[Occide Jeanty and the score from "1804", Marche Militaire, on a 1960 Haitian stamp.]
An interview with Christopher Hyde five years ago resulted in a column about AfriClassical.com on Jan. 23, 2005. We appreciate Christopher's use of the website to illustrate the classical music heritage of Haiti in his column today. The titles of two recordings he mentions are linked to the websites at which they are available.
Portland Press Herald - Maine Sunday Telegram
For a small nation, Haiti heavy on classical composers
January 24, 2010
"For a small nation, which gained its independence from France in 1804 after a long and bloody slave revolt, Haiti has produced more than its share of classical composers. One estimate in "Vodou Nation: Haitian Art Music and Cultural Nationalism" (Michael Largey, University of Chicago Press, 2006) is as high as 60." "The most prominent of Haitian composers – Solon Verret, Justin Elie, Occide Jeanty and Ludovic Lamothe – wrote primarily instrumental music, usually for the piano, and marches and other works for public occasions. The most famous of the latter is Jeanty's '1804' commemorating Haiti's independence. He was prohibited from conducting it during the U.S. occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934."
"Lamothe, the best known of the Haitian composers, incorporated both Vodou religious music and meringue in his work, hoping that the African ancestry of both would fuse into a national musical style. He was hindered in this effort by the disdain of the Haitian upper classes for 'peasant' music and religion, although he was able to combine the two under the flag of nationalism, as in 'Nibo, Meringue de Carnaval,' of 1934, which was widely played to celebrate the end of American occupation.
"Lamothe's works have been recorded in 'A Vision of Ludovic Lamothe' (IFA Music Records, 2001) by pianist Charles P. Phillips. An overview is provided by guitarist Jean E. Saint-Eloi in 'Music of the Haitian Masters' (IFA Music Records 256, 1999). Elie was the most widely traveled and published of the Haitian pianist-composers and eventually made his home in the United States. His nationalism took the form of support for the Native American cause, something that Haiti had offered since its inception. A sidelight to Elie's successful career was his writing of music to accompany the 1925 silent film 'Phantom of the Opera.' I wonder if Andrew Lloyd Webber ever heard it. I am indebted for most of the information in this column to William J. Zick's formidable Web site, AfriClassical.com..."