Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stuart Isacoff Links to AfriClassical in The Wall Street Journal Online

Lessons From Beethoven and Life” by Stuart Isacoff appears in the Oct. 31 edition of The Wall Street Journal Online:

NEW YORK -- Beethoven is forever contemporary. In his own time, he pushed artistic boundaries so far that the formidable pianist and composer Muzio Clementi once asked him if he really considered a set of string quartets to be "music." "Oh," replied the indomitable composer casually, "they are not for you, but for a later age."

That story appears in Donald Grout's classic, "A History of Western Music." It has been told in several versions, but the theme rings true. Like Shakespeare, Beethoven continually opens a curtain on the modern soul: its struggles, dreams, and incongruities. Read full post

Following the column are two links:

Beethoven for Novices, posted Oct. 26 by Elaine Fine on Musical Assumptions,, which is on our Favorite Blogs list.

George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780-1860): Beethoven's Black Violinist, posted Oct. 29 on AfriClassical Blog. We thank Stuart Isacoff for the link.

Stuart+Isacoff" rel="tag">Stuart Isacoff
classical+music" rel="tag">classical music
Musical+Assumptions" rel="tag">Musical Assumptions
Beethoven's+Pianist" rel="tag">Beethoven's Pianist
Black+Pianist" rel="tag">Black Pianist
Kreutzer+Sonata" rel="tag">Kreutzer Sonata

Africa Matters: African Music to My Ears!

[Girma Yifrashewa: The Shepherd with the flute (2001)]

Sarah Pollak of writes today in her blog Africa Matters:

African Music to My Ears!

October 31, 2007

As I write this post, I am listening to a new classical composer favorite of mine. His name is Joseph Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges. He is the son of George de Bologne and Anne, a slave. Joseph's African heritage made him ineligible for nobility and titles under French law. But he rose above the social stigma to become a world renown composer of beautiful music.

I wouldn't have known any of this had I not come upon a special web site.

It's not often that I pass along recommendations for other web sites, but I've just got to pass this one on! The name of the web site is AfriClassical. It is GREAT! I've discovered some truly remarkable classical music that I didn't even know existed before. (And I consider myself a bit of a music buff!)

The gentleman who runs the site, Bill Zick, recently e-mailed me a link. He said...

For 7 years I have operated a website on African Heritage in Classical Music, with profiles of 52 composers and musicians of African descent, and over 100 audio samples.

In July I started a companion blog, I wish large numbers of Africans could learn of the classical music talent of Africans and people from Africa. The growing success of talented young musicians in particular proves the African potential in this music genre, and demonstrates the career possibilities for Africans in classical music.

One of his recent posts is about the Ugandan musician Ivan Kiwuwa , a virtuoso on both the piano and violin. He went on to write...

A handful of used pianos collected by Pianos for Uganda provided the instruments on which he learned to play. He was discovered in a master class by Maxim Vengerov, and found himself accompanying Vengerov on violin in Germany just 14 months after his first violin lesson.

The previous post covered the Nigerian pianist Glen Inanga, partner for 13 years in the Micallef/Inanga Piano Duo, with three successful recordings and endless appearances and concerts.

Other posts have focused on Ethiopian composer and pianist Girma Yifrashewa, Nigerian pianist and French cultural ambassador Sodi Braide, South African choral director Mokale Koapeng and the Soweto Nation Building Massed Choir Festival.

You've got to check out this site!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jason Heath's Double Bass Blog: Beethoven's black violinist

[Kreutzer Sonata, Op. 47; Raphael Wallfisch, cello; John York, piano; Yuko Inoue, viola; Cello Classics CC1014 (2005)]

We are grateful that Jason Heath's Double Bass Blog has published "Beethoven's black violinist - post from AfriClassical":

William J. Zick wrote an interesting post on his AfriClassical blog earlier this week, stating:

The rumor that Beethoven is Black just won't go away, in spite of the lack of any real evidence. What most people are unaware of is Beethoven's real relationship with the Black violinist George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780-1860).
Today I have posted the meticulously documented essay on his life by my principal adviser, Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University, who has specialized in Black composers and musicians for four decades.
Beethoven wrote his Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 9 in A Minor, Op. 47 to display the virtuoso talent of Bridgetower.
Beethoven rescinded his dedication to Bridgetower because of a personal disagreement prior to publication. It was also George Bridgetower who was accompanied on piano by Beethoven at the work's debut performance in 1803 at Vienna's Auergarten Theater.

Check out the complete post here.

George+Bridgetower" rel="tag">George Gridgetower
Beethoven+race" rel="tag">Beethoven race
classical+music" rel="tag">classical music
Black+Violinist" rel="tag">Black Violinist
Beethoven+Violinist" rel="tag">Beethoven Violinist
Beethoven+Dedication" rel="tag">Beethoven Dedication

Francis Johnson (1792-1844): African American Bugler, Band Leader & Composer

[The Music of Francis Johnson & His Contemporaries: Early 19th-Century Black Composers; Diane Monroe, Violin; The Chestnut Brass Company and Friends; Tamara Brooks, Conductor; Music Masters 7029-2-C (1990)]

Francis B. "Frank" Johnson was an African American bugler, bandleader and composer born in 1792. He is profiled in Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University has made his research on Johnson available to this Website. He begins:

Francis (or Frank) Johnson was the first major bandmaster in the U.S. It has long been thought he was born in Martinique, but it is now believed he was born in Philadelphia, known there as a professional musician by 1812, probably as a violinist.”

Francis Johnson played the bugle, keyed bugle, cornet, violin and other instruments. He also composed music for band. Among the recordings of his works is The Music of Francis Johnson and His Contemporaries: Early 19th-Century Black Composers, Music Masters 7029-2-C (1990). The music is performed on original instruments by The Chestnut Brass Company and Friends, accompanied on violin by Diane Monroe and led by Tamara Brooks, Conductor. The CD includes marches and dances of the period by Johnson's four African American contemporaries in Philadelphia who also wrote band music: James Hemmenway, Isaac Hazzard, A.J.R. Conner and Edward Roland.

The liner notes for the recording begin by emphasizing the unusual nature of Francis Johnson's professional activities:

The career and musical legacy of Francis 'Frank' Johnson (1792-1844) represent one of the most singular achievements in the history of American music. In an era when full-time musicians were a rarity in the United States, Johnson fashioned a career of such variety and importance that it would be the envy of many a modern musician. Even more remarkable is that Johnson, an African-American, was able to achieve such success against a background of racial strife which worsened even as his work progressed.

Johnson was the composer of over three hundred pieces of music, the majority of which were published. He was a renowned performer on the keyed bugle and violin and led one of the best bands of his time.”

The liner notes point out that information on Francis Johnson's early life is sketchy:

“The sources of his musical training are likewise a mystery, though some of his study appears to have been with Richard Willis, an Irish keyed-bugle soloist who arrived in the United States in 1816 and assumed leadership of the West Point band in 1818.”

Dominique-René de Lerma relates the origin and early use of the instrument known as the keyed-bugle:

“The keyed bugle, which Johnson played by 1818, was patented in 1810 by Joseph Halliday, an Irish bandmaster. It was also known as the Kent bugle, named for the Duke of Kent who called for its use in the royal bands.”

Johnson was already well-established as a Philadelphia musician when his first sheet music appeared, according to the liner notes:

By 1818, the year of his first published composition, A Collection of New Cotillions, Johnson was established as a well-known musician in Philadelphia, then the national cultural center. Robert Waln, author of The Hermit in America, penned the following oft-quoted portrait of Johnson in 1819: 'In fine, he is the leader of the band at all balls, public and private; sole director of all serenades, acceptable and unacceptable; inventor-general of cotillions; to which add, a remarkable taste in distorting a sentimental, simple, and beautiful song, into a reel, jig or country-dance'."

Strategic alliances with important institutions contributed to the acceptance of Johnson's African American band by White society, as we learn from the liner notes:

Johnson's band, which probably was begun to fill a need in the Black community, shortly became popular with the more affluent White society as well. Two important, long-standing associations were formed in the early 1820s when the band became affiliated with the Philadelphia State Fencibles (militia units at the time contracted with their own bands) and with the Summer Resort at Saratoga Springs, presaging the current summer residency of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1824 Johnson's reputation was further enhanced when he composed much of the music for the triumphal return to Philadelphia of Revolutionary War hero General Lafayette, who was traveling the United States to great public acclaim and celebration.”

Prof. De Lerma elaborates:

A band of 20 players provided music for most of the festivities accorded General Lafayette in 1824.”

Francis Johnson's music for General Lafayette on this recording includes: Honor To The Brave: Gen. Lafayette's Grand March (3:57).

Johnson typically played the violin at dances, accompanied by a small ensemble, as Prof. De Lerma recounts:

The popular dances (performed indoors with a smaller ensemble and with Johnson as violinist) included the polka, galop, waltz, cotillion, country dance, reels, jigs, and quadrille. These were played in sets, with a pattern of repeats so, even if rather short individually, the performances became extended.

The liner notes of the CD quote from Johnson's announcement of his European trip:

“In 1837 Francis Johnson announced that he and a small contingent of his band members were departing for Europe to 'improve his musical capacity and knowledge, so as to be able in a much greater degree than formerly to contribute to the gratification of the public'."

Prof. De Lerma identifies the band members who accompanied Johnson to Europe, and notes they performed for Victoria shortly before she became Queen of England:

In November of 1837, he took William Appo (Johnson's brother-in-law), Aaron J. R. Connor, Edwin Roland, and Francis V. Seymour (if not also James Hemmmenway) to London as the first Black American musicians to visit Europe, and to the royal court at Buckingham Palace to play for Victoria (1838), soon to be crowned Queen of England.”

The liner notes summarize the activities of the musicians in Europe, and give the approximate date of their return:

“The musicians remained in Europe, acquiring music, studying continental styles and giving concerts until their return to the United States for the Christmas season of 1838.”

The liner notes recount that Johnson's band returned to Philadelphia and began giving "promenade concerts" in the French style:

Upon their return they promptly introduced Johnson's tremendously successful Promenade Concerts a la Musard, forerunners of the modern "pops" concerts. Prominent White performers were later included in these programs, some of the first interracial performances in America. In 1842 Johnson provided the music for a ball in honor of the visiting English author Charles Dickens.

Prof. De Lerma notes that Johnson subsequently toured widely in
the United States, and also visited Canada:

“His tours (1839-1844) took him as far north as Toronto, as far west as St. Louis. They also performed in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Cleveland, and Louisville.”

As free Blacks, Johnson and his band members found themselves unwelcome in Missouri, which had entered the Union as a slave state.

The liner notes tell us that Johnson and his band performed works of Haydn and Handel at social and religious gatherings of African Americans, and dedicated compositions to the fight against slavery and to the Haitian Revolution:

“Johnson remained musically active in the Black community as well, often conducting the orchestra at church concerts, including works by Haydn and Handel. His pride in, and commitment to, his race is manifest in many of his works, notably the Recognition March on the Independence Hayti and the music to the moving abolitionist song The Grave of the Slave.

Racist persecution was a fact of life during the career of Francis Johnson, as the liner notes make clear in vivid detail:

“Johnson's career was never far from the ugliest forms of racial persecution. White bands often refused to participate in parades when Johnson's band was scheduled to appear; and when the band toured to St. Louis, Missouri, its members were arraigned, fined and ordered from the state under laws prohibiting the entry of free Blacks. A particularly violent incident occurred near Pittsburgh: "At the close of the concert the mob followed Mr. Johnson and his company shouting "n____" and other opprobrious epithets, and hurling brick-bats, stones and rotten eggs in great profusion upon the unfortunate performers. One poor fellow was severely, it is feared dangerously, wounded in the head, and others were more or less hurt. No thanks to the mobocrats that life was not taken, for they hurled their missiles with murderous recklessness if not with murderous intention." The Tribune [NY], May 23, 1843.

We learn form the liner notes that a long illness near the end of his life in 1844 limited Johnson's performances but not his output of music.

Prof. De Lerma says Francis Johnson's bands continued long after his death, under the leadership of Joseph G. Anderson (1816-1873), until around the outbreak of the Civil War.

Read the full entry

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Monday, October 29, 2007

George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780-1860): Beethoven's Black Violinist

[George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780-1860); Copyright The British Library]

(Note to Subscribers: This post was not properly indexed in the Technorati Blog Search Engine when it was first published today, so it is being republished.)

Introduction: Bridgetower Sonata Was Renamed for Kreutzer
The Beethoven Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 9 in A Minor, Op. 47, now called the Kreutzer Sonata, was originally dedicated to the Black violin virtuoso George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower. He is profiled at Beethoven accompanied him on piano at the work's premiere in Vienna in 1803. Before the sonata could be published, a personal disagreement with Bridgetower led Beethoven to substitute the name of another violinist, Rodolphe Kreutzer.

Bridgetower, George Augustus Polgreen, 1780-1860[1]
Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin
Bridgetower (dubbed “the Abyssinian Prince”) was born in Baiła,[2] Poland to John Frederick Bridgetower[3] (employed, like Haydn, in the Austro-Hungarian court of the Esterházy family), a polyglot valet (he is said to have spoken fluent English, French, German, Italian, and Polish) who is thought to have come from the Caribbean, possibly a slave who escaped from Barbados. His mother, Marie Ann [née Sovinki?], was from Eastern Europe, perhaps Poland. She died in 1807, then living in Dresden with her other child, Friedrich T. Bridgetower, according to Hare 1936 [p299] and a cellist. As a child prodigy, Bridgetower made his debut as soloist with the Concert Spirituel on 11 or 13 April 1789.[4] He was introduced to England,[5] performing at the Drury Lane Theatre on 19 February 1790, when he played between parts of the Messiah. This attracted the attention of the British royalty, resulting in performances at Windsor Castle,[6] Brighton Pavilion, the Pump Rooms at Bath in December (attended by about 550, including George III)[7] and in London. Bridgetower had already studied perhaps with Haydn (1732-1809) and now under the patronage of the Prince, he studied violin with Giovanni Mane Giornovichi or Ivan Jarnović (ca. 1735/1747-1804, resident in Paris from 1773 and London from 1791-1796) and with François-Hippolyte Barthélémon (1741-1808, concertmaster at the Royal Opera), and composition with a former Mozart student, keyboardist Thomas Attwood (1765-1838), who was in service to the Prince of Wales starting in 1787. Joining with his Austrian contemporary, Franz Clement (for whom Beethoven was to write his violin concerto), he presented a benefit concert at Hanover Square Rooms on 2 June 1790, with the patronage of the Prince of Wales[8] (the future George IV), for which the father was paid £25. The concert included a performance of a string quartet by Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831) in which the two young violinists were joined by Ware and F. Attwood (relative of Thomas?). It is possible Pleyel was in the audience, as he was in London for the next season. Present however was the composer Abbé Georg Johann Vogler (1749-1814), who commented that the quartet’s aggregate age was not even 40. In 1791, Bridgetower joined another former Mozart student, Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837), both attired in scarlet clothing, pulling stops as they sat alongside the organist Joah Bates at the Handel Commemoration in Westminster Abbey.[9] It was also that year when he joined with Clement in a string quartet performance (2 June) at Hanover Square, and entered the Prince’s service at Brighton, playing violin in the orchestra until 1809. He also served at least once in the first violin section in his pre-teen years of London’s Solomon concerts (starting 15 April 1791), thereby involved in the premières of the Haydn symphonies, commissioned by Johann Peter Solomon (1745-1815), and conducted from the keyboard by the composer.[10] During the remainder of this season, Bridgetower appeared as concerto soloist in each of the remaining five programs at the Hanover Square Rooms. It is estimated that in the last decade of the century, about 50 performances were presented in London.

Before his departure for the continent, he gave performances from 24 February 1792 and 30 March within oratorio performances at the King’s Theatre, managed by Thomas Linley (1733-1795), father of yet another Mozart student, also named Thomas Linley (born in 1756 and died by drowning in 1778). He played at a concert in 1794 in benefit for the Spitalfields weavers,[11] and one in Salisbury, 6 November 1794, with a concerto said to be in the style of Viotti. He appeared with Haydn at a concert held by Barthélémon, at which time a Viotti[12] concerto was programmed. When he played at the King’s Arm in Cornhill on 31 October 1793 – his work for the Prince still allowed him to be engaged for non-court engagements – he might have been upstaged by the presence of Charles Claggett and his Aiuton, or Ever Tuned Organ. In 1788 the Irishman mounted a series of tuning forks in a row and placed them in a narrow hollow wooden box, where they were struck by hammers. Depending of course on the tuning forks, the range might be Six octaves. The volume of sound was very small and nothing evolved from the concept until 1886, when the Parisian harmonium maker unveiled the celesta, first employed by Ernest Chausson in.
La tempête (1888) and Chaikovskĭi The nutcracker (1892).

Up to this time, John Frederick had regaled himself in extravagant Turkish-style robes[13] (Turkish exoticisms were very popular at the time, as exemplified by Mozart’s
Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Beethoven’s ecumenical Turkish variation in the last movement of the ninth symphony) but about 1791 he was sent into exile by the Prince of Wales for immoral behavior. Thereafter his son resided at Carlton House under the Prince’s protection,[14] dressed as an English gentleman. In later years, Bridgetower lived at 20 Eaton Street (1797), John Street (1807-1809), Chancery Cross (1810), Little Ryder Street (1812), and Chapel Street (1814-1815). At the time of his death, he lived at 8 Victory Cottages (and/or Norfolk Street) on a small road in Peckham.

He was granted a leave from the Prince’s service and went to Europe in 1802 to visit his mother and brother in Dresden. He gave two concerts while there (24 July 1802 and 18 March 1803). On the first was performed the first symphony by Beethoven, the violinist’s own concerto (not extant?) and a cello concerto by his brother (also not located). The second concert included a concerto by Mozart and one by Viotti, directed by [Johann Philipp?] Schulz. He also performed in Tepliz and Carlsbad during this time.

He went to Vienna in the spring of 1803, already celebrated, where he met Beethoven. At the Augarten Theater on 24 May 1803, in a concert series managed by Ignaz Schuppanzigh, the two gave the première of Beethoven’s penultimate violin sonata (opus 47), much to Beethoven’s delight.[15] Despite the fact that the concert took place at 8 in the morning, it was well attended,[16] including the presence of Prince Karl Lichnowsky (who had introduced the two at his home), Prince Josef Johann Schwarzenberg, the British Ambassador, and Prince Josef Marx Lobkowitz. When “Brischdauer” inserted an improvised flourish, Beethoven left the piano and said to Bridgetower, “Noch einmal, mein lieber Bursch!” There had been no time for a rehearsal, even though Beethoven had awakened Ferdinand Ries at 4:30 that morning to make a copy for the violinist. The second movement, which Bridgetower had to read from the piano part, looking over Beethoven’s shoulder, so pleased the audience that it was immediately repeated.

Beethoven wrote a letter of introduction (18 May 1803) on behalf of Bridgetower to Baron Alexander Wetzlar (1769-1810).

He made friends in Vienna, including the physician, Prof. Johann Th. Helm of Prague and Count Prichnowsky. He and Dr. Helm met Beethoven on the street and the pair was taken to the home of Schuppanzigh for the rehearsal of a Beethoven quartet. Present were violinists Ignaz Krumbholz, Christian Schrieber Karl Moser of Berlin, and cellist Anton Kraft. He also met Alexander Wetzler (to whom Beethoven had recommended Bridgetower), Count Moritz Fries (a banker), and Theresa Schonfeld.

Warm relationships with Beethoven were however ephemeral. They parted ways over an argument,[17] and Beethoven withdrew the sonata, dedicating it to Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766-1831),[18] never a Beethoven enthusiast, who refused to perform it since the première had already been given, but also saying the work was “outrageously unintelligible” (according to Berlioz in his
Voyage musical en Allemagne et en Italie). The work, originally titled by Beethoven as Sonata mulattica composta per il mulatto Brischdauer, gran pazzo e conpositore mulattico, and in his 1803 sketchbook, as a Sonata per il Pianoforte ed uno violino obligato in uno stile molto concertante come d’un concerto, is nonetheless now known as the Kreutzer sonata.

Full essay

George+Bridgetower" rel="tag">George Bridgetower
Black+Violinist" rel="tag">Black Violinist
Beethoven+Sonata" rel="tag">Beethoven Sonata
Kreutzer+Sonata" rel="tag">Kreutzer Sonata
African+descent" rel="tag">African descent
Beethoven's+Violinist" rel="tag">Beethoven's Violinist

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thoughts from the History Major: Propaganda of The Brownie's Book 10/29

[Lies My Teacher Told Me; James W. Loewen; Touchstone (1996)]

Thoughts from the History Major posted “Propaganda of The Brownie's Book 10/29” on Oct. 27. Its opening paragraph, and a link to the full post, are followed by a Comment we posted on the same date:

Propaganda of The Brownie's Book 10/29”

When I first began reading the Du Bois article “Criteria of Negro Art” I wondered what connections I could make with The Brownie’s Book. Since Prof. Wells had told us that it was intended for children, I guess I picture it as an old time Highlights, but I was considerably struck by the letter in the ‘grownup’s corner.’ While I knew that text book history did not consider the contributions of African Americans until rather recently, I hadn’t thought of what it might feel like to be a child growing up with out role models or a mother unable to tell her child about the people the text books forgot. It was then I thought about what Du Bois said about propaganda. Read the full post


I would like to comment on the observation that text books did not teach the accomplishments of African Americans until recently. Prof. James Loewen brought this home to me powerfully in his 1996 book "Lies My Teacher Told Me". He documents the intentional exclusion of Black contributions from textbooks, because of the belief of publishers that school boards and textbook adoption committees don't wish to see such facts included.

I read the book while compiling books and recordings to document the contributions made to classical music by people of African descent. I used my findings for a website which is now known as It profiles 52 Black composers, conductors and instrumental performers of classical music. A few months ago I started a companion AfriClassical Blog to deal with some of the hundreds of additional classical artists who have been brought to my attention.

Over a period of seven years of maintaining the website, I have found that year after year, curious students and teachers have continued to come to my site for material which I believe should have been made part of textbooks by now. I first focused on Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), the son of a slave who was educated with the sons of the nobility, and who became the finest fencer in France before he was a fashionable composer, virtuoso violinist and conductor of the best orchestras in Paris. During the French Revolution, Colonel Saint-Georges commanded 1,000 volunteers of color, and heroically halted a military advance by a far larger force sent by the treasonous Gen. Dumouriez, secretly allied with Austria.

In 2003, CBC TV first aired a documentary called "Le Mozart Noir"; it was released on DVD in 2005. My name is in the credits because I made my research available for the production. It remains the only documentary film on Saint-Georges.

Why is the life of this amazing man of color still not presented in most History textbooks? While it is certainly true some Black classical composers and musicians are now mentioned, many other important musical figures and their works are still missing from textbooks today.

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African+American" rel="tag">African American

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Analogy to “10 Black Aviators That Paved The Way For Barrington Irving”

[George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780-1860); Copyright The British Museum]

Latimer Williams blogs at, where he posted “10 Black Aviators That Paved The Way For Barrington Irving”, Sept. 21, 2007. Here is the introductory paragraph:

Well we have all heard of Barrington Irving by now and what he has accomplished by being the first black man to fly around the world. The fact that he did it in a plane that he built makes an even more amazing accomplishment. I hope that he will be the inspiration for children for years to come. The questions that comes to my mind is who was Barringtion Irving’s predecessors? I have seen black commercial airline pilots and I know of a few military pilots but that is the present, where are the ones from that past eras? So I went on the hunt as usual and had to find these elusive black aviators of the past. Keep in mind that the Tuskegee Airmen are not on the list. For one it’s a group and secondly that’s far too easy.

The analogy to Black Heritage in Music proved irresistible, and led us to make this
comment on the Latimer Williams post on Oct. 27:

Without too much of a stretch, my website and the companion AfriClassical Blog, can be seen as analogous to your efforts to find the historical precedents to the success of the Black Aviator Barrington Williams.

Pianist Roy F. Eaton is a 2007 Grammy Award nominee in the category of Music for children, for his CD ”Keyboard Classics for Children”; Conductor James DePreist has 50 recordings to his credit and won the 2005 National Medal of the Arts; Michael Abels has won worldwide acclaim for his composition ”Global Warming”, and the Harlem Quartet gave the debut performance of his ”Delights and Dances” at Carnegie Hall Sept. 25. Long before those Black classical artists were born, and still unknown to most people, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) conducted Le Concert de la Loge Olympique, the finest orchestra in Paris; Beethoven wrote the ”Bridgetower Sonata” for a Black Violinist, George Bridgetower (1780-1860), but renamed it the ”Kreutzer Sonata” after an argument with him; Composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) wrote the most famous musical of his time, ”Hiawatha\’s Wedding Feast”, in 1898.

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Black+Heritage" rel="tag">Black Heritage
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Black+Conductor" rel="tag">Black Conductor
Black+Musician" rel="tag">Black Musician

Friday, October 26, 2007

Freedom and Culture Weekend Nov. 9-11, Southbank Centre, London

[Angela Davis is a participant in The Freedom and Culture International Creative Forum]

Earlier this month, we announced Lost Chords, Unsung Songs, taking place at Southbank Centre on 9th November. Today we take a look at the full schedule of events for Freedom & Culture Weekend:

Tomorrow's Warriors perform The Freedom Rider

Fri 9th Nov 2007

Tomorrow's Warriors perform The Freedom Rider, the final recording by one of the most influential and timeless editions of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers bands that featured Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons and Jymmie Merrit.

Admission free

Lost Chords, Unsung Songs

Fri 9th Nov 2007

A celebration of the hidden contribution Black composers have made to the Western classical musical tradition, performed through chamber music and art songs.


The Freedom and Culture International Creative Forum

Sat 10th Nov 2007

This full-day event features artists, thinkers and cultural commentators who discuss the bicentenary parliamentary abolition of the slave trade.

£120 (organisations) £60 (individuals)

Anansi: Reunion

Sun 11th Nov 2007

A new work from Denys Baptiste, embodying the spirit of Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas, using music, narration and illustrations.


Coltrane and Miles

Sun 11th Nov 2007

The Renga Ensemble is a one of the London Philharmonic Orchestra's most innovative initiatives.

£20 £15 £10 £5

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Roy Eaton's "Keyboard Classics for Children" Nominated for Grammy

[Keyboard Classics for Children; Roy Eaton, pianist; Summit (2007)]

Three weeks ago, in a post about a concert of 7 Gershwin Preludes on Roosevelt Island in New York City, we discussed a February 2007 release by African American pianist Roy Eaton, Keyboard Classics for Children, on the Summit label. On the CD Eaton performs works of Bach, Mozart, Eaton, Debussy, Pinto, Schumann, Joplin and Golson. We are pleased to congratulate him on his nomination for a Grammy Award for the recording:

My latest album, "Keyboard Classics for Children" has been nominated in category 77, Music albums for children. You can preview it at

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Grammy+Nomination" rel="tag">Grammy Nomination
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African+American" rel="tag">African American
Black+Pianist" rel="tag">Black Pianist

Quincy C. Hilliard, African American Composer for Wind Band

[C. L. Barnhouse, publisher; Variations On An African Hymnsong; Quincy C. Hilliard, composer]

Band Music is a crucial aspect of music education; it touches the lives of millions of children and adults every day, from students and their band directors to audiences at parades, programs and athletic events. Quincy C. Hilliard, Ph.D. is an African American composer of band music. He is prolific and well known, with works available from several companies, including his present publisher, FJH Music Co., Inc. The website offers 105 titles he has written or arranged. We are pleased to present Dr. Hilliard's bio:

Quincy C. Hilliard’s compositions for wind band are published by a variety of well known publishers. He is frequently commissioned to compose works, including one for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and a score for a documentary film, The Texas Rangers. For many years, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) has recognized him with annual awards for the unusually frequent performance of his compositions. Hilliard is regularly invited to conduct, demonstrate effective techniques, and adjudicate festivals throughout the world.

Because Hilliard, the composer, conductor, and educator, is also a scholar of Aaron Copland’s music and life, Copland estate administrators authorized Hilliard to publish the educational performance edition, Copland for Solo Instruments (Boosey and Hawkes, 1999). To train school band students, he wrote Superior Bands in Sixteen Weeks (FJH Music Company, 2003), Chorales and Rhythmic Etudes for Superior Bands (FJH Music, 2004), Theory Concepts, Books One and Two and is the co-author of the Skill Builders, Books One and Two (Sounds Spectacular Series, Carl Fischer, 1996). He is also the co-author of Percussion Time (C.L. Barnhouse Company) which is a collection of music written specifically for the beginning percussion ensemble. He has presented scholarly papers on music theory and analysis at meetings of the College Music Society and the Central Gulf Society of Music Theory (of which he is past president). He has published articles in Opera Journal, The Instrumentalist, School Musician, Bandworld, American Music Teacher, Florida Music Director, and Tennessee Musician.

Hilliard is Composer in Residence and the Heymann Endowed Professor of Music at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. Previous teaching positions were at Nicholls State University, Florida International University, North Marion High School (Sparr, Florida) and White Station Junior and Senior High School (Memphis, Tennessee).

He holds the Ph.D. in music theory and composition from the University of Florida where, in 1999, he was recognized as the Outstanding Alumnus of the School of Music. He holds the Masters of Music Education from Arkansas State University and the Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Mississippi State University where he was designated College of Education 1998 Alumnus of the Year. Hilliard’s early music experience was as a trumpet player in the public elementary and high school of his native Starkville, Mississippi. Dr. Hilliard is also president of Hilliard Music Enterprises, Inc. a personal consulting firm, which has a corporate board of distinguished music educators. He and his wife Rubye have two sons.

Selected Titles

FJH Music Co., Inc., publisher; Africata; product description: Exploring the rhythms and sounds of Africa, Quincy Hilliard uses some unusual percussion sounds as well as clapping and pencils hitting stands. A slow, lyrical section provides excellent opportunities to work on phrasing. The main theme then returns to build to a powerful and exciting conclusion. Perfect for the multicultural portion of your concert!

Band Music Press, publisher: Energico; product description: Delightful music for the beginning band, this outstanding piece features strong rhythms and melodies that are interesting and fun to play. A percussion ensemble is featured in the middle of the piece and every instrument gets to play the melody. Opportunities to develop and display musicianship abound. Right on target for the young band; Quincy C. Hilliard, composer.

Boosey & Hawkes, publisher: Scenes from Billy the Kid, Ghost Dance, Hoe Down; Aaron Copland, composer; Quincy C. Hilliard, arranger.

C. L. Barnhouse, publisher;
Variations On An African Hymnsong; Quincy C. Hilliard, composer.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chamber Music Today: Elena Urioste: Violin Against the Commodification of Everything

Chamber Music Today reviews a performance by Latino violinist Elena Urioste at Curtis Institute of Music yesterday:

Elena Urioste delivered a remarkable performance of Bruch’s Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26, as part of the student recital at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia last night. Elena, a 20 year-old Mexican-Basque violininst, began her violin studies in Philadelphia and made her debut as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age thirteen as winner of the Albert M. Greenfield Competition. Since then, she has appeared as soloist with major orchestras throughout the United States. Urioste made her Carnegie Hall debut as a featured soloist in the December 2004 Sphinx Gala Concert, and has returned as a soloist in the 2006 and 2007 Galas. She has performed in recital at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall as the youngest musician ever selected for the Young Performers Career Advancement Showcase.

Urioste has collaborated with David Kim, Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster; pianist Christopher O’Riley; and conductors Keith Lockhart and Shlomo Mintz, among others. She has been a featured artist in the International Young Artists Music Festival, the Kingston Chamber Music Festival, the Sarasota and Aspen Music Festivals, as well as the Festival International de Musique in Sion, Switzerland. In 2007 she was first prize winner of the Sion International Violin Competition. Also this year she won both the senior (2007) and junior (2003) divisions of the national Sphinx Competition, as well as the Kennett Symphony Concerto Competition. Urioste has appeared on NPR radio programs From the Top and Performance Today, and the Spanish language television network, Telemundo. Miss Urioste is a student at The Curtis Institute of Music where she has studied for the past four years with Joseph Silverstein and Ida Kavafian. On 25-SEP-2007 she performed at Carnegie Hall.

Aaron P. Dworkin, Founder/President of the Sphinx Organization, is profiled at
Last Friday he announced the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra and the Harlem String Quartet will make an historic U.S. Tour in 2008.

Read the full post

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Joshua Nemith's Cincinnati Pianist Blog: Some Profiles of African Pianists

[[Elilta: Ethiopian Classical Music by Girma Yifrashewa; Balkan Media Center (2006)]

Dr. Joshua Nemith writes Joshua Nemith's Cincinnati Pianist Blog. His bio reads, in part:

"Pianist JOSHUA S. NEMITH has performed throughout the U.S. and abroad as a
soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral keyboardist. Dr. Nemith was recently awarded the Principal Keyboard position of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra in May of 2007. He is also the principal keyboardist with the IRIS chamber orchestra in Germantown, Tennessee, under the direction of conductor Michael Stern. He completed his doctorate in piano performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in June of 2004."

Joshua Nemith's
Cincinnati Pianist Blog has supported AfriClassical from its first post, in July, on demeaning cover art of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges on Calliope 9373 (2007). We are very pleased that Dr. Nemith has published a brief overview today of our recent posts on African pianists:

"Monday, October 22, 2007 Some Profiles of African Pianists

Check out these in-depth profiles of pianists of African heritage over at This blog (authored by William Zick) has recently been calling attention to some worthy keyboard artists:

Glen Inanga

Ivan Kiwuwa

Girma Yifrashewa (he is also a composer)

Listen to some short samples of Yifrashewa's spacious and lovely piano compositions at his page at the website. His music incorporates traditional Ethiopian musical styles with Western harmonies and gestures. How wonderful it is that an African composer is channeling some of his own rich traditions into music for the piano! I hope that this music becomes available from international publishers; it would be fun and enriching to learn, study, and teach some of this new and fresh repertoire."

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Significance of 2008 Sphinx Tour of the U.S.

“Sphinx Plans Historic US Tour: Tour to feature Sphinx Chamber Orchestra and Harlem Quartet” was the exciting news to which we awoke Friday morning. We are convinced the U.S. Tour will indeed make history. As the tour progresses, top-flight Black and Latino musicians will introduce themselves to communities around the country.

The tour will be the first opportunity for many people to hear all-minority ensembles. Judging from the Sphinx galas at Carnegie Hall, audiences are likely to include far more Black and Latino patrons than typical classical concerts. While it is a foretaste of a more diverse future in classical music, the Tour is also a testament to 11 years of hard work involving thousands of participants, teachers, professional musicians and supporters, inspired by the vision of Founder/President Aaron Dworkin, who is proudly profiled at

Legions of music students, their teachers, and families will join regular concert-goers in experiencing classical music by both majority and minority composers, performed by two ensembles of Sphinx Competition Winners. Performing excellent music by fine composers of all racial and ethnic backgrounds is part of the Sphinx philosophy. The Chicago Sinfonietta, which Maestro Paul Freeman founded in 1987 and continues to direct, also has the mission “Musical Excellence Through Diversity”.

It is an example which could be the enduring significance of the 2008 Sphinx Tour of the U.S.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

AfriClassical On Afro-Netizen Blog Roll

AfriClassical has added the highly influential blog Afro-Netizen to its Favorite Blogs. In turn it has been added to the Afro-Netizen Blog Roll. The following motto and blog description are from Afro-Netizen:


"Dedicated to informing, inspiring and engaging afro-netizens and the communities they touch".
-Christopher M. Rabb, Founder/Chief Evangelist

About Afro-Netizen
Founded in 1999 by native Chicagoan and social entrepreneur Chris Rabb,
Afro-Netizen is a net-centric social experiment whose mission is to inform, inspire and engage afro-netizens and the communities they touch.

Technically speaking, an 'afro-netizen' is a Black 'citizen of the (Inter)net'. However, the connotation of this term coined by Rabb in the final moments of the 20th Century, bespeaks a more civic value to -- and utility of -- the Internet in one's life beyond its more consumer or individualistic applications.

What started as an informal e-mail-based news aggregation service for and about Blackfolk has blossomed into a burgeoning online community, having gained national visibility and momentum in the aftermath of the frenzied mainstream media (MSM) coverage of the then-nascent 'political blogosphere' during the 2004 election cycle."

Last week Afro-Netizen announced it will proudly sponsor and promote the
Presidential campaign video question project known as

Ivan Kiwuwa (b. 1983), Ugandan Pianist & Violinist

We learned of Ivan Kiwuwa from Dr. William H. Chapman Nyaho, pianist, professor and music editor. Born in the U.S. and raised in Ghana, he is profiled at We soon found Dr. Chapman Nyaho's high opinion of Ivan's musical talents is widely shared by audiences and critics.

Nicola Lisle interviewed Ivan Kiwuwa for the article “A Passion for the Piano” in The Oxford Times, May 31, 2007:

Meeting Ivan Kiwuwa is an extraordinary experience. At just 23 years of age, he oozes maturity and self-assurance, and talks about his music with passion and authority. His enthusiasm is infectious, and it is impossible not to be charmed by this young man, who is clearly hovering on the cusp of international stardom.


For Ivan, this talent took root and blossomed in a most unlikely setting. He was born in Uganda in 1983, into a country steeped in traditional African music with little western influence. But he was lucky enough to live close to Kampala Cathedral, one of the few places in Uganda that has a tradition of serious classical music, and he joined the choir at the age of eight, later rising to head chorister.

"I joined the choir mainly because my friend was already a choirboy there," he recalled. "It's one of the very few places where this kind of music happens due to the legacy left by the missionaries. So that's where the classical tradition is, and people go there to practise serious music."

When Ivan's voice broke at the age of 13, he turned to the piano; initially out of curiosity, rather than a conviction that this was the instrument for him.

"I guess every child would be curious at seeing other people playing something," he said. "But, for me, it was made more intense by needing something else to do. I had to grab hold of something and the piano was an instrument I knew about, so I thought I'd try it."

Ivan began studying with Fiona Carr, and a year later took up the violin as well, studying with Isabel Turner. But, despite the fact that he clearly had a natural talent, he received surprisingly little encouragement from family and friends.

"At the beginning, as a choirboy, I had a bit of encouragement from my family, but later on, when I decided to learn and take the piano seriously, it was the opposite, I have to say. It was discouraged because it's not recognised; it's not in the culture.

"My family thought this was taking time out of my normal school and hence was destroying my future, a view which was strongly shared by my school teachers. So I had an uphill struggle. My family even now don't understand what I do."

Ivan was soon to prove them all wrong. Before he reached his 16th birthday, his talent had been spotted at a masterclass with Maxim Vengerov, and he made his concert debut in Germany shortly afterwards, performing Bach's Double Violin Concerto with Vengerov and the Essen Philharmonic Orchestra. The offer of a full scholarship to Wells Cathedral School swiftly followed and he remembers his time there with great fondness.

"Wells is one of the four major music specialist schools in Britain but it has a strong academic side as well. It was a good atmosphere for me and it was interesting because obviously it was such a different culture. It was also my first ever boarding school.

"I remember for the first few days, every time I woke up I thought, this is a dream - it's a long dream. Every day there was something new, and it was very intense, taking it all in."

In 2003, Ivan was awarded a full scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he is now in his final year as an undergraduate and he has already accepted a place on a post-graduate masters course.

He has won numerous prizes and given solo recitals at the Purcell Room and at the National Theatre in Nairobi. Now Oxford beckons. So what does he have in store for local audiences?

"I will be playing Impromptus Op.90 by Schubert, piano sonata in E major by Mendelssohn and piano sonata in A flat major by Beethoven. I always love playing Schubert because of his beautiful, tender melodies and the simplicity of his music. Mendelssohn captures both Schubert qualities, but it has a lot more excitement and furore. Beethoven's depth is something which always speaks directly to the deepest corners of the heart.

"I love composers which my personality and my temperament most naturally associate with, and I think those composers tend to be mainly German and Viennese - Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn. Beethoven, I think, is the hardest composer to play on the piano, but I love the challenge."

On June 13, 2007, The Oxford Times printed a glowing review, “Ivan Kiwuwa, Jacqueline du Pre Music Building”:

'We weren't expecting it to be this full," one of the ushers was saying as we walked into the JDP last week. That's understandable. It is notoriously difficult to get audiences in to hear unknown musicians, especially those who have yet to break through on to the world stage. But for Ivan Kiwuwa's recital on Friday evening, the place was packed.

There is always a danger with publicity that promises great things that the reality will fail to live up to the hype. Fortunately, with Kiwuwa, this was emphatically not the case. From the moment he stepped on to the platform, and noticeably prepared himself mentally before sinking his fingers on to the keys, it was clear we were about to witness something very special; the public unveiling of a new, phenomenal talent.

Schubert's Impromptus Nos. 1 and 2 from Opus 90 were a perfect taster, the first dramatic and exciting, the second restless and full of rhythmic gymnastics. In the programme, Kiwuwa notes that the accessibility of these sonatas has made them a favourite with amateur pianists, but few amateurs, I am sure, would dispense them with such technical dexterity and mastery, best displayed in the shifting textures and harmonies.

Then came a radiant account of Mendelssohn's Sonata in E major, its lyrical quality explored with eloquence and assurance. Two more Schubert Impromptus opened the second half, and the evening was brought to a close with Beethoven's Sonata opus 110 in A flat major, its contrasting moods allowing Kiwuwa to give full rein to his musical energy and virtuosity.

This was an exhilarating and enthralling programme, given by a brilliant but seemingly unassuming young man, who is clearly destined for international stardom. From the moment he starts to play, Kiwuwa becomes completely engrossed in the music, which he imbues with passion, sensitivity and sincerity, giving a deeply committed and informed interpretation and displaying an extraordinary empathy with the composer. Absolutely wonderful.

Pianos For Uganda is a nonprofit organization which collects used pianos in Britain and lends them to schools in Uganda. The Newsletter of the Kampala Music School proudly noted in July 2002 that Ivan became one of the program's first two successes when he began his studies on a full scholarship at Wells Cathedral School in January 2000. Though still in school, Ivan has already performed widely in Europe and Africa.

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