Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hale Smith, Innovative Composer of Classical Music & Jazz, Was Born June 29, 1925

[Hale Smith]

It has been less than two years since Hale Smith passed away on November 24, 2009 after a lengthy illness. Hale Smith was an African American composer, arranger, editor and professor of music. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio on June 29, 1925 and is featured at Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music at Lawrence University, has compiled a comprehensive Works List and has generously made it available to, along with his research entry on the life and career of the composer. Prof. De Lerma's website is:

Marilyn Harris is a former student whose Hale Smith Tribute is at Paul Horsley wrote the liner notes for the CD Music of Hale Smith, CRI 860 (2000). Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma summarizes Hale Smith's youthful musical activities: “Hale Smith began the study of piano at age 7, and regularly attended the children’s concerts of the Cleveland Orchestra in his hometown. He soon began to develop a library of scores and learned aspects of printing from his father.” Paul Horsley writes in his liner notes: “His early training on the piano began at age seven, and his initial performance experience included both classical and jazz music.”

We learn from the research entry that in his high school years Hale Smith played jazz piano with several friends and was already doing some composing. Marilyn Harris notes that the young Hale Smith provided piano accompaniment for jazz singers during their performances. Prof. De Lerma writes that Smith began his music education shortly after completing his military service, during which he arranged and performed music: “Following two years in military service (1943-1945), when he served as arranger and played double bass and piano, he entered the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1946 (B.M., 1950; M.M., 1952), working with Ward Lewis and in particular with Marcel Dick.”

We learn from Paul Horsley that Hale Smith married Juanita Hancock in 1948, and the couple had four children. Prof. De Lerma adds: “He was already winner in 1952 of the first student composition competition sponsored by BMI; and his song cycle, The valley wind, had been praised by Wallingford Riegger.” Paul Horsley adds that it was Smith's composition Five Songs which won him the BMI Student Composer Award.
Cleveland's Karamu House was the venue for the first recital devoted entirely to the works of Hale Smith, in May 1955. In 1958 Smith left his home town of Cleveland and moved to New York, where he began working in the music publishing business. Two years later, Marilyn Harris tells us, Hale Smith received a commission from BMI for the work Contours for Orchestra. Hale Smith taught at C.W. Post College on Long Island until 1970. From 1970-84 he was Professor of Music at the University of Connecticut-Storrs. Marilyn Harris tells of warm personal recollections of that period.

Hale Smith's compositions for orchestra and chorus have often been influenced by jazz or have used serial techniques. In addition to Contours for Orchestra, Harris notes, he composed:
Ritual and Incantation
By Yearning and By Beautiful
Music for Harp and Orchestra
Orchestral Set
Mediations in Passage

Patrick D. McCoy: 'Thomas Young and Susan Eichorn Young recovering' from auto accident

[Thomas Young]

Patrick D. McCoy sends an update on operatic tenor Thomas Young,, formerly of 'Three Mo' Tenors':

Thomas Young and Susan Eichorn Young recovering according to Facebook page dedicated to them:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

T.W. Holley: “He or BMC can't put the students on the 'consumer's hot seat' when daring to make visionary programming decisions.”

[Prof. Timothy W. Holley]

The Brevard Music Center is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in North Carolina. Its current season runs from June 24 to August 7, 2011. On June 15, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “I would like to respectfully urge the Brevard Music Center to program a significant number of works by Black composers.”

Prof. Timothy W. Holley, a cellist and Professor of Music at North Carolina Central University, sends the latest comment:

“While the letter from Bruce Murray voices the best of educational intentions, I'm not convinced that he really gets the point. He or BMC can't put the students on the 'consumer's hot seat' when daring to make visionary programming decisions. Either they see the need to broaden their students horizons and dare to do it...or they are merely perpetuating the pre-Civil Rights Movement white folks' stance of a benignly ignorant neglect of the African-American contribution to the concert music tradition...please take note of the fact that I didn't refer to it as the 'Classical' tradition. I hope that BMC doesn't wish to do that.

Let the agitation continue!! Thanks.
Tim Holley

YouTube: 'Kobayashi/Gray Duo performing Florence Price's The Deserted Garden'

[ABOVE: Florence B. Price BELOW: Feminissimo; Albany Troy1081 (2008) (71:48)]

“Live performance of the Kobayashi/Gray Duo performing Florence Price's The Deserted Garden for Violin and Piano.

The video was posted June 27, 2011. A recorded performance of this work by Laura Kobayashi, violin, and Susan Keith Gray, piano, is found on the CD pictured above, Feminissimo: Women Playing Music By Women. It was released by Albany Records on Troy1081 in 2008. The liner notes say of the composer:

“She wrote more than 300 compositions, but her works remain largely unpublished. Deserted Garden reflects a vocal, spiritual style. It was published by Theodore Presser in 1933.”

Florence Beatrice Smith Price (1887-1953) is profiled at, where a complete Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,, is featured. She was the first African American woman to compose a symphony which was performed by a major orchestra.

'the audience became spellbound with Mr. Ayers' exceptionally warm, lyrical and incredibly passionate cello playing.'

[Cello Soloist Nathaniel Ayers performs with Afro-American Chamber Music Society Orchestra under direction of Janise White, Conductor]

On June 17 AfriClassical posted a concert announcement at the request of Prof. Janise White of West Los Angeles College: “Afro-American Chamber Music Society: 'An Evening With Nathaniel Ayers' 4pm June 25, Smyrna SDA Church, L.A.”

AfriClassical has received this review of the performance from Prof. White:

“Mr. Nathaniel Ayers was the featured soloist with the Afro-American Chamber Music Society Orchestra conducted by Professor Janise White on a program of Black Symphonists on Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm at the Smyrna Seventh-day Adventist Church located at 4394 West Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. The orchestra played music chronicling the development of the Black symphonists from the 1500's to the present. During Mr. Ayers' performance, of The Swan by Camille Saint-Saens and Summerland (Three Visions) by William Grant Still, the audience became spellbound with Mr. Ayers' exceptionally warm, lyrical and incredible passionate cello playing. There was such complete silence during this performance that someone had to shout bravo to break the spell!

“The Concert opened with two riveting masterpieces, 'Danse Negre' by the British Symphonist, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor followed by 'Sinfonia in D' by French Symphonist, Le Chevalier de Saint- Georges which the orchestra played brilliantly! Other works on the program, 'The Hippocratic Oath' composed by Stephen James Taylor received a spectacular performance by three outstanding Sopranos, Dr. Eleanor Ferguson Marshalleck, Carol Wooten and Gertrude Bradley who performed with poignant integrity. This work was originally composed for his sister, Dr. Caroly Taylor-Olson and two other medical school graduates' voice recital. Stephen James Taylor says 'My style is 21st century eclectic, drawing from the classical free atonality of the 20th century as well as other broad ranging traditions.'

“Janise White premiered, a symphonic poem on 'Swing Low' for orchestra which brought the audience to their feet. The Bass from the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers, Ralph Pettiford nobly sang 'I Could Do Anything' from the musical 'Transfigured Blues' by composer/conductor Milton Williams with immense power and emotional depth. The concert was supported in part by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. If you missed the performance, go to the links of the Afro-American Chamber Music Society for future events: and [Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) and William Grant Still (1895-1978) are profiled at]

Monday, June 27, 2011

Timothy W. Holley: “Nketia's 'Antubam' for cello and piano 'is a lovely plaintive melody whose style recalls Gabriel Faure'”

[J.H. Kwabena Nketia]

Cellist Prof. Timothy W. Holley is on the Department of Music Faculty of North Carolina Central University. He is active in studying and performing concert music of composers of African descent. The Ghanaian composer and musicologist Prof. J. H. Kwabena Nketia turned 90 years of age on June 22, 2011, as noted in recent posts on AfriClassical. Prof. Timothy W. Holley comments on the 90th Birthday of Prof. Nketia:

I have a work of Nketia's for cello and piano, 'Antubam' that I've performed several times over the past few years. It is a lovely plaintive melody whose style recalls Gabriel Faure and a mixture of influences that I'm still discovering!! Happiest of birthday wishes to JHKN!!"

Patrick D. McCoy: Angela M. Brown drops in on 'The African-American Voice in Classical Music' June 30 at 12 PM (EDT)

[Angela M. Brown]

The Opera Diva Series

Internationally Acclaimed Opera Star

Opera Royalty, Our Aida Angela M. Brown drops in on
"The African-American Voice in Classical Music"
Patrick D. McCoy

Triumphing at the Metropolitan Opera
as Ethiopian Princess Aida
and reaching new audiences with
her "Opera from A Sista's Point of View."
Ms. Brown chats about her career,
interests and recent marriage in Paris.

Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 12 PM (EDT)

Haitian-American Pianist Jonathan Paul Cambry in 'Sonatasia For America' June 28, 7:30 PM Newport Beach, CA

[Jonathan Cambry]

Jonathan Paul Cambry is a founder of Sonatasia, which blends classical piano with modern architecture, and has an event scheduled for June 28 at the Baker Residence, 341 Evening Canyon Road, Newport Beach, California 92625.

Jonathan Paul Cambry (b.1982) is a Haitian-American, classically trained pianist from the southside of Chicago. He has been playing piano since the age of 3, studying with David Andrews of the Suzuki-Orff School for 15 years. He is currently one of the most viewed and most subscribed classical pianists on YouTube to date, with over 2.5 million views and almost 6,000 subscribers. He has posted over 50 music videos of himself playing the works of Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Liszt, Ravel and other composers.

Join Sonatasia for private performance at a spectacular modern home in Newport Beach. Our program includes music by Chopin, Liszt, Puccini, Rachmaninoff, Jay Unger, Cole Porter, and more. There will be music for America in honor of Independence Day. All within a beautiful architectural setting. Sonatasia is more than a performance, it is a thrilling experience of music, song, dance, and drama in a beautiful intimate setting, where the action takes place all around you! There is no stage, the stage is everywhere and the house becomes a theater.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 7:30 pm

A Tribute to the New World

Celebrate the Birth of Our Nation with Sonatasia
At a Spectacular Modern Home in Newport Beach

Pianist Jonathan Paul Cambry
Soprano Karrah O'Daniel
Violinist Lacy Rostyak
Guitarist Bob Millspaugh
Axxiom Dancers with Joei Waldron

All Profits will Benefit Free Wheelchair Mission

2011 Portland International Piano Festival: Lara Downes 7:30 pm July 14, 10:45 am July 15

[Lara Downes]

This year's theme at the Portland International Piano Festival is American Music. Pianist Lara Downes will present a work for which prominent composers such as Jennifer Higdon and William Bolcom were commissioned to reimagine the Goldberg Variations of J.S. Bach. A CD will be released in October 2011.

Events featuring Lara Downes
Friday, July 15 10:45 am: 13 Ways of Looking at the Goldbergs
Thursday, July 14 7:30 pm: Barber, Copland & Gershwin

13 Ways of Looking at the Goldbergs
Lara Downes discusses and performs works from her new multimedia piece, a set of 12 variations based on Bach's iconic Aria from the Goldberg Variations. Featuring a group of renowned composers, the project was commissioned by the Irving S. Gilmore Keyboard Festival. Downes' recording of 13 Ways of Looking at the Goldbergs will be released in October 2011.

Lara Downes
"A unique blend of musicianship and showmanship" - NPR
A captivating presence both on and offstage, critically acclaimed Steinway Concert Artist, Lara Downes, is redefining the solo recital format with visionary, cutting-edge performances at prestigious concert venues worldwide. Lauded by NPR as “a delightful artist with a unique blend of musicianship and showmanship” and praised by the Washington Post for her stunning performances “rendered with drama and nuance,” Lara presents the piano repertoire, from iconic favorites to newly commissioned works, in new ways that bridge musical tastes, genres and audiences.

Fred Onovwerosuoke to George Walker: 'On behalf of our board and staff at African Musical Arts, Inc., I wish you well'

[George Walker: Great American Orchestral Music, Vol. 2; Albany Records Troy 1178 (2010)]

Dr. Fred Onovwerosuoke of African Musical Arts, Inc. sends birthday greetings to composer and pianist Dr. George Walker, born June 27, 1922:

Dear George,

Greetings from here in Baltimore where we've just capped the 2011 Roots Festival ( with a melange of African healing chants, Gospel music and American folk. On behalf of our board and staff at African Musical Arts, Inc., I wish you well and many more years of success and your wisdom. Much peace and joy to you on this day,


Sunday, June 26, 2011

NANM: George Walker, Composer and Pianist Born June 27, 1922, Has Had 'Extraordinary Career'

[George Walker: Great American Orchestral Music, Vol. 2; Albany Records Troy 1178 (2010)]

Reverberations, a publication of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc., published an article on February 11, 2010 which provides an excellent overview of the long and productive career of the composer and pianist George Walker, who is profiled at and has a personal website,

“NANM Salutes George Theophilus Walker by Marilyn Thompson”
“The extraordinary career of Dr. George Walker (b. 1922) has been filled with many 'firsts.' After graduating from Oberlin Conservatory at age 18 with highest honors, he matriculated at Curtis Institute, studying piano with Rudolph Serkin, chamber music with William Primrose and Gregor Piatigorsky, and composition with Rosario Scalero, teacher of Samuel Barber. In 1945, he became the first African American to graduate from Curtis, receiving Artist Diplomas in piano and composition.

“Mr. Walker was presented in a Town Hall debut recital, becoming the first African American instrumentalist to perform there. He won the Philadelphia Youth Auditions, and played Rachmaninoff’’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Philadelphia Orchestra, under Eugene Ormandy, becoming the first black to perform with that orchestra. The second movement of his Lyric for Strings has become the most frequently performed orchestral work by a living American composer. Mr. Walker became the first artist of color to be signed by a major management firm, the National Concert Artists.

“In 1956, Mr. Walker completed doctoral studies at the Eastman School of Music, becoming the first black graduate of that institution. He was also the first recipient of color of the John Hay Whitney Fellowship in 1957, when he also received a Fulbright Fellowship. He spent two years in Paris, studying composition with Nadia Boulanger.

“Dr. Walker is the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Price in Music, for his work, Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra, premiered by the Boston Symphony, with Seiji Ozawa, conducting. He has recently completed his autobiography, Reminiscences of an American Composer and Pianist (The Scarecrow Press, 2009, ISBN: 0810869403). This book should be part of the library of any serious musician. Dr. Walker shares remembrances of his remarkable life and career.”

Comment by email:
Best regards. Thanks very much, Bill. George 'Joplin was one of the greatest and most original talents the USA has ever produced.'

[Dancing to a Black Man's Tune; Susan Curtis; University of Missouri (2004) (Photo:]

The author refers to Susan Curtis as a Joplin specialist. She is author of Dancing To A Black Man's Tune: A Life of Scott Joplin, which has been favorably reviewed by book critics. quotes Publishers Weekly: “Aiming at a scholarly audience, Curtis, who teaches American history at Purdue, offers a thoughtful and intriguing study of the life and world of ragtime creator Scott Joplin (1868-1917).” also quotes a review by Dan Bogey in Library Journal: “This scholarly work, concerned with race, society, and culture, is recommended for serious music collections.”
by John Sarkis
“Scott Joplin - An American Icon.... If you read an article which discussed a 19th Century composer who wrote operas, ballet, and piano music. Whom do you think was being talked about? Unless you were musically very savvy, you might think the article was referring to a European composer, possibly Nordic (German, English, Danish, Scandinavian, etc), or perhaps Russian - yes, maybe Russian. ...Moreover, you’d most likely think the composer was Caucasian. - Well, guess again: Scott Joplin was not only an African American composer, but he was born in 1867, shortly after the USA Civil War, which was a time of great turmoil for the African People’s in America.”

“Joplin was one of the greatest and most original talents the USA has ever produced. He was the greatest master of Ragtime - his piano composition 'Maple Leaf Rag,' written in 1899, became the status quo for Ragtime music.” “Nevertheless, the 1973 Academy Award winning movie The Sting revived some of Joplin’s music again by featuring some of his most famous music, which included his piano solo composition “The Entertainer.” Shortly afterwards, his opera Treemonisha was produced in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously given a Pulitzer Prize for his great contribution to American music.

"Joplin was born in 1867, although for many years it had been widely accepted that he was born in 1868. He was born into a musical family, so his musical education came early on. He showed great aptitude for the piano, but Joplin was also taught how to play the violin and the banjo. Joplin’s parent’s separated when he was about 12 years old. Susan Curtis, a Joplin scholar, concluded that the separation may have stemmed from his parents having a difference of opinion about Joplin’s musical career. Joplin’s father felt his son should do hard labor, whereas his mother was decided on her son pursuing a musical career....” [Scott Joplin was a Ragtime and Classical composer and pianist of African descent who is profiled at]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Patrick D. McCoy: Thomas Young, formerly of 'Three Mo' Tenors,' in serious condition after auto accident

[Thomas Young]

Patrick D. McCoy tells AfriClassical:

"Operatic tenor Thomas Young, formerly of 'Three Mo' Tenors' and his wife Susan Eichorn Young were in a horrific automobile accident this week. Sources say that they are in stable, but serious condition."

YouTube: 'Leo Brouwer: Cuando tuve, yo te tuve - Entrevoces, Havana, Cuba' Chamber Choir Competition June 12, 2011

[Leo Brouwer; Entrevoces]

Entrevoces is a 20-voice choir from Havana, Cuba. This video is a live performance of Leo Brouwer's Cuando tuve, yo te tuve (2:58) in Germany on June 12, 2011:

“12th International Chamber Choir Competition Marktoberdorf, Germany,; June 10-15, 2011; Live recording; This is a service of Choral Festival Network; Competition Round 2, June 12"
“Ever since 1989, connoisseurs of the international choral scene have met every two years in Marktoberdorf to attend one of the most famous chamber choir competitions in the world. In the ten events which have been held to date, more than 160 choirs from 36 countries have demonstrated in exciting competitions and outstanding concerts the very best of choral music to be heard in the world today. Choral experts and the concert public are unanimous in their praise and enthusiasm: 'Many thanks for allowing this to happen and for working so hard to keep this competition on this very high artistic level.' (Maria Guinand, jury member from Venezuela).” [The Afro-Cuban composer, guitarist and conductor Leo Brouwer (b. 1939) is profiled at]

Friday, June 24, 2011

Trent Johnson's 'Concertante for Organ and String Quartet' will be premiered July 4, 8 PM, Morristown, NJ

The composer, organist and conductor Trent Johnson sends exciting news of the July 4 premiere of his Concertante for Organ and String Quartet, commissioned by the Convention for Regions I and II of the American Guild of Organists:

Dear Mr. Zick,
I wanted to let you know about an upcoming premiere of a new work of mine. The American Guild of Organists is having their Convention for Regions I and II (NJ, NY, Boston and parts north) in Morristown, NJ from July 3-6. As part of the recitals, concerts, workshops, and exhibits there will be a concert for organ and instruments.

I feel very honored that the convention commissioned me to write a new work for organ and string quartet. The work, Concertante for Organ and String Quartet, is in 3 movements and is about 12 minutes in length. The performers will be the Shanghai String Quartet, and organist Dr. Marilyn Keiser from Indiana University. The concert will take place on July 4 from 8-9:30pm at Morristown United Methodist Church, 50 South Park Place, Morristown, NJ 07960. Tickets are $15 at the door. Thank you.
Trent Johnson

Patrick D. McCoy: 'The Heritage Signature Chorale celebrates 11 years with Music of Majesty'

[Heritage Signature Chorale; Stanley J. Thurston]

Patrick D. McCoy tells AfriClassical:

REVIEW: The Heritage Signature Chorale celebrates 11 years with Music of Majesty

Dear Mr. Zick,

The Heritage Signature Chorale and Orchestra performed before a capacity audience at Washington, D. C.'s famed National City Christian Church. Stanley J. Thurston has done a remarkable job with this ensemble. Also, I received a thoughtful email from Dr. De Lerma enlightening me that Thurston was a student of his at Morgan. Thurston spoke very fondly of him when I mentioned that after the concert. This group is one that truly deserves to have an international performance platform. 'Sphinx Organization Serves Up Colorful Taste of Diverse Young Classical Music Talent'

[Violinist Randall Goosby Performs at Carnegie Hall]

June 23, 2011
“The emerging new face of classical music was on display Tuesday evening when gifted 14-year-old violinist Randall Goosby, one of the talented young laureates of the Sphinx Organization, performed at the Bloomberg Tower in Midtown. The riveting performance served as a prelude for the Organization’s upcoming annual showcase of Virtuosi of Color at Carnegie Hall on October 12. The high-profile event will be hosted by Vanessa Williams and serve as a celebration of Sphinx’s incredibly successful 15-year-track record of engaging and providing opportunities in the world of classical music for young and talented kids in the Black and Latin-American communities.

“The organization was founded in 1996 by Aaron Dworkin, an African-American violinist, in an effort to overcome the cultural stereotype of classical music in minority communities, and encourage minority participation and enjoyment of it.” “Mr. Dworkin, who was recently nominated to be a member of the President’s National Council on the Arts, is himself a virtuoso violinist who was motivated to found the organization based on his own difficulties finding entrance and acceptance in the world of classical music.

“Sure I felt resistance, he said, “I was aware that I was the only person who looked like me in my immediate experience. But I had a great mentor (Vladimir Graffman). I studied at Peabody (MA) Prep. I wanted other kids of color to have similar opportunities.” So he did something about it…when he was still a kid.” “A decade-and-a-half later, Sphinx is a testimony to his commitment to opening doors to kids of color to classical music…not only as performers, but as fans. [Aaron Dworkin (b. 1970) is profiled at and has a personal website,]

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cape May County Herald: Philadelphia Boys Choir sings Duke Ellington & Scott Joplin June 25, Ocean City, NJ

[Philadelphia Boys Choir (Photo credit:]

Ocean City New Jersey(June 25)
“The World Renowned Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale, America’s Ambassadors of Song, return to St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, 8th and Central Ave., on Sat., June 25. Doors open for general seating at 6:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. Concert. For tickets call St. Peters at 609-399-2988. Admission is $10 or six for $50 if ordered early. Price is $15 at the door. Children under 12 are free.

“The Choir is directed by Jeffrey Smith who will lead the singers through an entertaining array of songs. They will perform popular music such as I’ll Be There by the Jacksons… A Duke Ellington medley, Ragtime Dance by Scott Joplin and Messages by Bobby McFerrin are all included in a program that ranges from classical, pop and ragtime to jazz, spirituals and gospel music. [Duke Ellington (1899-1974) and Scott Joplin (1868-1917) are profiled at]

“Toot That Flute Tour” presented by Cheryl Lynne Skinner

[Cheryl Lynne Skinner; Watercolor CD (2001)]

Composer Cheryl Lynne Skinner,
who also plays the flute,
sends this news to

Louisville, KY---Not to be missed!

Cheryl Lynne Skinner

will be featuring contemporary flute music
in several unique and intimate venues
in the Louisville area on the
"Toot That Flute Tour"
during the month of July 2011.
Skinner a triple threat performing
on keyboard, flute and vocals
presents an inspirational program
of contemporary


(music unleashed from soul experience).
Skinner's compositions defy classification
as she combines a myriad of styles,
including Jazz, R&B, Latin-American,
African and Classical to achieve
her unique smoother inspirational
contemporary sound. For more
information please visit the Marquee Section:

Elinez Music
P.O. Box 4773
Louisville, KY 40204

Comment by email:
Thanks so much Bill for the shout out on the blog "Africlassical" I like that. Peace, Cheryl

Barbara Wright-Pryor: “I remember Edward Kennedy 'Duke' Ellington (April 29, 1899-May 24, 1974) with great love and affection.”

[The Irving Bunton Singers (Photo from Duke Ellington's 1963 musical revue My People provided by Barbara Wright-Pryor, President, Chicago Music Association)]

The life and career of Duke Ellington (1899-1974) are featured at This is Part 3 of the commemoration by Barbara Wright-Pryor of Duke Ellington's 1963 musical revue My People:

In 1963, Robert Morris was a young undergraduate music major at DePaul University's School of Music and a member of the Irving Bunton Singers. Duke appointed him arranger for all of the choral music for My People.

The Irving Bunton Singers were Duke's hand-picked chorus for the 1963 production which included Alvin Ailey and his Dance Company, the Talley Beatty Dancers, and briefly, the Arthur Mitchell Dance Company. Mr. Bunton, a pianist and conductor par excellence, was Duke's choral director for that production and subsequently became Supervisor of Music for the Chicago Public Schools.

I remember Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899-May 24, 1974) with great love and affection. He was indeed a "genius beyond compare" and America's most prolific composer with an oeuvre of more than 3000 compositions. His autobiography, Music is My Mistress, is yet available at online book stores.

Prof. J. H. Kwabena Nketia, Ghanaian Composer and Musicologist, is 90

[Prof. J. H. Kwabena Nketia]

Fred Onovwerosuoke, Ph.D. of African Musical Arts, Inc. sends AfriClassical this announcement:

June 22, 2011

Dear friends,
Professor J. H. Kwabena Nketia turned 90 years young today. Please join me in wishing him a Happy Birthday. A few days ago on the phone from Ghana while discussing some of his works, I couldn't help but be so profoundly grateful that for decades we've had the wisdom of this sage within our ears and minds. Over here in St Louis at the magnificent Powell Symphony Hall, we had a two-day celebration, of sort, with a historical 'event', the full announcement of which will be shared much later. Happy birthday, Prof. Nketia!


Fredomusic, Inc.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Forfar Dispatch: Scotland's Tayside Symphony Orchestra in 'Afro-American Symphony' of William Grant Still, Sept. 24

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

The Tayside Symphony in Scotland will include the Afro-American Symphony of William Grant Still in a special choral and instrumental concert on September 24, 2011:

Forfar Dispatch
Wednesday 22 June 2011
TAYSIDE Symphony Orchestra is hoping to resurrect the TSO Chorus of 2000 for a special concert in the Reid Hall, Forfar later this year. They are calling on local singers to come forward with the view to forming the chorus which will perform Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and a selection of vocal pieces by Eric Whitacre on Saturday, September 24.”

“Applications and enquiries should be made to the two musical directors – Mary Veal (choral director)...or Ron Walker (orchestra)...” “Ron explained: 'We had a TSO Chorus for the millennium when we had 1100 people in the Caird Hall, Dundee. Since then a lot of people have asked if we would do it again so we are appealing for singers to come forward to enable us to plan for the concert.

“'The evening will also include a performance by the orchestra of Gershwin’s Cuban Overture and the Afro-American Symphony by William Grant Still. He was the first native American to have his music played in the Carnegie Hall in New York.'

“It is hoped around 100 singers will come forward to make up the TSO Chorus, with the millennium group attracting singers from all over Angus, Fife and Aberdeenshire. Rehearsals will start on Tuesday, August 16 in St Margaret’s Church, Forfar at 7.30 pm, running for six weeks in the run-up to the concert.” [William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, where a complete Works Lists by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma is featured.]

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Barbara Wright-Pryor: "'Duke' never penned the libretto for 'My People' on paper, but...I remembered it from 'curtain to curtain.'"

[ABOVE: Drummer Louis Bellson, bassist Joe Benjamin and saxophone Harold Ashby BELOW: Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and vocalist Lil Greenwood (Photos from 1963 musical revue My People provided by Barbara Wright-Pryor, President, Chicago Music Association)]

Duke Ellington (1899-1974) was an American jazz and classical composer who is profiled at On June 21, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “Barbara Wright-Pryor: in 1998 'I was privileged to...restage his 1963 musical revue, “My People”' with Mercedes Ellington.” Here is Part 2 of our post on Barbara Wright-Pryor's recollection, in which the first paragraph is repeated:

In May, 1998, twenty-four years after his death, I was privileged to re-create, produce and restage his 1963 musical revue, My People, at Chicago's New Regal Theater with his granddaughter Mercedes Ellington as stage director and choreographer, and Dr. Robert L. Morris, founder/conductor the Leigh Morris Chorale of Minneapolis, MN, as choral director for the 16th International Duke Ellington Conference that was held in Chicago.

"Duke" never penned the libretto for My People on paper, but as a wide-eyed young chorus member of the Irving Bunton Singers, I remembered it from "curtain to curtain." The process of re-creating the libretto for "My People" took eleven months.

Duke composed My People for Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation Centennial Celebration "A Century of Negro Progress Exposition" and the elaborate production ran from August 16 to September 2, 1963 in the Arie Crown Theater at Chicago's McCormick Place. Some photos from the production are posted on my Facebook Wall.

Barbara Wright-Pryor: in 1998 “I was privileged to...restage his 1963 musical revue, 'My People'” with Mercedes Ellington

[“A Century of Negro Progress Exposition, McCormick Place, Chicago, Ill., August 16th – September 2nd, 1963. Duke Ellington's My People was written for the occasion. Photo from Barbara Wright-Pryor, President, Chicago Music Association]

On June 17, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “Barbara Wright-Pryor: 'I was Duke Ellington's choral director for the 1968 Sacred Concert held in Chicago's Auditorium Theater.'” Barbara Wright-Pryor responds to the post with a fascinating look at My People, another historic concert in which she was involved with Duke Ellington (1899-1974), who is profiled at Today we present Part 1 of her story:

“Dear Bill,
Thank you so much for including my "Duke Ellington experience" in AfriClassical. Working with "The Duke" was certainly one of the greatest highlights of my life and I had that privilege twice, which was more than I could have ever dreamed. I have several precious mementoes of the Sacred Concert experience and also the final Christmas card Duke sent to relatives, friends and colleagues in April, 1974, shortly after he learned his death was imminent and he wouldn't be around for Christmas, 1974.

During the final stages of his bout with lung cancer, Duke was hospitalized at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC and had a keyboard in his room on which he continued to compose and play daily until too ill to do so. His "sax man," Paul Golsalves died during that time (May 14, 1974) and the news was kept from him due to his critical condition.

In May, 1998, twenty-four years after his death, I was privileged to re-create, produce and restage his 1963 musical revue, My People, at Chicago's New Regal Theater with his granddaughter Mercedes Ellington as stage director and choreographer, and Dr. Robert L. Morris, founder/conductor the Leigh Morris Chorale of Minneapolis, MN, as choral director for the 16th International Duke Ellington Conference that was held in Chicago.

Soprano Leona Mitchell drops in on Patrick D. McCoy, 'The African American Voice in Classical Music'

[Leona Mitchell]

Patrick D. McCoy tells AfriClassical:


Legendary Metropolitan Opera Soprano

drops in on

"The African-American Voice in Classical Music"

Patrick D. McCoy speaks with Ms. Mitchell
about her only New York City appearance
this weekend with the Metro Chamber Orchestra.
Mitchell will also discuss her celebrated
18 seasons with the Metropolitan Opera.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 4 PM (EDT)

Monday, June 20, 2011

American Composers Alliance: 'The Music of H. Leslie Adams, a visit with the composer in person at Oberlin Conservatory, May 28'

[Composer H. Leslie Adams (left) with Choral Conductor James John]

AfriClassical wrote that “The Music of H. Leslie Adams” would be presented by the composer personally at Kulas Hall, Oberlin Conservatory on Saturday, May 28 at 2 PM. The appearance was also announced by the American Composers Alliance, which listed some of his works:

“Two all-Adams CDs, have become especially popular. 'Love Rejoices: Songs of H. Leslie Adams' features the internationally-known tenor Darryl Taylor. It was chosen as one of the ten best recordings of the year by American Record Guide, and is now in its second printing. The composer's 'Twenty-six Etudes for Piano' was recorded in part (12) by the brilliant pianist, Maria Corley. 'Nightsongs' a collection of songs by H. Leslie Adams, on poetry by African-American poets, is one of ACA's most popular sheet music collections, year after year.” The composer's website is: [H. Leslie Adams (b. 1932) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory]

J. S. Mzilikazi Khumalo, South African Composer Born June 20, 1932, Gave Momentum to Opera in South Africa

[J. S. Mzilikazi Khumalo (b. 1932)]

The South African Composer, Arranger & Choral Director J. S. Mzilikazi Khumalo is also a Professor Emeritus of African Languages. He was born June 20, 1932 and is profiled at

SAMRO, the Southern African Music Rights Organization, maintains a comprehensive biography which is the primary source for this page. It begins with the composer's birth in 1932 on a Salvation Army farm: “James Stephen Mzilikazi Khumalo was born on 20 June 1932 on the Salvation Army farm, KwaNgwelu (known as Mountain View in English), in the Vryheid district of Natal, South Africa, where his parents were being trained as Salvation Army ministers.”
A detailed interview with Prof. Mzilikazi Khumalo is found at the SAMRO website:

On June 8, 2011 AfriClassical posted a recent review of Winnie the Opera which speaks of the importance of an opera of Mzilikazi Khumalo in establishing a specifically African operatic idiom:

“Winnie a triumph in African style
Beeld newspaper (English translation from Afrikaans)
Pretoria 1/5/2011
By Thys Odendaal
Winnie (Ndodana-Breen)
State Theatre (opera), Pretoria
“The African style opera gained momentum in the early 1990’s with Roelof Temmingh and Michael Williams’ Enoch, Prophet of God; the most successful thus far was Mzilikazi Khumalo’s Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu from Opera Africa which was performed just after the centenary in Durban, at Speir near Stellenbosch and in Gauteng. These operas and already a small group of others, have established a specific African idiom and this genre finds resonance in Bongani Ndodana-Breen’s opera Winnie which had a triumphant premiere in Pretoria on Thursday."

Comment by email:
Thanks for all that you do for African classical music! Bongani Ndodana-Breen

Dominique-René de Lerma: "I wonder what might be the story if 'Troubled island', as an example, had secured its proper place"

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

Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, whose website is, is a leading Musicologist who has specialized in Composers of African Descent for four decades. He is principal advisor to, and compiled the comprehensive Works List for William Grant Still (1895-1978) which is featured at the website. He adds his thoughts to the discussion about William Grant Still and the music of George Gershwin:

“Had Black singers ever rejected being cast in Porgy and Bess the work might never have been performed, but it also has to be admitted that many of these might have had less of a career. I don't suggest that P&B sucked out all the oxygen, yet I wonder what might be the story if Troubled island, as an example, had secured its proper place in the repertoire. It might yet; it certainly deserves a major production -- and this might be forthcoming (see Judy Still's words below) [Prior Post]!

“Still's just concern for an appropriate representation of Black dignity reminds me of a comment Joe Eubanks made when he was about to take a year off from the faculty at Morgan for the Radio City production: He said very correctly that P&B was not at all within in him, that he was much more the king in Verdi's Don Carlo. He did, of course, accept the gig, just as he had done when the show toured Europe (with Leontyne Price and Bill Warfield).

"Elizabeth Greenfield, Sisserietta Jones, and Marian Anderson were lucky never to have been cast in the work. Can we picture Roland Hayes as Sportin' Life? This is not to say that I do not regard P&B as a major work. How might WGS have reacted to the rappers?"

Comments by email:

Randye Jones [Soprano and Researcher with website on Black Classical Vocal Music,]
Greetings! I posted the forwarded noticed to the Facebook group on African American Art Song that Darryl Taylor runs and was stunned at the huge amount of discussion it generated, over 50 posts the last time I looked. My perspective without reading a convincing argument for such a boycott is to take a different tactic: to encourage colleagues to explore every option available to purchase, perform, and study works by African American composers. However, I also can't help but hope that these works become more readily available and not limited to one, or no, source. Randye

Judith Anne Still
The best argument for not doing Gershwin is that many a Black composer in Harlem died in poverty because good-old-George stole his music, while Gershwin made millions from his thefts. Then, PORGY is demeaning and unflattering, and it is now in the public domain, yet the Gershwin estate still takes money from people for performances. Lastly, a performer who does PORGY is dealing with stolen property. My beef is that Still's operas are not performed because PORGY is always done "instead of."

Prof. Janise White: 'You have created an international network for artistes. Great job!'

[Janise White]

On June 17 AfriClassical posted a concert announcement at the request of Prof. Janise White of West Los Angeles College: “Afro-American Chamber Music Society: 'An Evening With Nathaniel Ayers' 4pm June 25, Smyrna SDA Church, L.A.”

AfriClassical is pleased to receive this compliment from Prof. Janise White:

Thanks for maintaining this essential website. You have created an international network for artistes. Great job!
Prof. Janise White

Prof. Phyllis Lewis-Hale: 'I really appreciate your interest and your work.'

[Phyllis Lewis-Hale (Jackson State University)]

On June 11, 2011 AfriClassical posted an excerpt from an article on Prof. Phyllis Lewis-Hale of Jackson State University: "Jackson Free Press: 'Phyllis Lewis-Hale keeps classical opera alive in Jackson.'” In The Jackson Free Press, Valerie Wells said Phyllis Lewis-Hale is:
“an applied voice instructor and director of JSU's Opera Workshop Program.”

AfriClassical has received a gracious response from Phyllis Lewis-Hale:

Dear Bill Zick,
Thank you for this wonderful article. I really appreciate your interest and your work.
Phyllis Lewis-Hale

Judith Anne Still: 'I have found a speech that my father made to the Allied Arts in Sept. 1955, in which he advocated a boycott of PORGY'

[My Life, My Words: The Autobiography of William Grant Still, American Master Composer; With additional material by Judith Anne Still; The Master-Player Library, Flagstaff, Arizona (2011)]

Judith Anne Still, the daughter of William Grant Still, sends this commentary:

“I have found a speech that my father made to the Allied Arts in Sept. 1955, in which he advocated a boycott of PORGY by audiences, because it portrays Negroes in a stereotypical manner. Boycotts have always worked in the fight for racial justice. He says it is true that Gershwin gives jobs to a good many Colored artists, but Gershwin will cease to be presented if people of color will not come to see and hear him, and 'if a strong enough protest is made by enough well-thinking Colored people, those artists will get other jobs, and better ones.' Further, 'When the people in power know that Colored people as a whole are standing back of those who are truly worthy, they will act accordingly and we will see real progress made.' This is a good point. Not only should Gershwin not be performed by people who believe in racial justice, but also opera goers should not attend performances of his music. As our friend said, 'It is a betrayal of ourselves.'

“I have to add that we have, rather miraculously in the last few days, 3 offers to do the operas of William Grant Still. The coincidence of this, coming as it does on the heels of this discussion, suggests to me that there will be jobs for African-Americans in operas by Still, and very soon. Integrity, strength of purpose, and a concern for truth will be required by all of us.” [Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma has compiled a complete list of the compositions of William Grant Still (1895-1978); it is featured at]

City Wire: Fort Smith Symphony records first 'cycle of the complete symphonies by Arkansan William Grant Still (1895-1978)'

[“William Grant Still (1895 – 1978); Symphony No. 5 Western Hemisphere (1945, rev. 1970) [19:37]; Poem for Orchestra (1944) [10:27]; Symphony No. 4 Autochthonous (1947) [26:15]; Fort Smith Symphony/John Jeter”; World Première Recordings; Naxos American Classics 8.559603 [56:24]]

Today we present excerpts from a guest commentary contributed to The City Wire by Maestro John Jeter of the Fort Smith Symphony in Fort Smith, Arkansas:

The City Wire
Fort Smith Region
June 19, 2011
Guest commentary by John Jeter
“Founded in 1923, the Fort Smith Symphony is the oldest orchestra in Arkansas. In recent years it has become a fully professional level city/regional orchestra with a roster of more than 100 paid musicians from 7 states and a full-time staff of 4.”

“The Symphony offers a number of free educational programs including Earquake!TM and Symphony-in-the-Schools. Now beginning its ninth year, Earquake!TM is an award-winning multi-media series of concerts featuring full-symphony orchestra, live video projection, dance, audience participation and exciting young guest soloists. We call it EARquake!TM because most of the music is loud and fast and 'assaults' the ears (in a good way!) like a seismic event or earthquake. These concerts are performed for more than 2,600 sixth grade students throughout the River Valley and Eastern Oklahoma.

“The Symphony provides study guides to participating schools to help prepare students for this music education experience. The concerts are free events for participation schools and are built into the music curriculum of many of the public school systems in our region. These are standing room only and are free due to the extremely generous support of many businesses and patrons in our region. One of the many positive outcomes of Earquake!TM is a significant increase in participation of students in the school music programs in our area. Many teachers and students have mentioned Earquake!TM as an influence in their decision to join a school music ensemble.”

“Other Symphony educational activities include a guest artist in the schools program, music director in the schools program and specific educational activities organized around specific concerts such as the recent visit of composer William Grant Still’s daughter to Fort Smith. The Fort Smith Symphony recently completed the first ever recorded cycle of the complete symphonies by Arkansan William Grant Still (1895-1978). The 3 CD’s/downloads were recorded by Naxos, the world's largest classical label and will be for sale worldwide. This is a significant accomplishment for an orchestra based in a community our size. The first two CD/download releases sold well in the U.S. and internationally, and continue to be broadcast on classical music stations from Los Angeles to London.” [William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, where a complete Works Lists by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma is featured.]