Sunday, February 3, 2013

Althea Waites CD 'Celebration' Features American Composers Curt Cacioppo, Duke Ellington, Jeremiah Evans, Margaret Meier & John W. Work

Althea Waites: Celebration, Music of American Composers, Kuumba Music (2012)

John W. Work, III

Jeremiah Evans (b. 1978)

The Definitive Duke Ellington
Sony 61444 (2000)

CELEBRATION: Music of American Composers is the latest recording of the pianist Althea Waites, whose website is  The pianist tells us “With the exception of Duke Ellington, the composers who are featured on the recording are not well known, but it was my intention to promote their work with this album.” A customer review at by “Retired Scientist” gives the recording 5 stars, the top rating, and explains: “Althea Waites is to be commended not only for an expressive and listenable performance, but also for showcasing several composers I had never heard of. And the most familiar name among them, Duke Ellington, is represented by an unfamiliar offering -- a beautiful lyrical song that almost floats along. The multi-page commentary on the works and composers is a great addition, a big help for this listener's appreciation, at least.”

We interviewed Althea Waites a year ago. On January 22, 2012 AfriClassical posted: Althea Waites Interview Covers Feb. 4 Recital in Long Beach and Forthcoming Cambria CD,'Celebrations.' It was one of the most intellectually engaging and stimulating interviews we have ever done, with a free-flowing exchange of ideas. We found ourselves enjoying repeated hearings of the music on the program.  The composer Duke Ellington (1899-1974) is also featured at

Scuppernong (1951) John W. Work (1901-1967)
The work has three movements:
1. At A Certain Church

2. Ring Game
3. Visitor From town

The liner notes relate: 
Scuppernong was composed in 1951, and has been described as an eloquent portrait of country life in the river bottoms of North Carolina. The first movement, “At A Certain Church,” begins with the sound of bells calling the people of the village to worship. The church service opens with a traditional hymn, I'm Bound For The Promised Land, and concludes with a majestic re-statement of the opening phrase of the hymn. The second movement, “Ring Game,” depicts circle dancing by the congregation with the accompaniment of a traditional folk rhyme. The final movement, “Visitor From town,” announces the arrival of a mysterious stranger with compelling harmony in a minor key, followed by an abrupt departure with syncopated rhythms in the low register of the piano. Natalie Hinderas recorded Scuppernong on CRI 629 (1992), with liner notes by Dominique-René de Lerma, “Scuppernong, both a variety of grape and the name of a South Carolina river, is the title of Work's three-movement suite from 1951.”

John W. Work was born into a musical family in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and achieved national and international recognition while serving as chair of the Department of Music at Fisk University. He also directed the world-renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers during the 1950s-60s, and taught courses in music education and theory from 1946-56.

Romantic Passacaglia on a Twelve-Tone Theme (1992) Margaret Meier (b. 1936)
“In 1972, I entered a competition to write an a cappella vocalise that used contemporary idioms. I sought to create a theme that would appeal to singers who were comfortable performing art songs of the Romantic period, but would stretch their ears and imaginations by using a twelve-tone row.”

The Single Petal of a Rose (1959) Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899-1974)
The Single Petal of a Rose was the end result of a collaboration between Ellington and the late Billy Strayhorn, acclaimed composer, arranger, and pianist. It was specifically designated as a lyrical ballad for solo piano within a larger work, The Queen's Suite, which was written for and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II of England.

Philadelphia Diary (2008) Curt Cacioppo (b. 1951)
“I. Under the Treaty Elm – In July of 1682, William Penn and Tamanend of the Unami band of Lenape met under a resplendent elm tree on the site now known as Penn's Labnding to execute a god will treaty btween their two peoples.

II. Old Swedes – The historic church was founded by Swedish immigrants in 1698.

III. Strawbridge Observatory – Strawbridge Observatory stands on the grounds of Haverford College and has been the working place of my colleague, Bruce Partridge, for many decades.

IV. Masonic Temple – This piece is full of secrets and symbols.

V. Boathouse Row – Here we are driving west on the Schuykill admiring the boathouses alon the opposite bank.” - Note by the composer.

Curt Cacioppo is a composer whose expressive power and emotional appeal continue to captivate listeners and performers worldwide. A person of great human feeling, he derives inspiration from sources as diverse as the medieval poetry of Dante, aspects of Native American culture, or the vernacular American music he grew up with.

Metropolitan Express (2007) Jeremiah Evans (b. 1978)
Metropolitan Express is inspired by my love of city living. Completed in the summer of 2007, this short work is designed as a vehicle that navigates the pianist and the audience through a musical exploration of contrasting urban soundscapes. The music is also inspired by the cosmopolitan vibe, architecture, and ever-changing landscapes of downtown Dallas, Texas.

Metropolitan Express opens quietly at a distance and unfolds into an improvisatory style that is reminiscent of a jazz ballad. The next section, marked 'agitated,' is a driving toccata-like tour de force. After a surge of jagged rhythms across the keys, the music drifts into an ethereal meditation that encompasses every register of the keyboard. After a brief return to the agitated toccata rhythms, the music then gives way to a dramatic and virtuosic conclusion.

The work is dedicated to concert pianist Althea Waites for her continuous support of music by African-American composers.” - note by the composer

Jeremiah Evans is a native of Dallas, Texas, and began playing the piano by ear at an early age. He was taught to read music by a relative who was also a well-known church organist, and received his formal training in elementary school while playing trumpet and euphonium in the band. After graduating from Booker t. Washington High School for the Visual/Performing Arts in 1996, Evans continued his studies at Texas Tech University as a piano performance major. He is also the recipient of several awards from piano competitions, and has performed at music festivals and workshops including the Tanglewood Institute at Boston University, the Round Top International Music Festival, and the Juilliard School in New York City.

He has studied piano with David Karp and William Westney, and composition with Mary Jeanne van Appledorn. Evans is also a member of the National Association of Composers/USA.

Fantasy-Choruses on “This Little Light of Mine” (1999) Curt Cacioppo (Recorded live April 29, 2007 at the Cole Conservatory of Music)
Fantasy-Choruses on “This Little Light of Mine” is the last piece in a cycle of Three American Fantasies. Its format is decidedly different from the othe two, in that the gospel tune is not heard in its entirety until the piece is about nine minutes underway. As the reversal of terms in the title indicates, the piece consists of an introductory fantasy followed by a series of choruses on 'This Little Light of Mine.' The reflection of Beethoven's strategy in the Choral Fantasy, Opujs 80, is a conscious one, minus the orchestral and choral resources, of course.
This piece was finished in 1999 and is dedicated to Althea Waites, whose CD, Black Diamonds, fueled its inspiration.” - note by the composer

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