Thursday, August 7, 2014

Four Comments on "MELODEON: Soprano Marti Newland Sings William Grant Still's 'From the Hearts of Women' (10:56) on YouTube"

is profiled at AfriClassical.comwhich 
features a comprehensive Works List 
by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, 

Marti Newland (YouTube)

On August 5, 2014 AfriClassical posted: 

We repost it today with comments by Artis Wodehouse, Michael S. Wright and Judith Anne Still, the daughter of William Grant Still, who operates www.WilliamGrant

Artis Wodehouse

Published on Aug 4, 2014

Soprano Marti Newland performs live in concert William Grant Still's 1961 song cycle, "From the Hearts of Women" , words by his wife, Verna Arvey on June 1st, 2014 at Church of the Epiphany, NYC. This performance was part of a full concert presented by the performing group MELODEON. Newland is accompanied by pianist Artis Wodehouse.

Songs are as follows:
0:16 Little Mother
3:55 Midtide
6:51 Coquette
8:45 Bereft

William Grant Still (1895-1978), recognized as the dean of African-American composers, was given this unofficial title for his many achievements as a classical composer. Still is credited with being the first African American to compose a symphony which was performed by a major orchestra; first to conduct a major American orchestra; and first to have a complete opera produced by a major opera company. After his death in 1978, Still's home in Los Angeles, California was designated as one of the city's cultural monuments, and the William Grant Still Community Arts Center was named for the composer.
Still composed over twenty-five songs, and arranged at least fifteen Negro spirituals for solo voice and piano. These include three song cycles: Songs of Separation, From the Hearts of Women, and Rhapsody; and a collection entitled Twelve Negro Spirituals. Although he is regarded as an instrumental composer, close examination of Still's works reveals that he was a skillful art song composer.

Comments by email:
1) Bill - thanks once again for your support of African-American music, and of soprano Marti Newland! This was just one of the best videos we have done. Whitney Slaten, the videographer and sound recordist is Marti's husband, BTW. His editing is just so entirely musical.  Best, Artis Wodehouse

2) Good to hear about this. I still ask WHEN will someone really push recordings of this and other song-cycles by William Grant Still out to the world. Along with Songs of Separation and Rhapsody, these works are some of the most personal and heartfelt compositions by him. Whilst the presently stand in simple voice and piano format, I have felt for a long time that if they were sensitively arranged for ensemble or orchestral accompaniment, and sung by the right person, they could ‘go global’. At present, they are labelled as ‘art songs’ and will not even get heard by present-day audiences because of this. The songs are very powerful and soulful. In many respects, they have the ‘classic’ properties of similarly powerful songs performed (and sometimes also written) by  a few of the best popular artists such as Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, William (Smokey) Robinson, the late Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye and a few others. You will note that some of these performers have released albums that can truly be described as comprising song-cycles. I still believe that performed by the right person, a definitive recording of William Grant Still’s most underated song-cycles could captivate audiences. We just need ‘this someone special’ to step forward and make this a project.  [Michael S. Wright]

3) Hi, Mike, How are you doing?  Your comment is SO MUCH appreciated.  Of course, my father did arrange these two song cycles for instruments and voice, mezzo and high  soprano, so we have that ready if anyone comes forward. Thank you for your good ideas!  [Judith Anne Still]

4) Dear Michael,  Thanks for looking at our YouTube video. I'm glad to respond to your thoughts and hope you don't mind that I'm sharing my comments with Bill Zick and Judith Still.
I believe Marti Newland and I are doing our bit--and to the maximum of our present capacity--to have this music "heard by present-day audiences".  There is time spent setting up a venue and rehearsing the music.  A good videographer and sound recordist was essential for recording and editing what you see up on YouTube. All this activity--even for a YouTube video (which is available gratis world-wide)---involves an investment in time, energy and money.
As far as finding  the "right person" to perform William Grant Still's songs: Marti Newland is one of the most outstanding artists that I've had the pleasure to collaborate with.  Sincerely,  Artis Wodehouse

5) Dear Artis,  Thanks for your response.  My comments were related very much to the attitude of the recording industry, the media etc and NOT the performer. I do not think I expressed my view very clearly – probably a ‘senior moment’. Firstly, I have to say that yesterday I was not able to get the “you tube” recording to work – basically because our local broadband speed was running unusually slower than its normal slow pace. It would have been quicker to use morse code! Hopefully, this glitch will be sorted soon and I will indeed audition the you tube recording. The fact that the video is gratis to all also gives me some concerns that the musicians, whether performers or composers are not earning a penny – in fact they are spending pots of money with no reward. That cannot be right! I suspect that after I audition Marti Newland’s performance, I will be repeating the following question that I and others have asked many, many times before regarding the music of William Grant Still - and from a time long before we had ‘you tube’ or ‘itunes’ or even the internet as we know it.  ‘What can we do to remedy the ‘closed shop’ attitude of the recording industry where ‘cash is king’ and artistic value is of second importance!  Michael Wright  PS: I will try and ‘wind up’ you tube later today.

6) Dear Michael, Thanks for the clarification, and I'm certainly hoping you hear the performance:

It's out there for all to see as well as to hear, and indeed, it is for free. Material necessities for production aside, I realize that at this point, YouTube is the only reliable avenue available for dissemination of music. The whole mechanism of the music industry is in a free fall due to the explosion of the Internet. The Internet has blasted away the customary delivery systems--in place for better or for worse-- that has been relied upon for decades.

Having worked for over 10 years in the record industry, I see that the path from the creation of the musical work to it's performance, production and distribution is at a crossroads. 

We are in a difficult period, and yes, we should be seeking out new ways to keep artists up and running, materially, and have their work disseminated. But historically, that's really not something new.  Sincerely, Artis Wodehouse

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