Saturday, January 31, 2009

Kazem Abdullah, African American Conductor, Makes Debut at Metropolitan Opera

The Chicago classical music radio host Sergio Mims alerted us to the Metropolitan Opera debut of Kazem Abdullah. An interview with is followed by a review from The New York Times:
By Robert Hilferty
27 Jan 2009 
Kazem Abdullah makes his Met Opera debut conducting Orfeo ed Euridice Jan. 28 and 31. The young maestro discusses his approach to the job, the scarcity of African-American conductors, and how his speech impediment has factored into his work. 'There’s no set course if you want to be a conductor,' says Kazem Abdullah, 29, who makes his Met debut this week in Orfeo ed Euridice. An assistant conductor there the past four seasons, he now emerges from that shady underworld, taking center pit on Wednesday and Saturday. 'I’m not nervous,' said the Indiana-born, Dayton-raised musician, whose exotic name was bestowed by his Sierra Leonean father. 'It’s going to be lots of fun.'”

Abdullah started on clarinet, excelling to the point where he could play in the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas. He had already flirted with conducting in classes at Aspen and Verbier, but decided to go the whole hog in Miami.” “'Kazem’s this calm, sunny, constructive personality in the service of rather difficult music,' said an impressed Tilson Thomas.” “Black conductors are rare— the last one in a similar position to his was Calvin Simmons, who died tragically at age 32 in 1982. And there are of course other fine conductors out there like James DePriest. But Abdullah envisions more African American interest in classical music during the hopeful Age of Obama, in a 'globalized world where more and more people have access to this art form.' He himself was ignited as a kid catching great black singers like Price, Norman and Battle on radio broadcasts and 'Live from Lincoln Center.' Abdullah is slated to conduct Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha in 2010 at the Chatelet in Paris. 'Joplin was trying to find legitimacy as a black classical composer,' he said. 'So I feel simpatico. To think this son of slaves created such a great opera about the African American experience!'”  [Full Post]  [James DePreist (b. 1936) and Scott Joplin (1868-1917) are profiled at]
By Anthony Tommasini
Published: January 30, 2009
For Wednesday’s performance Ms. Blythe also seemed to inspire the conductor Kazem Abdullah, in his Met debut, who took over for James Levine. The Indiana-born Mr. Abdullah, 29, is an assistant conductor on the Met staff. Mr. Abdullah conducted a confident performance, especially during the lively dances, and was impressively responsive to the singers during their long stretches of orchestra-accompanied recitative, which must flow with a combination of urgency and flexibility.  [Full Post]

Collaborative Piano Blog: Raymond Jackson at Bethesda's Strathmore on February 10

Our friend Chris Foley of Toronto sends us a very interesting post on Raymond Jackson, a pianist who is on the faculty of Howard University:
Friday, January 30, 2009
If you're in the Washington, D.C. area in early February, you might want to take the drive out to Bethesda, Maryland on the evening of February 10 to hear an innovative program given by pianist and Howard University faculty member Raymond Jackson at Strathmore. Entitled From Beethoven to Eubie Blake: Discoveries and Connections, this lecture recital juxtaposes the music of European composers with composers of African descent. The recital will take place at 7:30pm on February 10 in The Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, MD 20852. Tickets are $25. Here's the program: 'From Beethoven to Eubie Blake: Discoveries and Connections'. A Lecture Recital Featuring Works for the Keyboard by Composers of European and African* Descent.” [Full Post]

Composers of African Descent on the program are Frederick Eliot Lewis (1846- ? ); Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912); Hall Johnson (1888-1970); and James Hubert “Eubie” Blake (1883-1993). The post ends with this comment: “I really like the way that Jackson juxtaposes these styles alongside each other, and in my experience audiences have responded highly favorably to this type of programming. Best of luck to Raymond for what looks to be a fascinating recital.”

Friday, January 30, 2009

Jean-Claude Halley: Daniel Marciano Enhanced Image of Saint-Georges With Historical Fact

[Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges; Published by the Conseil Régional de la Guadeloupe (Regional Council of Guadeloupe) (2005)]

Yesterday AfriClassical posted: “Daniel Marciano On Discovery of Death Report of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges”. Monsieur Marciano is a former professor at the University of Franche-Comté in Besançon, France. Today Jean-Claude Halley of Guadeloupe has contributed a comment in French.  It can be found on the blog, just below yesterday's post.  Our English translation follows:

This article published on the website of Bill Zick in the USA is not surprising. It brought to mind Daniel Marciano's constant attitude of enhancing the image of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, while rigorously adhering to historical fact. I still recall with emotion the first exchanges between Besançon and Guadeloupe and the words of Daniel's invaluable writings. Subsequently, the sequence of events and the findings of researchers showed the qualities of that rare Chevalier enthusiast. Daniel collaborated with spontaneity and efficiency in the little children's book published by Guadeloupe, and always responded positively to all requests. Jean-Claude HALLEY”

Montclaire String Quartet & Pennsylvania Sinfonia Play Music of William Grant Still Jan. 31

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

The music of the African American composer William Grant Still (1895-1978), who is profiled at, will be heard at two performances on Saturday, January 31, 2009. The ensembles will be the Montclaire String Quartet and the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra:
“On Saturday night (January 31), Kanawha United Presbyterian Church will be the site of the Montclaire String Quartet's second subscription concert. Beginning at 8 p.m., the group will present an array of works by American composers including Charleston-born George Crumb.” “The remainder of the concert will feature other works by American composers including Darol Anger, Zhou Long, Scott Lindroth, Ljova and William Grant Still.”

The Express-Times
“It's a new collaborative event -- one that's sure to create quite a 'Clash' in the community. It's a gospel choir competition where the audience will have a say in Saturday's 'Faith! -- A “Clash” of the Valley Choirs' at Allentown Symphony Hall. The event is being presented as a kickoff to Black History Month by the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra in cooperation with various community organizations. Sinfonia conductor Allan Birney says the event will include music by black composers William Grant Still and Mary Howe.” “Birney says the Sinfonia will be performing works by Still and Howe for the first time. 'It's been interesting getting to know about these pieces,' he says. 'I've been doing a fair amount of listening in deciding what to do and have happily come to terms.' The word is 'lyrical,' he explains, with performances of Howe's 'Sand' and 'Stars,' and Still's 'Serenade' and 'Mother and Child.'” Geoff Gehman of The Morning Call adds: “Throughout the evening the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra plays pieces by two prominent African-American composers: William Grant Still (1895-1978), who wrote symphonies and arranged music for blues master W.C. Handy, and Mary Howe (1882-1964), who wrote symphonic poems and co-founded the National Symphony Orchestra.”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daniel Marciano On Discovery of Death Report of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges

[Le chevalier de Saint-Georges, le fils de Noémie (Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Noémie's Son);
Daniel Marciano; Thespis (2005)]

On January 15, 2009 AfriClassical posted “Biographer Pierre Bardin Discovers Death Report of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799)” Daniel Marciano is a Professor Emeritus at l'Université de Franche-Comté at Besançon, France. Prof. Marciano kindly translated the death report and the accompanying remarks of Pierre Bardin. He is an author of an historical novel and plays, and maintains a website on Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges in French. At the invitation of Jean-Claude Halley of the blog Guadeloupe Attitude, Daniel Marciano gives his opinion of the historical significance of the discovery:

J.C. Halley invited me to react to P. Bardin’s latest discovery and among other things I wrote: When dealing with fiction, turning a character into a victim on purpose is a dramatic process in order that the reader may feel sorry for such a beautiful soul, alone at the end of his life, forgotten by all after his death. However, biographical rigor forbids one to state anything which was not corroborated by reliable archive documents.

Personally I pitied St-G in my novel as I was working towards a movie but most biographers put a wrong emphasis on St-G suffering from discrimination, unable to found a family, giving the impression at times that his life was a constant ordeal. In fact on the whole he led an enviable life, conducted the best orchestras of the XVIIIth century, was admired by the ladies of the court and was the friend of Kings and Princes. I inserted a long comment on this point in my web site called Victimisation et Oubli [Victimized and Forgotten]. The last document P. Bardin discovered is precious inasmuch as his discovery shows that the most eminent representatives of the fencing community admired him, and grieved for St-G’s death. People were close to him when he died.” Cape Town City Ballet to dance in the Caribbean

[Cape Town City Ballet]

“South Africa's Premier ballet company has been invited to dance in Martinique. Professor Elizabeth Triegaardt, Executive Director of the Cape Town City Ballet (CTCB) is pleased to announce that the company has been invited to participate in an exciting cultural collaboration arranged by the Paris-based Foundation Sphere, on the French island of Martinique in the Caribbean. The invitation was initiated by Keith Mackintosh, Artistic Co-ordinator for CTCB, through the Monte Carlo based producer Patricia Panton. It will involve some of CTCB's dancers performing in the Scott Joplin opera called Treemonisha. Performances take place in the Atrium in Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, in early March.

“Triegaardt is delighted that this invitation comes in the company’s 75th anniversary year, as it continues the tradition of the company performing on the international stage. In recent years the CTCB has performed in China and Ireland and individual guest dancers have been invited to perform with companies and festivals in America, Hong Kong and Zimbabwe. The group, headed by Mackintosh, will include six dancers namely Celeste George, Noluyanda Mqulwana, Wendy – Lee Michaels, Manie Irving, Xola Putye and Warren May, together with Artistic Director Robin van Wyk who will oversee the choreographic aspect. The group leaves for Martinique, via Paris, directly after their three performances of La Sylphide at the Masque Theatre in Muizenberg in February.” [Full Post]

Adams, Still & Tamusuza Heard at University of Louisiana Monroe Concert

[Top: Justinian Tamusuza; Middle: William Grant Still (Photo is the sole property of William Grant Still Music, and is used with permission.); Bottom: H. Leslie Adams] 

AfriClassical was pleased to learn that a Black History Month Concert at the University of Louisiana at Monroe will honor African American composers H. Leslie Adams, William Grant Still, John Work and Eugene Hancock, along with Ugandan composer Justinian Tamusuza (b. 1951), who has been in touch with us by E-mail:

Concert commemorates February’s Black History Month at ULM
News-Star news services • January 28, 2009 
The University of Louisiana at Monroe’s Division of Music will commemorate Black History Month with a special concert of inspiring music and texts by African-American composers and writers, starting at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 3, in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall. ULM vocal faculty Susan Olson and Louis Nabors, and Visual and Performing Arts Associate Dean Matthew James, with voice performance graduate student Bianca Jackson, will sing inspirational pieces by H. Leslie Adams, William Grant Still, John Work, and Eugene Hancock. Coralie White, ULM piano faculty, will assist. James Boldin, French Horn, will play the music of Justinian Tamusuza, while William Grant Still is the composer of a piece performed by Scot Humes, Alto saxophone.” [Full Post] [H. Leslie Adams (b. 1932) and William Grant Still (1895-1978) are profiled at

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

JazzLives on Composer James P. Johnson: “'CALL 1-800-STRIDE' RIGHT AWAY!”

[Victory Stride: The Symphonic Music of James P. Johnson; The Concordia Orchestra; Marin Alsop, Conductor; Music Masters 67140 (1994)]

January 28, 2009
“What’s all this? Scott E. Brown wrote a wonderful book about our man James P. Johnson, A Case of Mistaken Identity: The Life and Music of James P. Johnson (Scarecrow Press, 1986). Johnson, as many of you will know, taught Fats Waller, composed 'Charleston,' 'Runnin’ Wild,' 'If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight,' 'Mule Walk,' and many others. To my ears, he is the most satisfying of the great Stride players. But he also wrote longer works, including an opera, DE ORGANIZER, with libretto by Langston Hughes — 'Third Stream' works bridging jazz and classical music. His more ambitious compositions received insufficient notice, and he may well have died a disappointed man. Scott is up here in New York for a few days to do research at the New York Public Library, and he is looking for people who saw James P. play. That’s not an impossibility: James P. was at the keyboard in 1950 and perhaps beyond. If you have any information for Scott (a pile of acetates in the kitchen cabinet, perhaps) email him at, or call him at 443-528-1444 (cell).” [Full Post]

Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University in Wisconsin explains the origin of Johnson's best-known and underappreciated classical work Yamekraw: A Negro Rhapsody, “Written in celebration of a black community on the outskirts of Savannah, Yamekraw: A Negro Rhapsody (1927) was first performed by Fats Waller in a Carnegie Hall concert organized by William C. Handy. It seems most likely that Johnson's relative inexperience in orchestral writing prompted him to ask William Grant Still to rework the score in 1928.” Dr. De Lerma adds: “His first stroke in 1940 did not prevent him from presenting a concert of his own works at Carnegie Hall in 1944, but a much more serious stroke occurred in 1951, confining him to bed until his death.” James Price Johnson (1894-1955) was born on Feb. 1 and is profiled at

'Scraps From The Operas' by African American Composer Justin Holland Recorded in MP3 Format

[Scraps From The Operas Arranged For Two Guitars By Justin Holland © 2009 Donald Sauter (884502007442)]

Donald Sauter sends news of an MP3 recording of opera arrangements by Justin Holland (1819-1887), an African American composer, guitarist and teacher who is considered the first African American professional in Cleveland, and is profiled at

"Justin Holland was born to free black parents in Norfolk County, Virginia on July 26, 1819," Barbara Clemenson writes in her article Justin Holland: Black Guitarist in the Western Reserve. Guitarist Douglas Back has made a recording which includes five works of the composer, American Pioneers of the Classic Guitar, Mento Music Press SMM 3023 (1994). It can be ordered at his website, Back writes that Justin Holland made his name known in his lifetime to amateur guitarists across the country: “Although Holland seldom performed in public, he developed a national reputation as a composer and arranger for the guitar. To the average amateur guitarist of the day, his numerous arrangements made his a household name. Of his approximately 350 published works for the guitar, which include two acclaimed methods, only about one-third are extant.” 'Raisin' the Buzz: At the table with Aaron Dworkin'

Posted by Sidney on January 28, 2009
"Violinist Aaron Dworkin is on unique double mission - to enrich the classical music art form with diverse interpretation, fresh creativity, and artistic excellence and to use classical music education to improve the quality of life for young African Americans and Latinos. He lives this mission as the President and CEO of the Sphinx Organization, a non-profit he founded in 1996. I recently sat down with him to get to know more about him, his work, and his approach to changing our world for the good of all. After reading this interview, please show Aaron Dworkin and the Sphinx Organization some love by offering comments, viewing the Sphinx promotional video, and/or giving support for the impact they are achieving.

"Q: Why did you start The Sphinx Organization?
Dworkin: As a young person, I often found myself to be the only one or one of less than a handful of musicians of color. As a student at the Interlochen Arts Academy, and later, the University of Michigan, in various orchestras and as an audience member, I began to question why this was the case. I decided to do something about it by launching a national competition for young black and Latino string players to address the under representation of these groups in classical music."  [Full Post]  [Aaron P. Dworkin (b. 1970), is profiled at]

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Celso Machado, Afro-Brazilian Classical Guitarist & Composer Born in Brazil Jan. 27, 1953

Celso Machado is an Afro-Brazilian composer, guitarist, lyricist and singer who was born in Ribeiro Preto, Brazil on January 27, 1953. He is profiled at and has a website of his own, The works he writes and performs are played by guitarists in both classical and world music genres. At age seven Celso began performing in street bands. He first performed in Canada in 1986; he moved there three years later. His many CDs consist of music composed by himself and others. Machado has composed sound tracks for several documentary films. His score for the film In the Company of Fear won a Leo Award in 2000 in Canada. Publication of Machado's sheet music has resulted in many performances by other guitarists. The French firm Éditions Henry Lemoine has published a volume of his music whose title translates to Brazilian Popular Music for Flute and Guitar.

On Nov. 24, 2008 AfriClassical reported: “'Jogo da Vida' Makes Celso Machado World Solo Artist in 2008 Canadian Folk Music Awards”. Earlier we wrote “ has published an overview of the globe-trotting guitarist's career on November 14, 2008: 'On top of the world music: Celso Machado' by Jan DeGrass, Arts and Entertainment Writer, Reporter. The article reports that the nomination of Jogo da Vida is the fourth honor he has received in 2008."   The current repertoire of the Zagreb Guitar Quartet includes two works of Celso Machado, Danças Populares Brasileiras (Brazilian Popular Dances) and Folguedo. The Quartet is scheduled to play Folguedo on February 2, 2009 at the American University of Sharjah in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

At Juilliard, Ritz Chamber Players Play Alvin Singleton, Jonathan Bailey Holland & George Walker

[Top: George Walker: Orchestral Works; Cleveland Chamber Symphony; Edwin London, Conductor; Albany Records 270 (1998). Center: Jonathan Bailey Holland. Bottom: Alvin Singleton] 

February 13 at 6 p.m.
Formed in 2002 by artistic director and clarinetist Terrance Patterson, the Ritz Chamber Players are the first chamber music ensemble in the U.S. made up exclusively of musicians spanning the African diaspora. In addition to performing the classical repertoire, the group highlights works by contemporary African American composers. The Players have performed at prestigious music venues around the country; they made their international radio debut with the BBC in 2005 and appeared on national television as performers at the 37th Annual NAACP Image Awards in 2006. This concert includes works by African American composers Alvin Singleton, Jonathan Bailey Holland and George Walker.

The Juilliard School, Morse Hall, 165 West 65th Street. FREE ADMISSION; no tickets required. For more information: [George Walker (b. 1922) is profiled at, where one can find a Works List and Bibliography compiled by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music, Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin.]

Lincoln Center Series 'exploring contributions of African-American artists to New York City Opera'

[Canvas rendering of the Troubled Island mural created by Noni Olabisi on the William Grant Still Art Center in Los Angeles. All rights reserved by the artist.]

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts will mark Black History Month 2009 and celebrate the contributions of African-Americans to the arts with a variety of programs. For the complete listing, visit
New York City Opera in collaboration with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture presents A three-part series exploring contributions of American-American artists to New York City Opera.
January 28 at 7 p.m.
I’m on My Way”: Black History at City Opera
City Opera partners with Harlem’s Opera Noire to spotlight the company’s proud history of nurturing African-American artists and works. The evening features live performances of excerpts from Anthony Davis’s The Life and Times of Malcolm X, Leroy Jenkins’s The Mother of Three Sons, Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars, and Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison’s Margaret Garner, as well as historical slides and recordings and commentary.
February 11 at 7 p.m.
One Fine Day”: A Tribute to Camilla Williams
The trailblazing soprano Camilla Williams made her debut at City Opera in 1946, becoming the first African-American female singer to perform in a major American opera house. This special evening celebrate Miss Williams, a distinguished singing teacher and a favorite artist of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The 88-year-old diva will offer warm and witty observations on her illustrious career and memorable life. The tribute includes audio and video clips, spoken and sung tributes, and the world premiere of a film specially created for this occasion by musician and filmmaker Richard Glazier.
March 31 at 7 p.m.
Troubled Island”: 60th Anniversary Celebration
First performed at City Opera on March 31, 1949 William Grant Still’s Troubled Island, about the 1791 rebellion by Haitian slaves, (the libretto was by poet Langston Hughes), was the first work by an African-American composer to be presented by a major American opera company; it was also the first world premiere ever presented by City Opera. Soloists from Harlem’s Opera Noire will offer a condensed concert performance of this American masterwork.
All events take place at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard. Tickets for each evening: $10; Call 212-491-2206 or go to:
[William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at]

National Public Radio: 'Boys Choir Of Kenya Gets Recording Contract'; Audio Excerpts Heard

[Boys Choir of Kenya: Amerika Jambo; J. Muyale Inzai, Director; AMP Records AGCD 2085]

Yesterday AfriClassical posted: “African Musical Arts, Inc.: 'Obama's Kenyan choir signs deal'”. Today on Morning Edition, National Public Radio's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer, gave a succinct account of the recording deal between the Boys Choir of Kenya and Universal Music, one of the “Big Four” firms in the global market for recorded music. Several brief excerpts of the Choir's singing can be heard in the story, which is 1 minute and 18 seconds long:

National Public Radio
Morning Edition
“January 26, 2009 · The Boys Choir of Kenya flew to Washington last week to perform at inauguration ceremonies honoring Barack Obama's Kenyan heritage. On the way home, while at London's Heathrow Airport, a music executive presented the group with a contract.” [The CD Boys Choir of Kenya: Amerika Jambo is available at

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Detroit Free Press: 'Former winner Elena Urioste to solo at Sphinx competition'

[Elena Urioste]

At 22, violinist Elena Urioste is still studying at the Juilliard School, but she's on a fast track. With professional management behind her, she has embarked on a solo career. This week Urioste returns to Detroit for the 12th annual Sphinx Competition for young African-American and Latino string players, the launching pad for her success. Urioste won the Sphinx junior division in 2003 and the senior division in 2007. At this year's event, she'll team up with another former Sphinx winner, Melissa White, at next Sunday's Finals Concert. The pair will perform part of Prokofiev's Sonata for Two Violins. The Sphinx competition, founded by MacArthur fellow Aaron Dworkin, has become a signature national event for its efforts to promote minorities in classical music. The competition doles out more than $100,000 annually in prizes, scholarships and performance opportunities. [Full Post] [The Founder/President of The Sphinx Organization is violinist Aaron P. Dworkin, who is profiled as a Musician of African Descent at]

New Blog Devoted to Music of William Grant Still

[Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American) (24:10); William Grant Still; Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Neeme Järvi, Conductor; Chandos 9154 (1993)] 

A blogger named Marlene launched a blog in January 2009 on the music of the African American composer William Grant Still (1895-1978). Its title is Still, William Grant” Several recordings have been reviewed, including the Chandos CD of the composer's most famous symphony, his Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American). As others have noted, William Grant Still is an All-American composer who wrote for radio, television programs and films, and composed the theme for the 1939 New York World's Fair. His classical compositions have been compiled by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, who has generously made the Works List available to, a website at which William Grant Still is profiled in detail. An excellent source of his sheet music and recordings is William Grant Still Music, operated by the composer's daughter, Judith Anne Still. Today's post follows:

Sunday, January 25, 2009
Still: Symphony No. 1; Ellington: Suite form “The River” Manufacturer: Chandos
Number Of Discs: 1
William Grant Still composed a large body of excellent music that deserves the widest possible circulation. He merged his mastery of the jazz vernacular with classical forms learned at Wilberforce and Oberlin. Even while studying later with an iconoclast like Edgar Varese, Still sought to extend the historical focus of the Harlem Renaissance into his compositions, injecting the "Afro-American" symphony especially with folk-inspired touches of impressionism and neo-Romanticism. The work seeks a broad sweep and bears resemblances to Gershwin and Ellington in the mix of pop and swing elements into the symphonic language. The coupling is a fitting one, in part because Ellington struggled for years to create a large-scale work that could indeed be considered rightfully "orchestral" outside his own big band's works. The Suite from the River is an ideal revelation, taking Ellington's sectionally orchestral thinking (where the orchestra was a conglomerate of different sections playing off each other) to levels that reach Still's well-schooled use of the symphony orchestra as a vehicle. Neeme Järvi does a fine job leading the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in rendering these two unlikely but deserving works. --Andrew Bartlett (Posted by Marlene)

African Musical Arts, Inc.: 'Obama's Kenyan choir signs deal'

[Boys Choir of Kenya; Director Joseph Muyale Inzai signed the contract at Heathrow Airport]

Dr. Fred Onovwerosuoke of African Musical Arts, Inc. sends us this press release:
An African youth choir has been signed by Universal Music after performing at President Barack Obama's inauguration celebrations in the US. The Boys Choir of Kenya signed the deal in the transit lounge at London's Heathrow Airport as they returned home to Nairobi from Washington DC. They were the only international choir to sing at the inauguration. The choir, who are aged between 13 and 24, put on an impromptu performance for passengers before flying on to Kenya. They have toured the US several times, and their performances have raised school fees for their members, as well as helping them take on several orphans. Artistic director Joseph Muyale said: "We heard about the record deal about two days ago. I felt delighted on behalf of the boys. "We began from humble beginnings and to be recognised by a large recording company is so humbling and quite an honour. We just thank God." Universal Classics A&R representative Tom Lewis signed the contract at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 4.

He only saw the choir for the first time at the weekend, after a colleague advised him to watch a clip of them online. Lewis said: "It has been frantic. I didn't know how I was going to get to see the choir - they're not allowed to leave the airport because they're in transit. "At one point, I even considered buying a ticket so I could join them. But we've been allowed into the departures lounge." He added: "I went onto YouTube and I saw their CNN performance and I thought, 'Wow - I do not want anyone else working with them.'" The Boys Choir was formed in Nairobi in 1998 but expanded to members from outside the Kenyan capital in 2004.  They now have 40 singers.They were asked to sing at several events surrounding the inauguration of President Obama, whose father came from Kenya - although he never managed to see them perform. The choir's repertoire includes a wide-ranging number of pieces from traditional Masaai and Samburu chants to contemporary songs from around Africa. They will now share a label with the likes of Amy Winehouse, U2 and The Rolling Stones. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Lydian Singers Display 400 Photos of 'Hiawatha's Wedding Feast' of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

[Photos ©]

On Saturday, October 4, 2008 AfriClassical posted a review of the presentation in Trinidad and Tobago of a work of the Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912): “Newsday: Lydians Present Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's 'Hiawatha's Wedding Feast'”. It opened:THE STAGE of Queen’s Hall was transformed into a Native American Village as the Lydians with Steel, presented Scenes from the Song of Hiawatha, a trilogy composed by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.” 

Today AfriClassical received an E-mail from Jan of The Lydians, with links to 404 striking and dramatic color photos, © “Greetings from the Lydians! Dear Mr. Zick, Here are some of the pictures from the Launch of the Opera!
And here are some photos taken at our 6 night performance of 'Scenes from the Song of Hiawatha!'
Sincerely, The Lydians Visit us at our website:” AfriClassical is grateful to The Lydians for this photographic record.  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is profiled at

Trumpeter Wilmer Wise Performs Works of Hale Smith & Ulysses Kay at Black History Concert

[African American Trumpeter Wilmer Wise; Photo from website of The Jazz Museum in Harlem]

Wilmer Wise is an African American trumpeter with a distinguished career spanning many decades. He recently made this comment at the discussion forum, where he is Artist-in-Residence: “Black History Concert, I am playing a concert on February 21 that may interest some of you NYC people. I am playing works by Hale Smith, Jimmy Owens, Ulysses Kay and other composers. There will some discussion about my history. There is limited seating..........act fast. Here's a link-Upcoming Events at Flatbush-Tompkins Wilmer”

Flatbush-Tompkins Congregational Church is located at 424 East 19th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11226 Telephone (718) 282-5353 Fax (718) 940-0988 Email: The website of the church announces: “Black History Month Celebration, Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 7:00 pm Ticket Cost: Adults $20, Children $10 Special Performances by Tenor Jason Brown and Trumpeter Wilmer Wise” [Hale Smith (b. 1925) and Ulysses S. Kay (1917-1995) are profiled at Works Lists and Bibliographies have been compiled for both composers by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music, Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin. Prof. De Lerma has generously made them available for use at the website.]