[William Grant Still (1895-1978)
is profiled at AfriClassical.com, which features a
comprehensive Works List by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma,
John Malveaux of www.MusicUNTOLD.com
A fifty-first anniversary of William Grant Still one-act opera ‘Highway 1, USA’, http://www.operaamerica.org/applications/nawd/newworks/details.aspx?id=551, was presented by University of California Irvine, Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Department of Music on Saturday, May 31, 2014 at Winifred Smith Hall. The UCI vocal arts with UCI Symphony modeled the benefits of diversity in opera and demonstrated William Grant Still as a prolific American composer above any subcategory.
My unqualified estimate of the African American enrollment at UCI Department of Music is maybe 3%. During the orchestra’s tuning (approx 50 musicians) before the concert version of ‘Highway 1, USA’, I did not see a conspicuous person of African descent until conductor Dr. Stephen Tucker walked on stage.
I have a copy of the reduced piano version and a copy of the CD recording of the opera. The librettist is Verna Avery. The UCI student principal cast-singers were ‘Mary’-Melissa McCann, ‘Bob’-Stefan Miller, ‘Aunt Lou’-Jennifer Chen, ‘Nate’-Marcus Paige, and ‘The Sheriff’-Casden Simonson.‘Nate’-Marcus Paige was the only principal singer of African descent.
The story was not ethnic dependent and the casting was adeptly accomplished. Congratulations to the principal singers, Townspeople (chorus), Orchestra, Stephen Tucker-conductor, Darryl Taylor- artistic director, and Michael Geiger- chorus master