Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Irene Britton Smith (1907-1999), African American Composer

[Kaleidoscope: Music by African-American Women; Helen Walker-Hill, piano; Gregory Walker, violin; Leonarda 339 (1995)]

Irene Britton Smith was an African American composer who was born Dec. 22, 1907 in Chicago, where she died Feb. 15, 1999. Her 1947
Sonata for Violin and Piano is in Neoclassical style and is available from Vivace Press, which provides this biography of the composer:

A Brief Bio of the Composer

Irene Britton Smith was born in 1907 in Chicago, Illinois. She studied composition with Stella Roberts and Leo Sowerby at the American Conservatory, where she received her Bachelor of Music degree in 1943. Meanwhile, she taught in Chicago’s elementary schools for more than forty years, specializing in the Phonovisual approach to teaching reading. In 1946-47 while on sabbatical leave from her teaching position, she did graduate work in composition at The Juilliard School of Music with Vittorio Giannini, before completing her Master of Music degree at DePaul University under Leon Stein. During summers she also worked with Irving Fine at the Berkshire Music Center (1950), with Wayne Barlow at the Eastman School of Music, and with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, France (1958).

Her works include a Sinfonietta in three movements for orchestra (1956), Fairest Lord Jesus, an anthem for women’s voices published by G. Schirmer in 1945, an arrangement of the spiritual Let Us Break Bread Together for baritone or mezzosoprano and piano (1948), and several other choral works, chamber and solo instrumental works. Dream Cycle, a setting of four poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1947) has been performed at the Chicago Public Library by soprano JoAnne Pickens. The Sonata for violin and piano was completed in New York City in 1947 while studying with Vittorio Giannini at The Juilliard School. It was premiered at the Denver Public Library in February 1990 by violinist Gregory Walker and pianist Helen Walker-Hill, and is performed by them on the 1995 CD, Kaleidoscope: Music by African-American Women, produced by Leonarda Records.

The Irene Britton Smith Collection is at the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago, The classical music website gives this critique of her Sonata for Violin and Piano:

“Irene Britton Smith's Sonata for Violin and Piano brings Brahms to mind; it has the thick-textured essence of Brahms but with just a flavor of French impressionism.”

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Britton+Smith" rel="tag">Britton Smith
classical+music" rel="tag">classical music
Black+Composer" rel="tag">Black Composer
African+American" rel="tag">African American
Violin+Sonata" rel="tag">Violin Sonata

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