William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at AfriClassical.com, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, http://www.CasaMusicaledeLerma.com.
Arizona Daily Sun
Charly Spining - Special to the Sun
January 18, 2015
The Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra will be breaking boundaries this Friday evening in a thematically constructed program that has become a trademark for FSO Artistic Director and Conductor Elizabeth Schulze.
The Flagstaff Symphony’s presentation of “Breaking Boundaries” takes place at Ardrey Memorial Auditorium on Friday, Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available at www.flagstaffsymphony.org and from NAU Central Ticketing at www.nau.edu/cto.
Schulze has programmed a “Festive Overture” by the esteemed, though often unrecognized, Afro-American composer William Grant Still, as well as a new work for piano and orchestra by Northern Arizona University professor of music theory and composition Bruce Reiprich.
The program is rounded out with a classic symphonic work drawn from more traditional orchestral repertoire, Beethoven’s Sixth “Pastoral” Symphony, considered to be groundbreaking and highly innovative when first introduced to the Viennese public just over two centuries ago.
William Grant Still, often called the “Dean” of Afro-American composers, was born in Mississippi in 1895 and died in Los Angeles in 1978. His long career was highlighted by many notable achievements, including international recognition as a composer of serious concert music, a conductor of major American orchestras, and the first Afro-American composer to have an opera performed by a notable opera company.
In 1944, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra sponsored a competition during its centennial jubilee celebration, and Still took first place with a “Festive Overture,” a spirited and effective eight-minute “opener” that typically combines the structure and characteristics of European models with melodic and rhythmic elements drawn from his own heritage.
Still’s daughter, Judith, has been a longtime resident of Flagstaff and has pursued a lifetime mission to preserve, archive, maintain copyrights, and encourage performance of the substantial musical legacy left by her father. In a recent conversation she reflected on the goals of her foundation “William Grant Still Music,” based here in Flagstaff. She also spoke of the overt racism that was a part of her family’s southern heritage, and the frustration in achieving adequate recognition and appreciation for the efforts of many minority creative artists, as much in the present day as in the past.
A secondary goal of the Still Music foundation is the future establishment of an educational program for schools, as one means of countering those attitudes of indifference and the general lack of awareness of her father’s significant contributions to the cultural heritage of this country. William Grant Still’s “Afro-American Symphony,” one of his better known works, was performed by the FSO a number of years ago.