Tuesday, August 5, 2014

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

features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, 

Marti Newland

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

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