Saturday, May 27, 2017

2017 Concert Video Available; AACI Records Cambria CD in Summer 2017; Jodi Gandolfi at Artsong Alliance; Planning Underway for 2018 With Your Help

African American Composer Initiative

We have lots of news to share with you.

2017 concert video now available
Links to Video from our 2017 Concert series are now posted on the AACI website, including the complete concert video. Click on individual song titles in the program to see the video on YouTube.
AACI records Cambria CD in summer of 2017
Our second CD will feature compositions by Valerie Capers, John Robinson, Joshua McGhee, and Regina Baiocchi.  You may purchase our first CD of Zenobia Powell Perry piano music from this link.

Jodi Gandolfi attends African American Artsong Alliance Conference
In early February AACI co-founder Jodi Gandolfi attended the African American Artsong Alliance conference, organized by Dr. Darryl Taylor, at University of California-Irvine: four illuminating days of concerts, lectures, films, and discussions. The Alliance has shared these offerings on video:
Planning underway for 2018 with your help
We need your help for the next concert series on January 27 & 28, 2018. Since all concert proceeds benefit Eastside College Preparatory School, we count on your donations to produce the concerts and commission new music. Please visit our SFFCM donation page.

Thank you so much for your support!
LaDoris Cordell, Jodi Gandolfi, Deanne Tucker and all the musicians of AACI

For more information on the African American Composer Initiative, please visit:
AACI is a fiscally sponsored affiliate of San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the service of chamber music in California.
Copyright © 2017 African American Composer Initiative, All rights reserved.

Eric Conway of Morgan State University Choir: Day 3 in Madrid - Museo Del Prado, Royal Palace, and our first concert! What a profound reaction to our music!


Dr. Eric Conway of the Morgan State University Choir writes:

Day 3 in Madrid:

After a better night’s sleep, we woke up refreshed and ready for our first concert of the tour!  I was surprised to see one of my Fine and Performing Arts faculty members at my hotel lobby in the morning, Ismael Carrillo.  He teaches Graphic Design at Morgan.  Ismael is originally from a small town near Barcelona, Spain and arranged to return to his homeland during our tour hoping to connect with us while in Spain.  We invited him to stay with us to possibly be of assistance in giving additional background during our tour.

We left our hotel at 9:30 AM for a tour of one of the most famous museums in the world - Museo Nacional Del Prado.  We pre-arranged to get the tickets so that we did not have to stand in the long lines.  We could quickly see why El Prado is one of the most important repositories of art in the world.  We saw some the most famous works of art by Spanish masters as El Greco, Diego Velazquez, and Francesco de Goya.  

After El Prado, we returned to the area around the hotel for lunch on our own and prep for the evening’s concert.  Prior to our concert, we managed to fit in yet another tour, this time,  the Palacio Real (Royal Palace).  This palace is equivalent to our White House.  Although many of us have seen palaces before over the years, this was by far the most awesome in stature and beauty. This palace boast over four thousand rooms, easily could be compared to as a small city.  We only toured the first floor which took over and hour and a half to quickly see.

We then, hurried to the site of our first concert, Iglesias De Santa Teresa Y Santa Isabel.  This concert was partly shared with a local choir - the Gospel choir of the University of Central Madrid.  At 4:30 PM, we had a short rehearsal/exchange with this local choir.  We were received enthusiastically.  We planned to perform two pieces together as a finale for the concert.  We quickly rehearsed to perform the songs at the concert.

After the rehearsal, we drove to a group dinner, this time a Spanish buffet.  The buffet meal not very common in Spain, so we were surprised.  Many expected Spanish food to be spicy, like Mexican, but we could not be more wrong.  Spain has some of the greatest food in the world.  We had to be careful not to over-eat prior to our first concert of the tour.

One big thing that is different from American culture, is the timing of certain events.  Lunch typically begins around 1PM in Spain, ending around 4PM.  Dinner may not begin until after 8PM.  Likewise, concert times are often later than in the US.  Our concert was 8:45 PM!

We were a little concerned with the attendance for the concert. Our concert was free to the public at a very big church in the center of Madrid.  Often with large cities, there is so much choice regarding spending money on entertainment, that it can be difficult to get persons to commit to an event in a big city.  

Everyone was very pleased with the attendance, with as over four hundred persons came out to hear the Morgan State choir.  The format, was for the local choir to sing a few selections, and then for the Morgan choir to follow as the principal artist with an hour concert.  The concert finale was two joint gospel songs.  One could see the local choir sing our gospel music with every fiber of their being.

Our guide told us that he had been to this church many times of the years, but had never seen local Spaniards react as spiritually as he saw during our concert.  To quote our guide Kike Mantecon:  “ I have never seen my people have so much joy in a concert.  I have never seen them have such a party in Christ before!”  What a profound reaction to our music!  There were people laughing and crying in the audience.  After the concert, many did not want to leave the site.  Once again, Morgan made our mark on a culture, in a lasting way.  After the concert, both choirs shared beautiful moments together, praying that we would return to Madrid once again.  

Our concert tour has officially begun.  Tomorrow, we travel to the historic city of Toledo for another concert in Teatro de Rojas!


Eric Conway: We left our hotel at 9:30 AM to visit Segovia, best known for its amazing aqueduct system erected around the 1st and 2nd century A.D. by the Romans

Dr. Eric Conway of the Morgan State University Choir writes:

Day 2 in Spain,

After an exhausting Day 1 in Madrid, we had a much simpler Day 2.  We have been fortunate to have a rain-free forecast while in Madrid, the capital city in the center of Spain.  The temperatures in Madrid have been at least ten degrees warmer than is typical for this time of year.  Madrid is surprisingly near New York City in latitude.  We also found it interesting that the peak temperatures of the day were not near early afternoon, but near 5 or 6 PM in the evening.  With the warmer than normal temperatures, most did not sleep well due to our entire hotel being at a fixed 25 degrees C. (77 degrees F.) 
Madrid has a metropolitan population of approx. six million people out of a country population of forty-six million.  Given that Morgan’s mascot is the bear, we were intrigued with the official symbol of Madrid being a bear climbing a strawberry tree  called El Oso y El Madrono found in the square El Puerta del Sol. The bear represented the monarchy and the tree representing the people.

We also were fascinated with the country’s obsession with pork!  Our guide mentioned that historically, when the country was divided between Christian and Muslim religions, pork was a way of separating those who were Muslim (who did not eat pork) from Christians who did.  Spaniards would serve guests pork discovering their religious affiliation, possibly for religious persecution.    Even today, as a result of this practice, Spaniards will still offer pork to their guests for most occasions.

We left our hotel around 9:30 AM to visit Segovia, an hour and fifteen drive from Madrid.  This Spanish city is best known for its amazing aqueduct system erected around the 1st and 2nd century A.D.  This aqueduct is acknowledged as the the most important Roman civil engineering work in Spain.  We then visited the Alcazar of Segovia which was a favored royal palace of the monarchs of Spain. We also saw the beautiful Segovia cathedral, which is the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain.  After a group lunch and time on our own to explore the city, we returned to our Madrid hotel for an evening on our own to further recover from our long travel Day 1.  See photos attached from our day in Segovia!


HuffPost: Maria Thompson Corley, Liberal Christian mom, Juilliard-trained musician, writer, voice actor, and compulsive analyst

Maria Thompson Corley

Maria Thompson Corley is the mother of two brilliant teenagers—Kiana, an aspiring musician, and Malcolm, a visual artist who happens to be autistic. Maria has a DMA in piano performance from the Juilliard School. Her solo arrangements have been performed internationally, and one of her choral pieces was published by Walton. A regular contributor to Broad Street Review, Maria's first novel, Choices, was published by Kensington.

Comment by email:
You really do your homework, Bill! Thank you for the spotlight! Have a wonderful weekend, Maria [Maria Thompson Corley]

Friday, May 26, 2017

Paragon Ragtime Orchestra: The Scott Joplin Centennial Memorial Concert May 27 in Queens, New York 2:00 pm, Saturday St. Michael's Cemetery


May 27 in Queens, New York  2:00 pm

72-02 Astoria Blvd., East Elmhurst, NY 11370  
Telephone: 718-278-3240

Produced by noted Joplin biographer Edward A. Berlin

Please join the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and conductor Rick Benjamin as they mark the Centennial of the death of  SCOTT JOPLIN (c.1867-1917) with a special memorial concert performed just steps away from the composer's grave in historic St. Michael's Cemetery. Featuring Joplin favorites (and rarities) played from original 1900s scores, this will be a joyful, moving event bringing together Scott Joplin enthusiasts from around the world. Please come to pay your respects and celebrate the rich musical legacy of this great American artist. 


Trident Ensemble with Bass-Baritone Jonathan Woody Performs at St. Mary The Virgin, New York City, 7:30 PM Saturday, May 27, 2017



Jonathan Woody

Comment by email: 

Thank you so much, Bill. See you at the show! And if not, tune into our Facebook life stream. Best, Owen~ Owen McIntosh

Eric Conway: On this past Monday, May 22, 2017, the Morgan State University Choir left for our tour of Spain and Portugal

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

Hello Morgan State University Choir followers,

On this past Monday, May 22, 2017, the Morgan State University Choir left for our 2017 international tour.  This year we will tour the countries of Spain and Portugal. As is usual, the choir typically leaves a few days after the end of the semester and commencement.

On Saturday May 20th, Morgan held its sesquicentennial commencement exercises. As many as eleven choir members managed to complete their degrees this year! Congratulations to those graduates of which six are on this year's tour!  This year was especially exciting due to former Vice-President Joe Biden serving as the commencement speaker!  If commencement were not enough excitement for the day, the choir was asked to sing the national anthem at Maryland Day at the ballpark at Camden Yards!  Rather than have my choir members come back out after a long commencement ceremony, I arranged for one choir member to represent the choir - Cameron Potts - who represented well - see link below of his rendition!v

On Monday at 9AM, we left via Reagan National, and Boston Logan airports for Madrid, Spain.  For the first time in some time, all persons were accounted for and departed relatively on time, with no airline delays, or anyone losing their luggage.  It appears that every time we fly to a new destination, we fly on a new airline - this time on Iberia airlines, a Spanish airline.  Service was fine and we enthusiastically arrived to the Madrid airport.  After retrieving all of our bags, our coach bus was outside waiting for us.  Our adventure was about to begin!

After a long day of travel, we arrived in Madrid around 6:25 AM on Tuesday morning.  Given that we were not able to check into our hotel until 3PM, we had several hours to begin our exploration of the capital city of Spain.  Our local guide Kike Mantecon gave us a great overview of the city.  He dropped the group off at a local park for us to explore the beauty of Madrid. He then dropped us off at another point to eat lunch and explore by foot for several hours.

At 3PM we checked in to the local hotel, the Florida Norte Hotel.  Most immediately saw that this was a typical standard European hotel - with bidet and all!  Many were surprised to find that Europeans typically do not place washcloths in hotels. The beds were not stellar but we were hoping that we would be so tired as to care.  The major event of this first day was to attend a Spanish bull-fight! At 5:30 PM we left for the bull-fight arena.

Many were ambivalent about attending this iconic Spanish event.  Of course the major issue is that of animal cruelty! Given that most knew so very little about the Spanish bullfight, we believed that it would be instructive to actually see and understand Spanish culture first-hand, and have an informed position about this spectacle event. All but three attended the bullfight.  What did we learn?

We learned that thousands of Spaniards attend even on a week-night!  We believed that bullfights were an almost common everyday events, but that was not true.  Bull fights only occur a few months out of the year and then only a few times a month.  We were fortunate in a way to see a bullfight while we were in Madrid!

At best, the bullfight was a showing of courage, given that the bull could fatally gore the matador.  The Spanish crowd cheered as though it were a “fair" sporting event.  The entrance of the matadors and bulls were almost choreographed initially.  At times, we found ourselves connected to the matador as he managed to manipulate the bull.

At worst, given that this exercise was done purely for sport, our hearts were saddened as the assistants would spear the bull to slow him down, to somewhat even the odds & ultimately tip the scales in favor of the human being. Four out of the five bulls that we witnessed in this spectacle were killed in front of the crowd!  We were saddened seeing an animal killed like this purely for sport in front of our very eyes!

Afterwards, we learned that the bull is fed like a “king” for several months up to this fight.  After he is killed, his remains are sent to top restaurants because the bull is only range-fed for this entire life - which is more desirable for meat-eaters.  The other reality is most of the meat eaten around the world - animals are killed in slaughtered houses, living in conditions that are abominable.  At the end of the day - we were appalled because we were witness to what is done millions times over daily because we are at the top of the food chain!  Having said that, having experienced Spanish culture first-hand, I do not believe that any of us will ever attend a bullfight again!  See YouTube link below to the rated “G” portions of the bull fight - intriguing to say the least.

After the bullfight we had a Welcome group meal beginning at 9PM.  The meal was appropriately not too heavy at the end of the long day.  We ate typical Spanish food, which was quite tasty in my opinion. We all ran to our rooms for bed. What a full first day in Madrid Spain. See several photos of this first day attached.


New York Times: Barbara Smith Conrad, Singer at Center of Integration Dispute, Dies at 79

New York Times: Barbara Smith Conrad at her home in Manhattan in 2011. (Credit Robert Caplin for The New York Times)

Ms. Conrad as Amneris in the Cincinnati Opera’s production of “Aida” in 1976.  (Credit via University of Texas at Austin)

The New York Times

May 24, 2017

William Grimes

In spring 1957, two weeks before the opening of Henry Purcell’s opera “Dido and Aeneas” at the University of Texas at Austin, Barbara Smith, a 19-year-old mezzo-soprano, received some bad news. She would not be appearing as Dido, a role she had been rehearsing for months.
Ms. Smith was black. The singer cast as Aeneas was white. In the South, then emerging only slowly from strict segregation, this was a problem, even though the two principal characters do not kiss, embrace or even touch.
Joe Chapman, a Democrat in the State Legislature from Ms. Smith’s own district in the pine country of Northeast Texas, had taken the matter up with Logan Wilson, the university’s president. During their conversation, Mr. Chapman had told him that the opera’s casting might be bad publicity for the school, especially since the Legislature was preparing to vote on an appropriations bill.
Three days before the opera was scheduled to open, The Houston Post broke the story, under the headline “Negro Girl Out of UT Opera Cast.” The Daily Texan, the student newspaper, followed with an article the next day. Its reporter asked Mr. Chapman, a former Texas railroad commissioner, if he believed that the Legislature had the right to dictate policy to the university.
“There’s no question about it,” Mr. Chapman said.
In a statement, the university said that it had made the casting change “to ensure Miss Smith’s well-being and to squelch any possibility that her appearance would precipitate a cut in the university’s appropriations.”

More than 100 students rose in protest. Eight state legislators expressed indignation. A petition circulated, gathering 1,500 signatures. Mr. Chapman was hanged in effigy from a balcony in the State Capitol.

Ms. Smith tried to smooth matters over. “After the first shock and hurt had passed,” she told The Daily Texan, “I began to realize that the ultimate success of integration at the university is much more important than my appearance in the opera.”
As wire services and Time magazine picked up the story, national figures spoke out, including Sidney Poitier and Eleanor Roosevelt. The singer Harry Belafonte stepped forward, offering to pay for Ms. Smith’s musical education at any school in the world.

She chose to remain at Texas and, after earning her music degree in 1959, went on to a successful operatic career under the name Barbara Smith Conrad, appearing at major opera houses around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and performing in concert with leading symphony orchestras.
“My heart wanted to go to Fisk,” Ms. Conrad told The New York Times in 2011, referring to the historically black university in Nashville. “But you didn’t run away if your staying could make a difference — it could encourage other black kids. Mostly, it was a matter of pride.”
Ms. Conrad died on Monday in Edison, N.J. She was 79. The cause has not yet been determined, said Bettye Neal, a cousin. Ms. Conrad had advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
Barbara Louise Smith was born on Aug. 11, 1937, in Atlanta, Tex., south of Texarkana. Growing up, she divided her time between Queen City, where she attended school, and the family house in Center Point, an all-black town near Pittsburg, Tex., that had been founded by freed slaves, among them her forebears. It no longer exists.
Both her parents were college-educated teachers. Her mother was the former Jerrie Lee Cash. Her father, Conrad, served in the Army during World War II and the Korean War. When Barbara began her singing career and applied for an Actors Equity card, she took his name to avoid confusion with another Equity member with the same first, middle and last name.


Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law honors Congressman John Lewis at the 2017 A. Leon Higginbotham Corporate Leadership Award Dinner June 1, 2017

U.S. Rep. John Lewis

NEXT WEEK: Leading Civil Rights Organization To Honor Congressman John Lewis

Law Firms From Around The Country To Gather In New York To Recommit To Fight For Civil Rights At 2017 A. Leon Higginbotham Corporate Leadership Award Dinner

Next week, on Thursday, June 1, top leaders in the legal and corporate community will gather in New York to show their support in the fight for civil rights when the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law honors Congressman John Lewis at the 2017 A. Leon Higginbotham Corporate Leadership Award Dinner.  The Lawyers’ Committee, one of the country's leading civil rights organizations, will also honor Craig Menear, Chairman, CEO and President of The Home Depot, for his dedication to diversity and equal opportunity.

This year’s Higginbotham Gala comes at a moment when the voting rights and civil rights of millions of Americans are under attack.  The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law mobilizes one of the largest network of attorneys across the country who provide critical pro bono support in the fight to protect the civil rights of all Americans.  Last year alone, more than 200 law firms volunteered over 61,000 pro bono hours for a total of nearly $39 million in dedicated time to support the organization's work across the country.  The results of this tremendous effort include a recent victory in Texas in the Lawyers’ Committee’s long-standing challenge to the state’s discriminatory voter ID law, and am injunction to extend the voter registration deadline in Georgia’s special runoff Congressional election.

Award-winning actor, bestselling author, and national Lawyers’ Committee spokesman Hill Harper and acclaimed actor Laz Alsono will serve as emcee of this year’s Higginbotham Gala.


WHAT:          Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s A. Leon Higginbotham
Corporate Leadership Awards Dinner honoring Congressman John Lewis

WHEN:          Thursday, June 1, 2017
VIP reception and photos at 6:00PM 
Congressman John Lewis’s keynote speech expected around 8:30PM

WHERE:       Cipriani Wall Street, New York, N.Y. 10005

RSVP:          Media interested in covering the dinner should RSVP to Derrick Robinson at

Givonna Joseph: OperaCréole founder on NPR this Sunday at 9:41 AM, on NPR's Weekend Sunday Edition with Lulu Garcia-Navarro, 89.9 FM in New Orleans

Torres and Flamenca
 Here are some photos of Act I taken by an audience member:

Givonna Joseph writes:

Back row, left to right: Terrance Brown, Tyrone Hayes, Christian Patterson, Evan Hammond. Second row: Barry Robinson, Aria Mason, Givonna Joseph, Ebonee Davis. Front Row: Candace Bolden, Kenya Lawrence and son Wallace (Trey), Tyrone Chambers.
The journey of La Flamenca continues this Sunday! I will be interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR) at 9:41 am this Sunday morning, on NPR's Weekend Sunday Edition with Lulu Garcia-Navarro. The New Orleans radio channel is 89.9FM. 
Thank you all SO VERY MUCH!!
Givonna Joseph,
Founder and Director                                                                       
Opera Créole