Thursday, August 30, 2007

Justin Elie, Haitian Composer, Born Sept. 1, 1883

According to a column by W.E.B. Du Bois in the January, 1916 issue of Crisis, the magazine of the N. A. A. C. P., the Haitian composer Justin Elie was born at Port-au-Prince on September 1, 1883. The column, as reproduced in Africana Encyclopedia, went on to say:

"At the age of five years he showed a passion for music. His parents took him to France and put him in the celebrated institution of Sainte Croix. He was prepared for the Conservatory of Paris by the great pianist, Marmontel, and passed a brilliant entrance examination in 1903.

He graduated in 1905 and has since been in concert work in Paris and in the West Indies. He has written several compositions, notable among them is Aphrodite. Monsieur Elie is expected in the United States soon."

Three short pieces by Justin Elie were recorded by Jean E. Saint-Eloi on a MIDI-guitar on IFA Music Records 256 (1999): Chant De La Montagne #1, Isma-o! (1:55); Chant De La Montagne #2, Nostalgie (2:17); and Legende Creole (4:10). The CD may be ordered, and an audio sample of Chant De La Montagne #1, Isma-o! may be heard, at:

The liner notes are by the guitarist, Jean E. Saint-Eloi, and begin with an overview of Haitian classical music. Other Haitian composers represented on the CD are Occide Jeanty (1860-1936), Solon Verret and Ludovic Lamothe (1882-1953). Each is profiled at Saint-Eloi estimates that Haiti has produced about 60 classical composers.

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