Friday, December 31, 2010

'Nightsongs' of H. Leslie Adams Sung Dec. 30 in Milton, Massachusetts by Brandon Grimes

[H. Leslie Adams]
Milton, Massachusetts
December 31, 2010
By Frank Schroth
“Baritone Brandon Grimes has returned to Milton in musical triumph. A senior at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Grimes’s senior recital, originally performed December 9th at the university, was performed last night at First Parish Church. In the darkened sanctuary illuminated by a single spotlight, Grimes’s tall presence emanated grace and professionalism, passion and delight, as he interpreted a demanding program. The audience of over 100 friends, family, and members of Milton’s musical and school community were transfixed throughout the 1 1/2 –hour performance.”

“The influences of Schubert were evident in the contemporary song cycle Nightsongs by H. Leslie Adams, one of the world’s leading African American composers. Drawing on texts by Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and other African American poets, the tragic and melancholy of the works enabled Grimes’s interpretive skills to shine.” [H. Leslie Adams (b. 1932) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory]

Richard C. Alston: 'thank you for what you are doing for instrumentalists...of African descent'

Richard C. Alston sends this message to AfriClassical:

Hello Bill,
Thank you for the announcements you have relayed of my performances the past year. A big thank you for what you are doing for instrumentalists, vocalists, orchestras and composers of African descent.

God bless you!

Happy New Year!!!!


Errollyn Wallen, 5: For Viola Concerto 'we have an online presence for the process of its creation.'

[ERROLLYN; Errollyn Wallen and Various; Avie (2004)]

This is the final installment in the transcript of an AfriClassical interview on Dec. 24, 2010 with Errollyn Wallen, the composer, pianist and vocal artist who was born in Belize and now considers the U.K. her home. Prior posts in the series have been: Part 1 - Dec. 27, Part 2 – Dec. 28, Part 3 – Dec. 29, and Part 4 – Dec. 30. Part 5 follows:

I wanted to ask you briefly about that beautiful holiday song peace on earth! I've played it many times, and I have had friends comment on it. Particularly one of the comments was about how supportive the piano was.
Yes. Funnily enough actually, that piece actually starts, many of my songs actually start from a technical question! One was, the piano part, if you notice, was all in the upper registers to the very last note. It was about how do you create layers out of one line. What Bach did in his cello suites, for example, where you have one line but it spans three different sort of strata. Also the piano, there are these clashes between notes, in the voice and in the piano. It is the feeling of an accompaniment that rolls out, and then the voice is a simple line off the top but there is a slight feeling of clashes of the E-flats against the E in the voice, and things like that. It was written as a gift to Nicholas Riddle of Editions Peters, because he loves to sing carols. I thought I wanted to write a Winter song, very, very simple that anybody could sing, but that it suggested different layers.
I'm sorry, it was written for whom?
Nicholas Riddle of Editions Peters.
I see, and that's your publisher?
Yes, and he loves Christmas carols. And so one day I said to him, “I'm going to write a song for you.”
Oh, that's nice!
Of what I might not have touched on, what would you like to add today?
Oh, there is something I wanted to say! Over the last two years, I have been making conscious decisions to do more in the States with American musicians or ensembles. I am so pleased that is happening, because I really love it! Every musical experience that I've had here in the States has been very, very exciting to me! And I am so grateful to the people who have played my music. And somebody like Howard Stokar, I think it was him who sent a recording to Marc, and things like that. He's helped me let so many groups know about my music.
That would be Marc Peloquin, who heads the KeyedUp MusicProject?
Yes, but I think Howard Stokar put him in touch with my music!
I see.
Do you know Howard Stokar?
I've just had email exchanges with him. I haven't spoken to him.
He's been a wonderful champion of my music. I am so pleased. I'm grateful for that too.
He wrote to me, among others!
Oh! You see - nothing happens without help! I feel I've had some wonderful help! Also, there's something I wanted to mention. I have a very dear friend and colleague, Rita Porfiris, with whom I wrote some - she's played a lot of my music. She's actually at Hartt College and one of the things we're doing which you might want to talk about at a later time, I'm writing a viola concerto. But what we're wanting to do is, as I'm writing it, we have an online presence for the process of its creation. So you see me writing it and you see Rita playing it and then us discussing and refining it as we go along.
So that's great! Yes, we're looking forward to that! That will be performed at Hartt College, hopefully this year. The schedule is a bit mad!
Is that Hartt College in the United States?
Yes. And I recently wrote a piece, just in September, for violin and viola, a piece called Five Postcards. It's recorded now on a CD.
Is that on the Avie label or someone else?
It's on another label; I'm not sure which one.
I'll let you know.
That's alright. I really want to wish you well with this KeyedUp MusicProject, and also the presentation in August where you will take part as well in Tanglewood!
Thanks so much Bill! Thank you.
Thank you. Goodbye now.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pianist Richard C. Alston in 'Classically Black' Feb. 2, 2011 Rutgers University

Rutgers University

Camden College of Arts and Sciences

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 12:00pm

Richard Alston, pianist

"Classically Black”

Composers of African Descent


Troubled Water...Margaret Bonds


Adagio in F Minor...Le Chevalier De Saint Georges

Basso Tuba Waltz, op. 5...Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins

Maple Leaf Rag...Scott Joplin

Summerland...William Grant Still

The Bamboula...Samuel Coleridge-Taylor


In The Bottoms (Suite)...R. Nathaniel Dett

Prelude (Night)

His Song


Barcarolle (Morning)

Juba (Dance)


Sonata No. 1...George Walker

Theme and Variations


Fantasie Negre...Florence B. Price

[ features biographies of Margaret A. Bonds (1913-1972), Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943), Scott Joplin (1868-1917), Florence B. Price (1887-1953), Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), William Grant Still (1895-1978), George Walker (b. 1922) and Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins (1849-1908)]

Afro-Cuban Violinist José White Born Dec. 31, 1835; 1st Prize for Violin at Paris Conservatory

[Afro-Cuban violinist and composer José White. Shown here after he received the 1st prize for violin at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1856. Bibliothèque Nationale de France; Wikipedia]

José Silvestre White, aka José Silvestre White y Lafitte, was an Afro-Cuban composer, violinist and professor who is profiled at His mother was Afro-Cuban and his father Spanish. Josephine Wright, Professor of Music at the College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio published an article Violinist José White in Paris, 1855-1875, in Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, Fall 1990. The article tells of José White's success at the Paris Conservatory, as evidenced by his First Grand Prize in Violin, the occasion for the above photograph:

“Thriving in such an enriching, stimulating environment, José White excelled. After just one year of study, he won the Paris Conservatory's highest award in violin, the coveted First Grand Prize. That competition took place on July 29, 1856, and was reviewed by Le Pays on August 5:

'The competition for violin [at the Conservatory] has offered a beautiful spectacle this year, being the most brilliant struggle. The first grand prize was conceded to Mr. White, pupil of Alard, and the second [prize] to Mr. [Aimé] Gros, from the same class... Mr. White showed himself [so] superior that there should have been created a grand exceptional prize in his favor. He performed with an extraordinary animation, not like a pupil but as a great artist who commands his audience. The jury itself was electrified" (Ramirez 1891, 178).'

A full catalogue of José White's surviving compositions has been compiled by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music at Lawrence University Conservatory. 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.

Gregory Walker will compose 'Song of the Untouchable,' to debut in Denver in April 2011

Professor Gregory T.S. Walker of the University of Colorado Denver is currently bringing us up to date on his classical music activities. This post, the third in a series, discusses a film project in which Dr. Walker is involved. To hear him give a compelling explanation of the goals of the project, visit the page:

Oct. 5, 2009
Song of the Untouchable is an adventure film profiling the journey of Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra Concertmaster Gregory Walker. Greg is preparing to embark on a musical journey through Kerala in southern India, where he will collaborate with local musicians, and absorb the sights, sounds, and culture of one of the most fascinating regions in the world.

“There is no doubt Greg will undergo personal transformations and experience a way of life altogether different from what he has known. With the end goal of incorporating this new-found knowledge into his musical repertoire, Greg will return for the creation of a new composition, Song of the Untouchable, that will debut in Denver in April 2011. Full, worldwide release of the film is scheduled for summer 2011.”

Cinema. Focusing on the story.
Song of the Untouchable
“What happens when a classically-trained violinist takes on the challenging tunings and rhythms of Southern India? Join Greg Walker as he explores the sights and sounds of the traditional Carnatic style of music, indigenous to the fascinating region of Kerala. Scheduled for production in January 2011, this film will be released in Summer/Fall of 2011 at festivals and special events around the US.

Errollyn Wallen, 4: 'My great hero is Bach, a composer who I feel never wrote more than he had to'

[The Errollyn Wallen Song Club as Featured in The Times (of London) Thursday November 25th 8.00PM]

This is a series based on our December 24, 2010 interview by phone with the composer, pianist and vocal artist Errollyn Wallen. She was born in the Central American country of Belize, but moved to London at age 2 and considers herself “practically an English national.” In Part 3 we learned about two major events in her life this year, the Errollyn Wallen Song Club and Errollyn's 8-day climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro with a roll-up piano, to raise money for charity. Part 1 is Dec. 27, Part 2 is Dec. 28 and Part 3 is Dec. 29, 2010. Part 4 follows:

I see you have some operas commissioned?
Yes, I do. Now I'm working on two. I'm working on an opera for Cautionary Tales, which is a short opera aimed at children but it's eminently suitable for grown-ups! It is by Hilaire Belloc, one of those Victorian/Edwardian writers. And they are very tongue-in-cheek moral fables about children that come to terrible ends. For instance, there's a story about Rebecca Who Slammed Doors, And Perished Miserably! So things happen! Children do things and, you know, Jim Gets Eaten By A Lion When He Runs Away From His Nurse! Things like that! It's a bizarre and implausible moral, but it's great fun to write! I'm just orchestrating that now. That will go on in March at Opera North, which is based in the North of England.
That's very soon!
Very soon!
Then you have another one you're working on?
Yes, I'm working on an opera called YES and it's with a librettrist called Bonnie Greer, who is actually an American living in the U.K. That is set very much in our time now in the United Kingdom, and looks at what it is to live in multicultural Britain at this time, and all the tensions that that involves. That's a much more political piece, based on a real incident that happened in the U.K. Just before the elections.
Is it dealing with immigration issues?
Yes, that's part of it, but we're broadening it out to address issues: What is History? Who are the English? And so on...
Yes, it's big philosophical questions, but my challenge is to keep it dramatic and still have sympathy in rounded characters. And then, there's another one that's in the pipeline that I'm discussing at the moment. So the next few years will see a lot of stage works.
Are you really enjoying this stage of your career?
Yes, very much, because I know I've worked hard to acquire technique that enables me to express what I need to, in any instrument and in any voice. My great hero is Bach, a composer who I feel never wrote more than he had to, and yet was able to bring his craft to bear on moments where he wanted to impart something – a sense of magnificence, of living, really! The point of being a composer is to really get to the point where your craft can serve the expression. You start to realize that often the most powerful moments in music are the simplest, but you have to be able to understand the motion and energy of time moving in space and sound. It's quite a profound thing, but it takes years to get to the point where you keep on top of your technique in a way.
Right! It must be quite a sense of accomplishment to be able to do that, to be able to feel like you're doing something like what Bach was doing as far as achieving a sense of magnificence?
Well, I understand what you have to aim to, and I feel like, to be honest, it's a constant, daily thing. So it's only by looking back at, say, 20 years ago that I can see how far I've come. But I still feel there's further to go. I do know that I have worked very hard to achieve, and it's not just on technique, but it's trying to ask yourself questions about how you can be most truthful and honest in music, and accept the gift you have, but yet really marshal all your talent to try and say something worth saying! It's a subtle thing in a way, so it's not that you have a sense of accomplishment. It's more that you realize you are able to ask the right questions! It's all that!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

'Reverie' of William Grant Still on Delos CD 'Cherry Rhodes Live at the Kimmel Center'

[TOP: William Grant Still (1895-1978); (Photo is the sole property of William Grant Still Music, and is used with permission.) BOTTOM: Cherry Rhodes Live at the Kimmel Center; Cherry Rhodes, Organist; Delos DE 3381 (2010)]

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
“2010 Year in Review - Great Releases
To wrap up the past year, we want to focus on our fantastic releases, and perhaps remind you a few you've forgotten!”

“Cherry Rhodes Live at the Kimmel Center
DE 3381
Premiere solo recital recording, The Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, Dobson Opus 76, Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania”

“Encore: WILLIAM GRANT STILL: Reverie” (2:04)
"Cherry Rhodes, one of our era’s outstanding concert organists, performs a festive recital during the inaugural year of this splendid new instrument in Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. Her program is beautifully planned to introduce the instrument and its wide range of colors. The recorded sound is clear, warm and dimensional.”

The track can be heard on a special music player provided on the page of the Delos Music Blog. Others who have recorded Reverie on CD include Philip Brunelle and the late African American organist Lucius Weathersby. William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, where a complete Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma is featured. The following is an excerpt from the entry on Reverie by William Grant Still:

“Reverie, for organ (1962). Los Angeles: Avant Music, Western International Music, 1962 (A.G.O prelude book). Première: 1962/III/12; Pasadena; Pasadena Presbyterian Church; Robert Pritchard, organ. Duration: 3:56. Library: Library of Congress (holograph).

Violinist Gregory Walker & Boulder Phil in 'European Sojourn: Infusing Folk With Classical'

[Gregory Walker as Violin Soloist with Boulder Symphony, “The Community Orchestra of Boulder County,” Colorado]

Professor Gregory T.S. Walker of the University of Colorado Denver is currently bringing us up to date on his classical music activities. This post, the second in a series, concerns a concert of the Boulder Symphony which took place on Dec. 17, 2010, at which Dr. Walker performed as violin soloist:

“European Sojourn: Infusing Folk With Classical
Friday, December 17, 2010 at 7:30PM
at First United Methodist Church, Boulder

Mozart Violin Concerto no. 5 (Turkish)
Tchaikovsky March from the Nutcracker
Vaughan Williams English Folk Song Suite arranged by Arnold Jacob
Rimsky-Korsakov Cappricio Espagnol
Sibelius Finlandia
Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson
Holiday Sing-alongs!

“As the Boulder Symphony continues to journey to the farthest reaches of creation, we are collecting precious gems of classical music that are based in folk elements. Both Mozart and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov traveled extensively, and absorbed musical elements of all their journeys. The Turkish Violin concerto will be performed by Gregory Walker, who will explore all the possibilities of creation, as Mozart would have done through improvised cadenzas. Rimsky-Korsakov, when he wrote Capriccio Espagnol, which will feature the exceptional solo talents of members of the Boulder Symphony, summed up Spanish life almost as well as Emmanuel Chabrier. For Finlandia Jean Sibelius took a simple folk song of his native land, and by rallying the independence movement against Russia, composed the unofficial national anthem of Finland.

Errollyn Wallen, 3: 'Up Mt. Kilimanjaro with a roll-up piano' 'makes you realize that so much else in life is easier!'

[Errollyn Wallen]

AfriClassical interviewed Errollyn Wallen, the composer, pianist and vocal artist, on December 24, 2010. Errollyn was born in Belize City, Belize but has lived in England from the age of 2 and has had all her education there. Part 1 appeared Dec. 27, 2010. Part 2 was posted Dec. 28, 2010. Today we present Part 3:

Apparently you had an idea at one point to involve many people in the U.K., called the “Errollyn Wallen Song Club”?
Yes, that was this year! At the beginning of this year, I decided I think it's important for composers to be able to compose, sit down and play and sing at the piano! I don't know why I feel that's important but I think it's so important for me to be a real person! To be able to do what I write as well. And so, in my travels I would come across people who – it seems to me that it's the song form that we all go back to time and time again! Whether we're professional musicians or not! If we had, if I started a song club where everybody could come, irrespective of whether they were musicians or not, and just present a song. It would keep a little flame burning for song writing basically...
That's very inspirational!
No, it's very simple, a group of us get together and it's just been very moving to see just how much, not just talent but also how in the song form you can express things that you can't quite express in any other way!
That's very perceptive! I'm interested by that!
So hopefully it is something I will continue this year, but at the moment I have quite a lot of commissions on. I consider it my best achievement this year. But I also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and I consider that...
Tell us a little bit about that.
A friend got a group of us together and said this is what we are going to be doing, we are going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for charity because it will be fun. But it wasn't, it was Hell on Earth!
Now that I've done it, I think to myself whenever anything is difficult, “Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro!” That was so physically grueling that it makes you realize that so much else in life is easier!
How long did it take you to make the ascent?
Well, from base camp and back again, 8 days.
The final ascent is about 12 hours I guess, but it gets harder and harder because of the altitude.
That was some serious climbing!
Yes, it was horrible!
Did you have to carry oxygen?
I had to have oxygen. If I hadn't had the oxygen, I would still be out there now, because I wasn't going to give up! I was walking slower and slower and slower. We had a terrific guide, and he'd also been to the Song Club by the way, and he gave me oxygen so yes, I had to have it.
So that experience represents something that you can compare other things to?
It's some kind of an emblem or symbol?
Well, yes! You know everyday I do music one way or another. Being a composer, lots of your living is in your head and your imagination. And to go on a trip where I was away from music-making, where everything had to do with putting one foot in front of another! That was all you were doing, sometimes 8, 10 hours a day! What helped me was the memory of practicing the piano, and it made me realize that to be a musician you have to be mentally sharp, but also, being strong physically is part of it too.
Did you have to carry the piano yourself, this roll-up piano?
No, I took a little roll-up piano, but then my guide wouldn't let me take it to the very, very top because he felt every extra ounce of weight could be critical. I took it up pretty far up, and I did play it sometimes.
What kind of an experience was that, when you were playing in that scene, at that location?
It was great, I just kept laughing! It was funny!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pianist Lara Downes Using to fund recording project, '13 Ways of Looking at the Goldberg'

[Lara Downes]

Pianist Lara Downes has thanked AfriClassical for the prior post and has told us of her next recording project:

“I really appreciate the support. I'd also love for you to know about my current campaign on Kickstarter to raise funding for my next recording project: 13 Ways of Looking at the Goldberg. 13 Ways is a set of new variations on Bach's Goldberg Variations, by a group of today's most renowned composers, including 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon. These wonderful pieces reimagine the Goldbergs in a variety of ways, celebrating both the eternal beauty of Bach's music, and the musical evolutions of the past 250 years. The variations are performed alongside Bach's original theme, like this:

Bach: Aria, from Goldberg Variations
C. Curtis-Smith: Rube Goldberg Variation
Jennifer Higdon: The Gilmore Variation
Mischa Sarche Zupko: Ghost Variation
Stanley Walden: Fantasy Variation
Bright Sheng: Variation Fugato
Derek Bermel: Kontraphunktus
Bach: Variation 13, from Goldberg Variations
David Del Tredici: My Goldberg (Gymnopedie #1)
Fred Lerdahl: Chasing Goldberg
William Bolcom: Yet Another Goldberg Variation (for left hand alone)
Lukas Foss: Goldmore Variation
Ralf Gothóni: Variation on Variation with Variation
Fred Hersch: Melancholy Minuet
Bach: Aria (reprise), from Goldberg Variations

This is a world-premiere recording (I have the rights for the first recording from Edition Peters), which I plan to release on the Innova label in the fall of 2011. I'm raising the funding through Kickstarter to support the recording and production of the CD. Kickstarter is a nice way for independent artists to fund creative projects, by asking friends, fans, sponsors and music lovers to pledge contributions. It's an all-or-nothing campaign: if I reach my goal of $5000 the project gets funded. If I don't meet my goal, my backers' pledges do not get charged, and I receive no money at all. At this point I've raised about $1750, over 1/3 of my goal, but I only have 11 days left!

I'm asking all of my friends and supporters to help me get the word out about this campaign in order to reach as many interested backers as possible. Anything you can do to share this information with your Africlassical followers and all your associates in the music community would be immensely helpful!

Comment by email:
You are officially THE BEST! L

Pianist Lara Downes on CBS 'Good Day' Wed. Dec. 29 'in a live interview and performance' 8am & 9am PT, CW Channel 31 or streaming

Lara Downes is a Steinway Artist who had a Midwestern Jewish mother and a Jamaican father who lived in Harlem, her website tells us at She has a multimedia career which has drawn high praise for both her live performances and her recordings.

Watch Lara live on CBS "Good Day"!
Catch Lara in a live interview and performance
of selections from her new CD
Nocturnes for Night Owls
on CBS Good Day Sacramento.

Tomorrow, Wednesday 12/29 at 8am and 9am Pacific Time.
CW Channel 31 in the Sacramento area, or streaming at

Errollyn Wallen, 2: “I orchestrated 'The Girl In My Alphabet' for the American Composers Orchestra”

[Errollyn Wallen]

On December 24, 2010 AfriClassical interviewed Errollyn Wallen, the composer, pianist and vocal artist who was born in Belize and has lived in England since she was 2 years old. Part 1 appeared Dec. 27, 2010. Part 2 follows:

Then after secondary school, what type of college did you attend?
Well I went to the University of London, originally I wanted to do a course in dance music, but then I decided that I seem to be playing the piano 10 hours a day, so I'd better switch to Music! So I went to London University, Goldsmith's College, and then I did a Masters in composition at King's College London, then much later did studies in composition at Cambridge. But in between I did lots of things. I played in other people's bands, other people's recording studios. I took part in many different types of music-making with various bands. I was in a music comedy band, but it never really quite took over. I realized that I should try and make a living from composing, which is a crazy notion! But that's what I set out to do! I treat it as it's my job now.
I see that you have two recordings from 2004; one is called Errollyn and the other one, also on the Avie label...
Around about 1999 I won an award and made a solo album called Meet Me At Howard Moore's which is a more Pop/Jazz album. So that's three and I think also in 2005, you know I've got some odd tracks that pop up in compilations, and there's one on Moodswings, the Brodsky CD, called Unloosenings, with Bjork and Sting where there is the String Quartet, and the artists singing their own songs, so that was fun to make that!
I wanted to ask about the recording The Girl In My Alphabet...
Because that is the piece that is going to be performed in New York, in the KeyedUp MusicProject of Marc Peloquin?
Yes, yes!
Would you like to tell us about that?
Yes, well that's a really early composition! I wrote it in 1990 when I was playing in a group which had two pianos and four pianists, and it was written very quickly, within a few weeks, for that group. And then after that, I made an arrangement for just piano duo. It's that version that's recorded on the CD The Girl In My Alphabet, but the original version was four pianists, and it's that version that we will play this coming year at Tanglewood, where Charles Wuorinen programmed the piece. That will be the U.S. premiere for that version.
That's in August?
Yes, and Ursula Oppens will be one of the pianists there. I'll be playing too in it, so that's going to be fun. And then, as you know, the other thing is, this year I orchestrated The Girl In My Alphabet for the American Composers Orchestra, and they played that in their orchestra in New York.
They played it in August of this year?
Yes, they played it in Miller Hall. It might have been July. But what I'm trying to say is that piece seems to have different lives to it! So, it will have three different outings in the United States over the period of a year, which pleases me. And that piece, I suppose it lasts about 12 minutes, and it goes through and represents very clearly my love of different textures and of harmony. Also dissonance, and yet melody together.
That's an interesting combination! That's challenging, I would think sometimes, to combine...
It comes naturally to me!
I see.
I suppose this is partly my training, early training when I was at university, much in the Second Viennese School. Now, I don't write like that now! But I haven't turned my back on the way of thinking of that music, which is to embrace everything, embrace the sound, and I love this music! But I also love the idea of music sounding spontaneous and free! And yet, using discipline and instinct to give it shape.
You want it all!
Yes, I do! I really do! But I feel very lucky that some of my contemporaries, when they were learning composition, I felt they were stifled by their training. For me, I was a little kid; I just found my own way of communicating without railing too much against what I now look back and see as quite a limited approach to music. So a piece like The Girl In My Alphabet has influences of jazz, but also it seems to me there's some Stockhausen in it and also soul music. Everything is in that piece! But I love that piece because it is so full of energy and life, and song.
What a coincidence! I interviewed a South African composer last week who told me about his Stockhausen Project!
They played Mantra in South Africa to introduce composers there to modern music.
So I'm interested to hear you raise the issue of that personality again, Stockhausen!
Yes, when I started music, there was very much an idea of if you wanted to be a composer, you had to write in a certain way! So when I was growing up, people like Stockhausen, Boulez, they were the people you would look up to. Now my music is actually nothing like theirs, but it doesn't mean I don't respect them. I feel as if music has come very far since those days, and I'm so pleased that I'm able to write in such a free way!

Dr. William Chapman Nyaho, Pianist of Ghanaian Heritage, Born in Washington, D.C. Dec. 28, 1958

[ASA: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent; William Chapman Nyaho, piano; MSR Classics MS1242 (2008)]

Dr. William Chapman Nyaho (b. 1958) was born in Washington, D.C. While still an infant ,he was taken by his parents to their native Ghana, where they raised him. Following his music education, he settled in the United States. His biographical profile can be found at and at In addition to his tireless teaching, including residencies, Dr. Nyaho has made unique contributions to the world of music in the form of two solo CDs which survey Composers of African descent from many countries, Senku and Asa, both on the MSR Classics label. The more recent of the discs is Asa, which has received high praise from music publications, including MusicWeb-International, which has said: “There’s a vast variety of styles and sounds here, many taking the European model as a starting point but each work quickly takes its own path in a most fascinating way.”

Dr. William Chapman Nyaho has also compiled and edited a landmark five-volume anthology Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora. The music is organized by skill level, from beginning to advanced. The series is published by Oxford University Press, and is readily available. Dr. Nyaho has also made a CD as part of the Nyaho/Garcia Duo. His Duo partner is Dr. Susanna Garcia. The Duo's CD Aaron Copland: Music for Two Pianos is a 1998 Centaur disc which has been released as a Download by

February 2011 Performances:
Feb 13, 2011
Wolfeboro Friends of Music Concert Series
Wolfeboro, NH

Feb 16, 2011
12:10 pm
National Gallery of Art Concerts, National Gallery of Art, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW,
Washington, DC

Feb 19, 2011
7:30 pm
Azusa Pacific University, Warren Music Center 901 E. Alosta Ave.
Azusa, CA

Feb 24, 2011
February 24-26th 2011 Speakers and Artists Series, Whitworth University
Spokane, WA

Gregory Walker: Violin Soloist in ALL Barber Concert of Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra Nov. 12 & 13, 2010

[Boulder Chamber Orchestra Presents ALL Barber Nov. 12 & 13. Rossini: Overture to The Barber of Seville; Barber: Knoxville Summer; Barber: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra; Gregory Walker, violin; Szilvia Schranz, soprano; Bahman Saless, conductor.]

As we reported on Dec. 15, 2010, Violinist Gregory Walker was violin soloist on one of NPR's top five contemporary classical CDs of the year: George Walker, Great American Orchestral Music, Vol. 2; Gregory Walker, violin; Andrzej Krzyzanowski, solo flute; Sinfonia Varsovia; Ian Hobson, conductor; Albany Records Troy 1178 (2010). Gregory Walker has updated us on some of his recent activities. The first is the ALL Barber Concert of November 12 & 13, 2010:

Faculty Bio
"Gregory Walker, Violinist And Multimedia Guitarist
'...excellent soloist...' The New York Times
Professor Gregory T.S. Walker graduated from Indiana University with a B.S. in Music and English with Honors before performing solo synthesizer concerts throughout California under the auspices of the U.C. Touring Artist program and obtaining a Masters degree in Computer Music from the University of California at San Diego. He premiered his Concerto No. 1 for Orchestra and Synthesizer with the Oakland Sinfonietta and earned a second Masters in Composition from Mills College, then completed a Doctorate in Musical Composition at the University of Colorado in 1992.
"Since his marathon performance of Bruch’s Kol Nidre, an original arrangement of Ora No Omboko, and his own Bad Rap for Violin and Chamber Orchestra with the Colorado Symphony on a borrowed Stradivarius in 1996, Walker has been featured with American orchestras such as the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Breckenridge Festival Orchestra, the Ft. Collins Symphony, the Yaquina Chamber Orchestra, the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, and abroad at Great Britain’s Lake District Music Festival, Cuba’s Encuentro Musical de los Americas, and the Spoleto Festival in Italy.

"Concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Dr. Walker is equally at home on acoustic and electric instruments having recorded Kaleidoscope: The Music of African American Women with pianist Helen Walker-Hill and appeared with pop star Lyle Lovett. Albums available on CRI, Orion, Leonarda, and Albany labels feature the 'silky violin tone and beautifully calibrated phrasing' described by the Newark Star-Ledger."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dr. Gary Burgess, Prof. Emeritus, Dir. of Bermuda Philharmonic, wrote 'Dawn of a New Day' & 'The Bermuda Symphony'

[Dr. Gary Burgess]

School for the Performing Arts
Dr. Gary Burgess – Artistic Director
Dr. Gary Burgess has been a professional musician for the past 40 years. He has performed as an opera singer on several continents, and in most of the major opera houses in the world. Dr. Burgess was a Professor of Voice and Opera at the State University of New York at Buffalo for 23 years. As the Director of the Opera Department he conducted and staged more than sixty productions. Dr. Burgess is a Professor Emeritus of the State University of New York in Buffalo. Since returning to Bermuda in 1998 he has held the position of Musical Director of the Bermuda Philharmonic Society and Program Coordinator with the Department of Cultural Affairs. In January 2003 Dr. Burgess received the National Opera Association Legacy Award for his contribution to music and opera.

“Gary Burgess made his American debut as a tenor in 1973 with the San Francisco Opera Company singing seven roles in the same season, in productions including Die Zaubeflöte, L’Incornazione di Poppea, La Boheme, Electra, Pique Dame and Boris Godunov. Debuts followed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Philadelphia Opera, Houston Opera, and many other companies in the United States. In 1973 he also made his European debut with the Greek National Opera, singing the leading tenor roles in The Rake’s Progress, the Rape of Lucretia and Ariadne auf Naxos.

“On first retiring in 1998, he returned to Bermuda to take a post with the Ministry of Culture as Programme Director and Musical Director of the Bermuda Philharmonic Society and during this time Dr. Burgess wrote and premiered two symphonies for the Bermuda Philharmonic Orchestra - Dawn of a New Day, and The Bermuda Symphony, based on the discovery of Bermuda. He also founded and directed the Boys Choir at the Bermuda Cathedral for six years until he retired for the second time. Always one to encourage singers both old and young, Gary provided voice lessons to many of Bermuda’s up and coming singers.

“Never one to retire 'permanently', in 2008 Gary was enlisted by the Chinese Government to be one of the directors to open the new Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, directing Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. He returned again in the fall of the same year to be part of an esteemed panel of international judges for the Ningbo International Vocal Competition.

Errollyn Wallen, 1: 'Before I could really say I knew much about music, I was making up pieces for the class to play.'

[The Girl In My Alphabet; Errollyn Wallen: composer, piano and voice; Avie 49 (2004) (70:00)] Errollyn Wallen adds: "This is actually a chamber music CD (A portrait disc) which contains The Girl In My Alphabet which is for two pianos. So it's eponymous."

AfriClassical has written of Errollyn Wallen in the past, and has posted a vocal holiday message from the composer, pianist and singer, called peace on earth. We arranged to interview Errollyn Wallen on Dec. 24, 2010 while she was in New York preparing for the Jan. 22, 2011 performance of her song The Girl In My Alphabet as part of Marc Peloquin's KeyedUp MusicProject. Errollyn Wallen adds: "Am not in New York for the concert." This is the first in a series of posts based on the interview, which we found very thought-provoking:

Good morning, Errollyn! This is Bill Zick calling. How are you?
Very well, thank you! Where are you in the States?
Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Oh right, great!
I know that you have been to the U.S. previously, performing...
Including on the West Coast?
Yes, I have.
At what point in your life did you begin taking part in music?
Well I think, like so many small children, it just grew naturally out of singing, playing, dancing. When I was about five, we were sent to dance school which included ballet, tap and stage dancing. I just know I was always singing and dancing, but also when I was nine I started piano lessons formally.
I see.
We had a very good school teacher who actually taught our class how to read and write music, and encouraged us to compose music. Before I could really say I knew much about music, I was making up pieces for the class to play. But also, I would make up songs my sister and I sang going to school. We sang the same song every day, timed so that we would get to school by the end of it!
I see.
It was a natural part of my life, and that's the attitude I still have today. The only way I can really make music is to just let it come out really. It's pretty much a constant stream!
You mentioned a sister, and I believe you also have a brother Byron Wallen who is a performer?
Yes, he's a wonderful trumpeter, and he works internationally. My father is a wonderful singer, so there's been music in my family pretty much.
Are you from Belize City in Belize?
That's right.
Did you have very many role models other than this teacher?
No, I've always been pretty much independent. To be honest, I was composing, I didn't even know I was much good at music. It was only when I started to do things like go on courses or go away from home that people started to say that I was any good. It was just something that I absolutely enjoyed, and so I would just do it. But composing was pretty much also right there at the beginning. I had no idea that it was a profession you could take part in. To me, composing meant dead white men stuck in a frame on a wall somewhere!
I see, tradition!
Yes! When I think back on it, people were often putting me off from it. From being a young child I loved the sound of classical music and I remember other people would put me off, saying “It's not for a little girl like you.” I couldn't understand it! It was just something I loved and I went toward...
Did you have a chance to attend concerts?
Yes, I did actually. I remember going to a concert with my uncle. He took me to a concert while I was quite young, 11, 12 or something. And then that seemed strange to me to be sitting in a hall very quietly listening to it very carefully, but I loved the sound of the piano. My mother had lived in the States and they would send recordings, the stories of classical musicians. I listened to those avidly! What I would do is, I would listen to what the piano teacher played at ballet class, and I loved that music. So then I would come home and try and find it on the radio. That's how I discovered our classical music radio station in the U.K. which is called BBC Radio 3. I would listen to that all the time, pretty much...
Were you able to receive that when you were in Belize?
Oh no, no! I moved to London when I was 2!
Oh, okay, I'm sorry!
I'm really pretty much an English national now. I've lived most of my life in the U.K., I went to school there. There were periods of time in the States, but all my education has been in the United Kingdom.

Sunday, December 26, 2010 'E. Power Biggs Plays Maple Leaf Rag On The Pedal Harpsichord (3:19)'

[E. Power Biggs Plays Scott Joplin On The Pedal Harpsichord; Columbia (1973)]

1. Original Rags;
2. Maple Leaf Rag;
3. Peacherine Rag;
4. Elite Syncopations;
5. Cleopha;
6. The Easy Winners;
7. Pine Apple Rag;
8. Binks' Waltz;
9. The Strenuous Life;
10. Sunflower Slow Drag
[Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was a Ragtime and Classical composer and pianist of African descent who is profiled at]

Nathaniel Dett Chorale Releases 3rd CD, 'Nguzo Saba,' With 'Nguzo Saba Suite, Op. 41' by Glen Edward Burleigh

[Nguzo Saba; The Nathaniel Dett Chorale (2010)]

Nguzo Saba, the higly anticipated third recording from The Nathaniel Dett Chorale is a beautiful blend of classical, gospel and jazz. Joined by guest artists Joe Sealy, Paul Novotny, Joy Brown and Larnell Lewis, the Chorale performs an exquisite collection of repertoire from the African diaspora.

Track Listings

Nguzo Saba Suite, Op. 41 ~ Glen Edward Burleigh

1. Umoja
2. Kujichagulia
3. Ujima
4. Ujamaa
5. Nia
6. Kuumba
7. Imani – Finale
8. St. Martin de Porres ~ Mary Lou Williams
9. Elijah ~ Mary Lou Williams
10. River of Dreams ~ Joe Sealy
[The Nathaniel Dett Chorale is named for R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943), whose complete works have been compiled in a Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma which is featured at]