphony must be allied with the text, “Alle Menschen werden Brüder.” In spirit, Beethoven is united with the African concept of the community and the spiritual, like John Coltrane, but we are richly blessed by authentic Black heroes. Having Beethoven as an in-law is quite sufficient.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Valerie Capers (b. 1935), African American Jazz & Classical Composer & Pianist

[Wagner Takes The A Train; Valerie Capers, piano; Elysium (1999)]

The website of Jazz at Lincoln Center says of Valerie Capers:

“She served on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, and from 1987 to 1995 was chair of the Department of Music and Art at Bronx Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY), where she is now professor emeritus.“

This Biography is found at the website of Dr. Capers:

Valerie Capers was born in New York City and received her early schooling at the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind. She went on to obtain both her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the Juilliard School of Music.

Three of Dr. Capers' most noted extended compositions are Sing About Love, the critically acclaimed Christmas cantata produced by George Wein at Carnegie Hall; Sojourner, an operatorio based on the life of Sojourner Truth, performed and staged by the Opera Ebony Company of New York; and Song of the Season, a song cycle for voice, piano and cello that was premiered in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of the Smithsonian Institute, and recently performed at Weill Recital Hall in New York City.

Dr. Capers has appeared with her trio and ensemble at colleges, universities, jazz festivals, clubs and concert halls throughout the country, including a series at Weill Recital Hall and the 2001 Rendez-vous de l'Erdre in Nantes, France. Her trio's performances at the International Grande Parade du Jazz Festival in The Hague received rave reviews. The group has also participated in the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Mellon Jazz Festival, and New York's Kool, JVC and Downtown jazz festivals. As a jazz artist, she is most often heard in New York City at the Knickerbocker in Greenwich Village. As a classical soloist, she has also performed Mozart's Concerto for Piano & Orchestra, No. 23 at the Pepperdine University Center for the Arts in Malibu, California.

Throughout her career, Dr. Capers has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including Marian McPartlands' Piano Jazz and Branford Marsalis' JazzSet. and Adventures of Wagner in Jazz, a special program created by Provo, Utah's KBYU-FM -- all on National Public Radio. She has also performed with a roster of outstanding artists, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Ray Brown, Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Slide Hampton, Max Roach, James Moody and Paquito D'Rivera, among others.

Dr. Capers has recorded five albums: Portrait of Soul (Atlantic, 1967), Affirmation (KMA Arts, 1982), Come On Home (Columbia/Sony, 1995), Wagner Takes the A Train (Elysium, 1999), and her most recent, Limited Edition (VALCAP Records, 2001). Her book of intermediate-level piano pieces, Portraits in Jazz, was published by Oxford University Press in 2000.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Rachel Eubanks (1922-2006), African American Composer, Taught Music 50 Years

[Kaleidoscope: Music by African-American Women; Helen Walker-Hill, piano; Gregory Walker, violin; Leonarda 339 (1995)]

Rachel Eubanks was born in San Jose, California Sept. 12, 1922. Jocelyn Y. Stewart wrote her obituary for the Los Angeles Times, May 13, 2006. Its title was: “Rachel Eubanks, 83; Music Teacher Set High Standards for Her Students for 50-Plus Years”. An excerpt from the composer's 1984 composition Five Interludes has been recorded by Helen Walker-Hill, piano; and Gregory Walker, violin; on the CD Kaleidoscope : Music by African American Women; Leonarda LE 339 (1995). Helen Walker-Hill writes in the liner notes:

“Rachel Eubanks (b. San Jose, California) received a B.A. degree from the University of California in 1945, an M.A. from Columbia University in 1947, and a D.M.A. from Pacific Western University in California in 1980. She also attended the Eastman School of Music, University of Southern California, and Westminster Choir College, and studied with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in France in the summer of 1977. Eubanks is the founder and director of the Eubanks Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. Her compositions include Cantata for Chorus and Orchestra, Symphonic Requiem for orchestra and four solo voices, Our God for seven instruments and solo voice on a text by Kahlil Gibran, chamber works, and many songs. Interludes for Piano, two of which are featured here, consist of five concentrated, introverted pieces in an atonal, contrapuntal idiom.”

Jocelyn Y. Stuart writes in the obituary:

“She began offering piano lessons from her apartment. In 1951 she opened a school at 47th and Figueroa streets, then moved to the Crenshaw location in 1963. In the 1970s and '80s, at the height of its prominence, the school offered associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees in instruments, voice performance, theory, composition and music history.

Margie Evans, founder of Los Angeles Music Week, called Eubanks an unsung pioneer whose work benefited students who otherwise might not have had exposure to the kind of training for which her school was known.” Rachel Eubanks played the alto horn and clarinet before switching to piano in elementary school, Stuart tells us. The obituary adds:

“Eubanks wrote for orchestra, smaller instrumental groups and vocal ensembles, and her compositions included pieces that reflected her interest in the music of various cultures.

Her many works, secular and sacred, won her recognition in the International Dictionary of Black Composers and the National Assn. of Negro Musicians.”

Sources of the sheet music of Rachel Eubanks include and

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Black+Composer" rel="tag">Black Composer
African+American" rel="tag">African American
Music+Teacher" rel="tag">Music Teacher
Black+Pianist" rel="tag">Black Pianist

Friday, December 14, 2007

CBMR Conference, Session 3: Music Performance: Ensembles, Selected Repertoire, Research Materials, and Methodology

The Center for Black Music Research of Columbia College Chicago,, has announced its
National Conference on Black Music Research, February 14-17, 2008 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Illinois.

Session 3, 8:30-10:00 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15 will be:

Music Performance: Ensembles, Selected Repertoire, Research Materials, and Methodology

Horace Maxile (Center for Black Music Research), moderator

Mark Clague (University of Michigan), Diversity as Inspiration: Creativity and the Repertory of Music Education

Morris A. Phibbs (Center for Black Music Research), Ministering to the Musically Myopic through Creative Programming and Ensemble Design

John Gordon Ross (Western Piedmont Symphony, Hickory, NC), Music for All Seasons: Building Inclusive Concert Programs:

“Some examples include R. Nathaniel Dett,
Juba Dance from In the Bottoms (orchestrated by Strasser); Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, New World a Comin'; Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Suite of Incidental Music from Othello; Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Danse Negre; Florence Price, Dances in the Canebrakes (orchestrated by Still); William Grant Still, Woodnotes (based on Paul Laurence Dunbar poems); William Grant Still, Suite for Violin and Orchestra; William Grant Still, Symphony No. 3, Sunday Symphony; and Clarence Cameron White, Elegy and Bandanna Sketches.”

[Composers whose names are linked are profiled at]

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Samuel+Coleridge-Taylor" rel="tag">Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Florence+Price" rel="tag">Florence Price
Duke+Ellington" rel="tag">Duke Ellington

Julia Amanda Perry (1924-1979), African American Composer

Julia Amanda Perry was an African American composer in Neoclassical style who was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1924. Her desire to compose was so strong that when a stroke left her partially paralyzed she taught herself to write with her left hand. She was raised in Akron, Ohio and died there in 1979. Her Prelude for Piano (2:00) has been recorded by Helen Walker-Hill, piano; and Gregory Walker, violin; on the CD Kaleidoscope : Music by African American Women; Leonarda LE 339 (1995). Helen Walker-Hill writes in the liner notes:

“She earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Westminster Choir College and also studied at The Juilliard School and the Berkshire Music Center in Massachusetts. Perry received two Guggenheim Fellowships and spent the 1950s in Europe, studying at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, Italy; with Luigi Dallapicolla in Florence; and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. While in Europe, she organized and conducted a series of concerts for the United States Information Agency. After her return to the U.S.A. In 1959, she taught briefly at Florida A & M College and Atlanta University. In 1971 she suffered a paralytic stroke and was hospitalized for several years, but taught herself to write with her left hand and returned to composing before her death in 1979."

Julia Perry is one of the composers discussed in The Music of Black Americans: A History by Eileen Southern; published 1997 by W.W. Norton & Company. A reference to her style as a composer is found on p. 551:

Her basically neoclassical style was distinctive for an intense lyricism and penchant for contrapuntal textures. She wrote in all the forms: symphonies, operas, concertos, band works, chamber ensembles, piano pieces, and songs. Several of her works were published, and two or three recorded – this, despite the large musical forces demanded by the works. Her best-known compositions were Stabat Mater (1951) for contralto and string orchestra; Homunculus C. F. (1960) for piano, harp, and percussion; Homage to Vivaldi for symphony orchestra; and the opera The Cask of Amontillado, which was first staged at Columbia University in 1954.” offers a dozen sheet music titles by Julia Perry:

A Short Piece for Large Orchestra, A Short Piece for Small Orchestra, Divertimento for Five Winds, Frammenti dalle Lettere di Santa Caterina, Homage to Vivaldi, Homunculus C.F., Pastoral, Piano Concerto in Two Uninterrupted Speeds, Piano Concerto No. 2, Stabat Mater, Symphony No. 4, and The Cask of Amontillado.

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Black+Composer" rel="tag">Black Composer
+Composer" rel="tag">Neoclassical Composer
African+American" rel="tag">African American
European+Career" rel="tag">European Career

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Irene Britton Smith (1907-1999), African American Composer

[Kaleidoscope: Music by African-American Women; Helen Walker-Hill, piano; Gregory Walker, violin; Leonarda 339 (1995)]

Irene Britton Smith was an African American composer who was born Dec. 22, 1907 in Chicago, where she died Feb. 15, 1999. Her 1947
Sonata for Violin and Piano is in Neoclassical style and is available from Vivace Press, which provides this biography of the composer:

A Brief Bio of the Composer

Irene Britton Smith was born in 1907 in Chicago, Illinois. She studied composition with Stella Roberts and Leo Sowerby at the American Conservatory, where she received her Bachelor of Music degree in 1943. Meanwhile, she taught in Chicago’s elementary schools for more than forty years, specializing in the Phonovisual approach to teaching reading. In 1946-47 while on sabbatical leave from her teaching position, she did graduate work in composition at The Juilliard School of Music with Vittorio Giannini, before completing her Master of Music degree at DePaul University under Leon Stein. During summers she also worked with Irving Fine at the Berkshire Music Center (1950), with Wayne Barlow at the Eastman School of Music, and with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, France (1958).

Her works include a Sinfonietta in three movements for orchestra (1956), Fairest Lord Jesus, an anthem for women’s voices published by G. Schirmer in 1945, an arrangement of the spiritual Let Us Break Bread Together for baritone or mezzosoprano and piano (1948), and several other choral works, chamber and solo instrumental works. Dream Cycle, a setting of four poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1947) has been performed at the Chicago Public Library by soprano JoAnne Pickens. The Sonata for violin and piano was completed in New York City in 1947 while studying with Vittorio Giannini at The Juilliard School. It was premiered at the Denver Public Library in February 1990 by violinist Gregory Walker and pianist Helen Walker-Hill, and is performed by them on the 1995 CD, Kaleidoscope: Music by African-American Women, produced by Leonarda Records.

The Irene Britton Smith Collection is at the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago, The classical music website gives this critique of her Sonata for Violin and Piano:

“Irene Britton Smith's Sonata for Violin and Piano brings Brahms to mind; it has the thick-textured essence of Brahms but with just a flavor of French impressionism.”

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African+American" rel="tag">African American
Violin+Sonata" rel="tag">Violin Sonata

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Juarês de Mira Disputes Number of African Slaves Imported to Brazil

[Projeto Negro Spirituals: Um Canto De Liberdade (Negro Spirituals Project: Songs of Freedom)]

Juarês de Mira is an Afro-Brazilian singer who operates the Negro Spirituals Project: Songs of Freedom, in his native Brazil. On Dec. 10, 2007 he made a comment on our post “Why Brazil Sings Spirituals: 3.6 Million African Slaves”, which was based on a UNESCO web presentation:

Thanks for bringing my songs to the public. Please, I will prepare more information about slavery in Brazil. I discovered that the number of slaves were more than you have in your data. The consequences of Slavery in Brazil persist up until today.

Thanks a lot

Best Regard

Juarês de Mira

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Negro+Spirituals" rel="tag">Negro Spirituals
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UNESCO+presentation" rel="tag">UNESCO presentation

Monday, December 10, 2007

Undine Smith Moore (1904-1989), African American Composer

Undine Smith Moore, granddaughter of slaves, was born August 25, 1904 in Jarrat, Virginia. She began piano lessons at age seven. Working Out Her Destiny, an online resource of The Library of Virginia, says of the composer:

In 1924 she received the first scholarship from the Juilliard Graduate School to study music at Fisk University. She graduated cum laude in 1926 and became supervisor of music in the Goldsboro, North Carolina, public schools. Smith began teaching at Virginia State College (later Virginia State University) in 1927, where she remained on the faculty until her retirement in 1972. Between 1929 and 1931 Smith commuted to New York to study for her Master of Arts degree at Columbia University’s Teachers College.”

Undine Smith Moore's composition Before I'd be a Slave (1953)(3:42) has been recorded by pianist Maria Thompson Corley on Soulscapes: Piano Music By African American Women; Troy 857 (2006). The liner notes tell us:

She taught at Virginia state College, where she began composing music for the laboratory school chorus. In 1969, she co-founded its Black Music Center. During her career, she toured extensively in West Africa and the United States as a guest conductor and clinician. Although she wrote in a number of genres, she is best known for her choral works. “Before I'd be a Slave” was commissioned by the Modern Dance Group at Virginia State College.”

Before I'd be a Slave has also been recorded by Helen Walker-Hill, piano; and Gregory Walker, violin; on Kaleidoscope: Music by African-American Women; Leonarda LE 339 (1995). Her Afro-American Suite for Flute, Violoncello and Piano has been published by, whose website tells us:

“Dr. Moore’s
Scenes from the Life of a Martyr, a 16-part oratorio on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, for chorus, orchestra, solo voices and narrator was premiered at Carnegie Hall and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.”

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