Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vangelisti & Marks Perform Songs of William Grant Still at U. of Louisiana at Monroe Oct. 12

[Africa: Piano Music of William Grant Still; Denver Oldham, piano; Koch 3 7084 2H1 (1991)]

We read an article in about a performance which will include music of William Grant Still on Monday, Oct. 12, 2009 at the University of Louisiana at Monroe:
October 6, 2009
Claire Vangelisti, a lyric soprano and a member of ULM's voice faculty, presents a program of music by Handel, Strauss, Berg and William Grant Still on Monday, October 12 as part of our Faculty Artist Concert Series. Dr. Vangelisti will be accompanied by a guest pianist, Dr. Brian Marks, an Associate Professor of Piano at Baylor University in Waco, TX. This program, which will take place at 7:30 in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall, is free and open to the public.”

AfriClassical spoke with Dr. Claire Vangelisti about the works of William Grant Still on the program, and learned they are three songs: “Bayou Home,” “Weeping Angel” and “Song for the valiant.” We then interviewed Dr. Brian Marks:
I received some information by phone call from Claire Vangelisti. She tells me that this is the third stop on a tour of 5, is that right?
Yes, that's correct.
How long have you two been performing together?
Actually, this is our first collaboration. We knew each other back in grad school some years ago.
Where was the graduate school?
University of Texas at Austin.
How did you get interested in the music of William Grant Still?
I would have to actually defer that question to Claire, because she was the one that chose those pieces.
Is this the first time you've performed his music then?
It's the first time I've performed his music, yes.
Do you have any observations or comments?
One thing I thought was interesting was, of the three works that we're doing, how varied they were. Did she give you the information about which songs we're doing?
She said “Bayou Home,” “Weeping Angel” and “Songs for the Valiant.”
Right. “Bayou Home,” I don't know if it's literally a spiritual or something along those lines. If it's not actually, it certainly is in that style. “Weeping Angel” is much freer and a little more modern. It's not in a dissonant style but it's a much more rhapsodic and free, through-composed style. “Song for the valiant” is a very martial, assertive style. I found it interesting that they were each very distinctive.
Thank you, I appreciate that observation. How have you found that these songs have been received by your audiences?
Both performances we've given so far are very well received. They are, I think, very appealing and especially the “Song for the valiant,” which ends our entire program, is very stirring. It's a very powerful piece and it makes a great closer. I think the audiences have really been appreciative of it.
Okay. Those audiences, I believe, have been at Baylor University and Southwestern University, is that right?
That's correct.
After this University of Louisiana at Monroe, the remaining stops on this tour, if we can call it that, would be?
Texas State University, located in the town of San Marcos; the final stop is the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Do you have any brief comment that you'd like to add to what we've said about this music?
Oh, not really. I've enjoyed playing it. The pieces are very effectively written for the piano. I have to say that the accompaniment for the “Song of the valiant” is uniquely challenging. The entire accompaniment is pretty much rolled staccatto chords for the piano, in a very regular rhythm, and making it sound right with the voice is harder than you'd imagine from just looking at the score. So that's been an interesting challenge!
Is there anything else you want to say then?
Not officially about this,but I do want to say, on a separate note, you must know my friend William Chapman Nyaho.
Oh yes, actually his biography is at my website.
I checked that out and it's a very nice biography, highlighting his two wonderful CDs!
Thank you. I tried to also highlight his Oxford University Press series also.
I think that's a landmark contribution!
Yes, isn't that wonderful?
I don't think he's received enough attention for the importance of that. I'm glad to hear that you're a friend of his. Did you go to graduate school together in Texas?
We went to graduate school together, and of course he taught for a number of years at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He is such a warm, open-hearted and positive person!
My feelings exactly!
You don't encounter many people like that. He is just, I think, a real positive force in his profession and among his friends! I really have the highest regard for him.
Well, I'm happy to have a chance to talk to you about him, because I certainly agree. I thank you very much for your time. It was nice of you to fit us in.
Sure, I was happy to talk to you! [William Grant Still (1895 -1978) is profiled at, where a complete Works List by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma is also found]

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