Monday, March 31, 2008

Pianist Leon Bates Joins Paul Freeman & Chicago Sinfonietta May 11 & 12

African American pianist Leon Bates performs under the direction of Maestro Paul Freeman in the Chicago Sinfonietta concert “Portraits of the Blues/Back Into Space” on May 11 and 12, 2008. The orchestra's website gives the details:

We’ll explore the Blues in all of its variations. John Primer, guitarist in the legendary Muddy Waters band, joins the Sinfonietta in a World Premiere orchestration of three of his songs, while pianist Leon Bates performs Gershwin’s masterpiece. In the second half, we welcome back Adler Planetarium astronomer and video artist José Francisco Salgado for our second multimedia extravaganza set to Pictures at an Exhibition.

Larry Hoffman
Three Songs for Bluesman & Orchestra
World Premiere

George Gershwin
Rhapsody in Blue

Modest Mussorgsky (arr. Maurice Ravel)
Pictures at an Exhibition

Sunday May 11, 2:30 pm, Dominican University, 7900 W Division, River Forest
Monday May 12, 7:30 pm, Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 South Michigan Ave, Chicago

Kay George Roberts, African American Conductor Who Founded New England Orchestra

The African American conductor Kay George Roberts is scheduled to conduct Opera North in its Saturday April 12, 2008 performance of the opera Blake by H. Leslie Adams at 8:00 pm at Trinity Center for Urban Life, 2212 Spruce St., Philadelphia. The following information is from her page at the faculty website of the Music Department of the University of Massachusetts Lowell:

Educational Background

Prof. Roberts studied at Tanglewood with Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Gustav Meier and at the Bachakademie Stuttgart with John Eliot Gardiner. An accomplished violinist, she is the first woman to earn a doctor of musical arts degree in conducting from Yale University where she studied with Otto-Werner Mueller.

Bio Sketch

Kay George Roberts is the founder and music director of the Lowell-based New England Orchestra (NEO) that has the mission of linking cultures through music. Her guest conducting engagements have included the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, and Nashville Symphony orchestras as well as the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana. In addition, she is the principal conductor for Opera North, Inc. in Philadelphia. She has also served as a cover conductor for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

An advocate for new and overlooked music, she premiered Jennifer Higdon's “Fanfare Ritmico” at the Blossom Music Festival with the Cleveland Orchestra and was co-conductor for the highly acclaimed 2004 “Sphinx Inaugural Gala Concert” in Carnegie Hall. In 2007, she led the Sphinx Symphony in the world premiere of Michael Abels’ “Delights and Dances” in Detroit’s Orchestra Hall to celebrate the Sphinx Competition’s 10th anniversary. A champion of music education, she is the director of the UML String Project, an after-school string training program that she initiated in 2001 for Lowell public school children.

The recipient of many honors, Ms. Roberts was presented with a “Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition” from the U.S. House of Representatives for her "outstanding and invaluable service to the community" and was named a University of Michigan “Presidential Professor” - “one of the highest honors bestowed on visiting artists and scholars” - for her work with the Sphinx Symphony.

She is the recipient of the 2007 University of Massachusetts “President’s Public Service Award” in recognition of exemplary public service to the Commonwealth.

Opera North Performs “Blake” by H. Leslie Adams in Philadelphia April 12

Opera North announces a production of the 4-act opera Blake by H. Leslie Adams will be conducted by Kay George Roberts on Saturday, April 12, 2008 at 8:00 pm at Trinity Center for Urban Life, 2212 Spruce St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For tickets and information contact Opera North, Inc. at 215-884-5840 or visit

This is the second in a three-opera concert series, An African American Triptych. The composer's website says of the work: “Blake tells the poignant story of young love, forced separation, and the search for one another and true love. The opera opens with a monologue by Blake (tenor), a 30-year old slave on an American plantation in the deep South just prior to the Civil War.”

Kay George Roberts is Professor of Performance; Area Head, Orchestral Strings; and Director of the University of Massachusetts Lowell String Project. She is also principal conductor for Opera North, Inc. H. Leslie Adams is profiled at

To see the complete Philadelphia area calendar of Black Classical Musicians and Concerts, click Here

Saturday, March 29, 2008

African American Music Symposium, Millersville University April 9-11

[Photos at top of poster, from left to right: Maria Corley, Darryl Taylor, H. Leslie Adams & Richard Thompson]

Dr. Richard Greene of Temple University has forwarded the flyer of the African American Music Symposium to be held at Millersville University in Millersville, Pennsylvania, April 9-11, 2008. He writes: “Composers include: H. Leslie Adams, Richard Thompson, Robert Owens and William Grant Still. Performers include: Darryl Taylor (tenor), Maria Corley (piano) and Richard Thompson.”

Dr. Maria Corley adds: “There are 4 concerts; the first and last feature songs and solo piano pieces by composers Richard Thompson and H. Leslie Adams, both of whom will be in attendance. In addition, Millersville University faculty and students will be joined by guest artist Darryl Taylor, countertenor.” [H. Leslie Adams and William Grant Still are profiled at]

Friday, March 28, 2008

Harlem Symphony Orchestra At Apollo Theater, Sunday, March 30, funded by the Cultural Tourism Initiative:

Harlem Symphony Orchestra
Sunday, March 30 $12 Call (212) 531-5305 to order

A spectacular afternoon of classical music is what’s in store as the Harlem Symphony Orchestra performs its second annual concert at the historic Apollo Theater in New York City on Sunday, March 30th at 4:00 pm. The program—featuring the music of Scott Joplin, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and a contemporary composition, “The Purple Palace,” by Bruce Adolphe—will support the ongoing development of the Harlem Symphony Orchestra, including its Residency program and Music in the Schools program. Ticket prices are $12 ($10 for a group of 5 or more), and are available at the Apollo Theater box office, 235 W. 125th Street, (212) 531-5305. Interviews African Canadian Soprano Measha Brueggergosman

[Photo of Measha Brueggergosman by Sergio Mims]

AfriClassical recently received an E-mail from Sergio Mims, the African American host of a classical music program on the Chicago radio station WHPK-FM, regarding the African Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman (b. 1977):

I just read your item about Measha Brueggergosman making her Mozart opera debut and I totally forgot to tell you that I did an interview with her for Ebony's magazine website back in November. She is an incredibly warm, funny and just a terrific person and I hope my interview shows that. Please feel free to post it on your blog if you like. I've also attached a photo of Measha that I took after our meeting:

The Soprano
when it comes to operatic talent, measha brueggergosman muscles out the competition Monday, November 26, 2007
By Sergio Mims

Measha Brueggergosman is without question one of the most talented and exciting classical music sopranos in music today and who is attracting major acclaim all over the world becoming one of the most sought after performers in her field today. A native of New Brunswick Canada, Brueggergosman (her name is actually a combination of her last name and that of husband Markus Brugger) studied music in Canada and Germany before pursuing a career as a singer. She has performed with major orchestras and conductors around the world including the San Francisco Symphony, the Orchestra Teatro alla Scala in Milan, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Gothenberg (Sweden) Orchestra, the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin and recital halls around the world. She also has recently signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon, one of the leading classical music labels in the world and has released her first two new CDs for DG, Surprise, a collection of cabaret songs written by William Bolcom, Arnold Schoenberg and Eric Satie and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 performed by the Cleveland Orchestra and conducted by Franz Welser-Möst. Full Article

Thursday, March 27, 2008

John McLaughlin Williams Records Violin Concertos of Ernest Bloch and Benjamin Lees

African American conductor John McLaughlin Williams gives us a “heads up” on his next CD, to be released April 29: Ernest Bloch and Benjamin Lees: Violin Concertos; Elmar Oliveira, violin; National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine; John McLaughlin Williams, conductor; Artek 42 (2008). An abbreviated listing for the recording may be found at

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Measha Brueggergosman, African Canadian Soprano, Makes Her Mozart Opera Debut

[Soprano Measha Brueggergosman as Elettra in Idomeneo. Photo: Bruce Zinger.]

Toronto, ON – Acclaimed African Canadian soprano
Measha Brueggergosman will sing the role of Elettra in Opera Atelier's spring production of Mozart’s Idomeneo. This marks Ms. Brueggergosman’s first performance in a Mozart opera and her debut with Canada’s premier baroque theatre company. Idomeneo runs for six performances April 26, 27, 29, May 1, 2 and 3, 2008 at Toronto’s historic Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge Street).

African Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman has received critical acclaim as much for her innate musicianship and voluptuous voice as for her dynamic and vibrant stage presence. She has performed with many of today’s finest international orchestras and most esteemed conductors. Her operatic credits include Madame Lidoine in Poulenc’s The Dialogues of the Carmelites (Vancouver Opera), Juno in Aeneas in Karthago (Staatsoper Stuttgart) by Joseph Martin Kraus, Liù in Puccini’s Turandot and Sister Rose in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking (Cincinnati Opera). An exclusive artist with Deutsche Grammophon, Ms. Brueggergosman’s first recording with the label, Surprise, was released throughout North America in autumn 2007.

First performed in 1781, Idomeneo is an opera seria characterized by the heroic emotion and drama ever present in the music and text. The opera tells the story of Idomeneo, the king of Crete, who returns victorious from war with Troy and encounters a storm that threatens his fleet. In return for safe passage, he vows to Neptune, the god of the sea, to sacrifice the first person he sees upon reaching safety ashore. This turns out to be his son, Idamante. As the King tries to escape from his debt, conflicts arise among the other characters.

CBMR Serial Conferences on Black Music Diaspora, New Orleans, April 18-19

Register now for this unique conference on New Orleans’ role in the black music diaspora, the first in a series of conferences on the black music diaspora from the Center for Black Music Research,

Paper Sessions
The New Orleans event will feature commissioned papers by Thomas Brothers (Duke University), Samuel Kinser (Northern Illinois University), Nick Spitzer (
American Routes radio program and University of New Orleans), George Lipsitz (University of California, Santa Barbara), and Jason Berry (Tulane University). Formal responses to the papers will be presented by Garnette Cadogan, Lawrence Gushee, Joyce M. Jackson, Eddie Meadows, Helen Regis, Matthew Sakakeeny, Jack Sullivan, and Theodore Vincent. The papers will be presented at Xavier University of Louisiana, which is hosting the conference.

Special Events

New Orleans Music Tradition Bearers from the Building Trades
An evening of live interviews and performances by some of New Orleans premiere tradition bearers, including Don Vappie (banjo and guitar), Eddie Bo (piano), Lionel Ferbos (trumpet and vocals), Alonzo Bowen (clarinet and saxophone), and Earl Barthé. Hosted and interviewed by Nick Spitzer at the Sound Café.

The History of the Creole Wild West, As Told by Themselves
A panel discussion and oral history project presented by the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. The event will feature a live performance from the Creole Wild West, the oldest of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Indian tribes, followed by a panel discussion with tribe members, who will discuss their history, practices, and the current state of the culture. Hosted by and held at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and moderated by Bruce Boyd Raeburn (Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University).

Keynote Luncheon
Featuring Michael G. White, famed clarinetist, band leader, teacher, and scholar.

Reception and Performance "A Celebration of New Orleans Classical and Jazz Traditions in Music," featuring the faculty and students of the Xavier University Department of Music.


Register now online at

This event is supported in part by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Community Partnership Grant program.

Anthony Green, African American Composer of “Chance” On YouTube

While covering Community MusicWorks and its community-oriented ensemble, the Providence String Quartet, AfriClassical received this information from Heath Marlow, Director of Development & Artistic Program Administrator: “Finally, a young Providence composer with a bright career is Anthony Green. The PSQ played one of his pieces in 2007 and we have commissioned an octet from him for Spring 2009. Here's his website, also a link to the PSQ performing 'Chance' via YouTube”:

His website explains: “Composer, pianist, and educator Anthony Green (b. 1984) has developed his own musical voice through his experience in diverse musical environments.” He says he played classical piano, including works he composed, in the Chopin Club in high school.

Anthony is looking forward to a concert Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at Jordan Hall in Boston at 8:00PM: “Tuesday Night New Music Graduate's Concert”. The evening will feature works by graduating composers at the New England Conservatory. The program will include selections from Anthony's work Dona Nobis Veritatem ~ a setting of American text for viola, soprano, and piano (Ashleigh Gordon, viola and Ms. Ceceilia Allwein, soprano).

Belated Comments On Passing of Jerome Ashby

Jerome A. Ashby (1956-2007) was Associate Principal Horn for the New York Philharmonic at the time of his death last Dec. 26. Among many comments received since our original post are one we failed to note when it was submitted, and one which has arrived in the past few days.

We regret the delay in our discovery of this comment made on January 23, 2008:
I am Jerome Ashby the second. I loved papi or Jerome Ashby the first so much. I'm sure that there were no better grandpas out there. He's in heaven now because he recently found God and was baptized exactly three weeks before he died on December 26, 2007. I will always remember all the wonderful memories with my grandpa like, dancin on his shoulders or eating bologna grilled cheese. I learned so much from my beloved grandpa. I can't even begin to tell how much I loved and still do love my grandpa. Although I am only 11 almost 12, when I die I want to be buried right by him. He was the only guy left in the family. So now it is up to me to keep up the Ashby name. He was the best grandpa ever. My mom had prayed for God to send her a symbol that he was in heaven when he died. The family needed no more than to see the wonderful smile on his face when he was dead. This proves that God took him. I thank all of you for supporting my prodigy grandpa.
-Jerome Ashby II”

Violinist Gabriel Banat was a colleague of Jerome Ashby in the New York Philharmonic, and has made this comment by E-mail on March 23, 2008:
Going through my files I found this review about Jerry Ashby: Bahnhof Rolandseck Festival Press review (translated from the original German): Bonner Rundschau (Bonn, Germany) Aug. 11, 1990. “... Jerome Ashby, the fabulous hornist of the New York [Philharmonic] guest ensemble.... One always wishes for such musicianship, virtuoso agility and intonation on the horn, but which is fulfilled by only the rarest of horn-players. Among these brilliant New York musicians he is a star of a special brightness.”

Mayor of St. Louis Welcomes Festival of African and African American Music, Feb. 12-15, 2009

[Althea Ifeka, Nigerian Oboist Now Living in the U.K., is a Special Guest of the Festival of African and African American Music]

Mayor Francis G. Slay welcomes the Festival of African and African American Music, Feb. 12-15, 2009, to the City of St. Louis, Missouri:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Via: Dr. Fred Onovwerosuoke, Director of the St. Louis African Chorus.

Please mark your calendar for February 12-15, 2009. Our acclaimed music festival, the Festival of African & African American Music, returns to St. Louis, Missouri. The festival is co-hosted by the St. Louis African Chorus, in partnership with Webster University, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and participating St. Louis schools.

For further information, call Dr. Wendy Hymes (paper presentation and lecture-recitals) or Ms. Ablawa Reine (registration and general logistics) at 314-652-6800.

Premiere Of Paraphrases On Operetta Themes of Olive Arnold Adams At Carnegie Hall April 13

[Olive Arnold Adams Celebrates 95th Birthday]

Olive Arnold Adams is a 95-year-old African American composer and author. Two paraphrases on themes from her operetta “Santa Claus and Unicorn” have been arranged by pianist Vladimir Shinov. He and his wife Marina Porchkhidze perform as a piano duo and will premiere the paraphrases at the Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall, Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 5:30 pm.

Olive Arnold Adams may be better known as author of Time Bomb: Mississippi Exposed And The Full Story of Emmett Till; Mississippi Regional Council of Negro Leadership (1956). She is the mother of Carolyn Adams and Julie Adams Strandberg. The pianists tell AfriClassical that the composer will be introduced to the audience at the performance. The website of Vladimir Shinov and Marina Porchkhidze, duo pianists, is

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sandra Seaton's “The Will” at Idlewild: Classical Connections to African American Culture, May 31-June 1

[Prof. Sandra Seaton of Central Michigan University]

“The Will” at Idlewild: Classical Connections to African American Culture
will be presented at Idlewild Historical Museum and Cultural Center, 7025 Broadway Avenue, Idlewild, Michigan on Friday, May 30; Saturday, May 31; and Sunday, June 1, 2008.

Performance Times for Sandra Seaton's “The Will” are 8 pm Friday, May 30 and Saturday, May 31; and 2 pm Sunday, June 1.

Mini-Conference: 2:00 pm-5:00 pm Sunday, June 1.

Conference on African American Culture and Classical Music
Panel One:
Perspectives on the African American Presence in Opera during the Late 19th and Early 20th Century with Dr. Naomi Andre (panelists to be announced).
Panel Two:
Perspectives on Black Opera Singers and Performers in Classical Music Today; Aaron Dworkin, Celeste Headlee & George Shirley.

Youth Workshop and recitals throughout weekend

This Idlewild weekend will include the performance of The Will, Sandra Seaton’s play about an African American family during Reconstruction in Tennessee, a mini-conference on African Americans in classical music and opera, and an outreach directed especially to African American youth. The play offers both an interpretation of the significance of Reconstruction for African Americans and an interpretation of African American culture that brings out the place of classical music in African American history and life. The history of Reconstruction remains largely unknown and therefore often dominated by stereotypes about “scalawags,” “carpetbaggers,” and especially stereotypes about the ignorance and folly of African Americans. The story of families like the Webster family dramatized in The Will remains almost entirely untold. The father of the family, Cyrus Webster, is determined to pass on not only his worldly possessions but also his courage and wisdom to his descendants. One of Cyrus’s sons, Simpse, wants to marry Patti, a young woman determined to make a career as an opera singer. The character of Patti is based on the life of Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, known as “The Black Swan,” who became one of the most famous opera signers of her time, though she was born a slave.


Sandra Cecelia Seaton is a native of Columbia, Tennessee. She is a playwright and librettist who is a Professor of English on the faculty of Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Here is an excerpt from her website:

In January, 2005 her Reflections on the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. premiered at the Michigan State University Children’s Choir Black History Month Concert in the Great Hall of the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts. In March 2005 her play The Bridge Party, winner of the Theodore Ward Prize for African American Playwrights, was performed at Cleveland’s Karamu Theatre, the oldest African American theater company in the United States

Seaton has explored the relationship between the president [Thomas Jefferson] and Sally Hemings in a number of works. She first dramatized the relationship in her libretto for the song cycle From the Diary of Sally Hemings, a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom, who set Seaton's text to music. The work, for voice and piano, recreates the thoughts and feelings of Sally Hemings throughout her long relationship with Thomas Jefferson by means of fictional diary entries. Seaton’s text presents Sally Hemings as a complex individual who refused to be defined only as Jefferson’s mistress. From The Diary of Sally Hemings, sung by mezzo-soprano Florence Quivar, premiered at the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress on March 16, 2001.

Joseph Conyers, a Bassist “...who plays with authenticity that transcends mere technique.”

Today's story on Michigan Radio, “GR Symphony Improves Diversity”, by Kaomi Geotz, introduced us to Joseph Conyers, a bassist who is one of two African American performers in the Grand Rapids Symphony. This post mentions his teaching career and a recent concert at which his talents as a bassist were on full display. The website of Calvin College reports that Joseph Conyers has been on its faculty since 2005, and teaches string bass. It notes that he graduated from the Curtis School of Music.

“Rising Stars offers emotional authenticity” is the heading of an article posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk of The Grand Rapids Press, on January 4, 2008:

The change that transformed the Grand Rapids Symphony's venerable Casual Classics Series into its new Rising Stars Series appears to be more than just marketing hype. The series that brought violinist Augustin Hadelich to St. Cecilia Music Center in November welcomed double bassist Joseph Conyers to Royce Auditorium's spotlight on Thursday.

Double bassist Joseph Conyers performs a solo Thursday during "Prayers of Wind and Rain," with a repeat performance tonight. Whereas Hadelich, a native of Germany raised in Italy, is going places away from here, Conyers, a native of Savannah, Ga., now living in Grand Rapids, is going places from here. At least for now.

The orchestra's 26-year-old principal double bassist made his debut in the series with a piece custom-cut for him in style as well as in substance. Philadelphia-based composer John B Hedges, who's known Conyers since their college days at Curtis Institute of Music, wrote "Prayers of Wind and Rain" especially for Conyers, a lyrical musician who plays with authenticity that transcends mere technique. Full Post

Michigan Radio: “Grand Rapids Symphony Improves Diversity”

[Adolphus Hailstork Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3; Grand Rapids Symphony; David Lockington, conductor; Naxos 8.559295 (2007)
GR Symphony Improves Diversity
Kaomi Goetz

Grand Rapids, Michigan - March 25, 2008

The Grand Rapids Symphony is trying to expand its audiences to reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the larger community. Their challenge is to overcome stereotypes about classical music and who listens to it.

Joseph Conyers practices on his upright bass backstage at DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids.
The Georgia native is in his third season with the Grand Rapids symphony. He is also one of two African-American musicians with the orchestra.

Conyers - who is a distant cousin of Democratic Congressman John Conyers - smiles when asked what he thinks about being a novelty. "It's neat. I always joke when people see me, do you play in the symphony? Don't get that too often. It's neat and unique at the same time, but I never think of myself as different or special or on the outside."

In fact, being one of only a few African-Americans in a professional classical music orchestra is not all that unusual for Conyers. He says African-Americans make up less than four percent of orchestra personnel nationwide. Conyers says it's mainly an issue of exposure. He says he like so many African-Americans grew up on a strong gospel tradition.

But few have had that same introduction to classical music. And he says it's been viewed as music as something for the elite. "The biggest thing is the social stigma, behind classical symphony orchestras If we can find a way to erase the gap from seeing it as a higher-class thing, if that was the case, I wouldn't be involved. It's music, it's a voice."

One way to encourage more African-American and Latino young people to aspire to careers in classical music is through the Sphinx Competition in Detroit. The annual competition attracts talent from around the country and allows the musicians to see and play with others, who as Conyers says, "look like him." The 26-year old is himself an alumnus of the event.

[Adolphus C. Hailstork is profiled at] Full Story

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Official Flyer of Great African Composers Festival, St. Louis, Feb. 12-15, 2009

Festival of African & African American Music in St. Louis Feb. 12-15, 2009” was a recent post in which Dr. Fred Onovwerosuoke, Director of the St. Louis African Chorus, announced the Festival of African & African American Music (FESAAM). The official flyer has now been released, and more information on the event can be found at:

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spectral Trio Records William Grant Still Miniatures

[Spectral Trio; Richard Sherman, flute; Jan Eberle, oboe; Kimberly Schmidt, piano; Blue Griffin 125 (2008)]

“Blue Griffin Recordings, Inc.

We are very proud to present our newest release: Spectral Trio. Flutist Richard Sherman, oboist Jan Eberle and pianist Kimberly Schmidt perform works by Madeleine Dring, William Grant Still and Jean Michel Damase. This CD is dedicated to the memory of Kimberly Schmidt (1950-2007) who tragically passed away a few months before the project was complete.”

William Grant Still (1895-1978), was an African American composer, arranger, conductor and oboist. He was born in Woodville, Mississippi but was raised in Little Rock, Arkansas from the age of three months. He is profiled at William Grant Still's compositions on
Spectral Trio are:

Incantation and Dance for Oboe and Piano (5:18)

Miniatures for Flute, Oboe, and Piano (1948)

1. I Ride an Old Paint (U.S.A.) (3:42)
Adolorido (Mexico) (1:52)
Jesus is a Rock in the Weary Land (U.S.A.) (2:26)
Yaravi (Peru) (1:53)
A Frog Went A-Courtin’ (U.S.A.) (1:34)

Organ Works of Adolphus C. Hailstork Are Sung By Frank Ward On CD “Amazing Grace”

[Amazing Grace: Organ Music of Adolphus C. Hailstork; Frank Ward, Jr., Bass-baritone; James Kosnik, organ; David Walker and Rob Cross, percussion; Eastern Virginia Brass Quintet; Troy 873 (2008)]

Hailstork's affinity for the organ is richly displayed on this recording.

A student of H. Owen Reed, Vittorio Giannini and David Diamond, Adolphus Hailstork has written numerous works for chorus, solo voice, various chamber ensembles, band and orchestra (his Symphony No. 1 can be heard on Albany TROY104 and works for chorus can be heard on TROY156). Significant performances by major orchestras (Philadelphia, Chicago and New York) have been conducted by leading names such as James dePriest, Lorin Maazel, Daniel Barenboim and Kurt Masur. Dr. Hailstork resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia and is Eminent Scholar and Professor of Music at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He also has a connection to our area in upstate New York; he writes, 'I began taking organ lessons in the 1950s as a member of the boy's and men's choir of the Episcopal Cathedral of All Saints in Albany, New York. During my last two years in high school I served as the organist/choir director during the summer. Several decades later I returned to the instrument as organist/choir director at the Unitarian Church of Norfolk, Virginia. In the 1990s I also resumed organ lessons with Dr. James Kosnik (the soloist on this CD), a colleague of mine on the faculty of Old Dominion University. I have written several works for my own service use at the Unitarian Church and for concert use for advanced performers such as Dr. Kosnik.'"

Fanfare on Amazing Grace is performed by Eastern Virginia Brass Quintet; Rob Cross, timpani; and James Kosnik, organ. Everytime I Feel The Spirit, There is a Balm In Gilead, Wade in the Water, Go Down Moses, and Oh Freedom are each performed twice; once by Frank Ward, Bass-baritone; and once by James Kosnik, organ. Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork (b. 1941) is an African American composer and professor who was born in Rochester, New York. He is profiled at Frank Ward Jr. is a bass-baritone whose website is

Friday, March 21, 2008

Frank Ward & Providence String Quartet Perform H. T. Burleigh's Spirituals On YouTube

[Frank Ward, Jr., Bass-baritone]

Following the recent post introducing Community MusicWorks and its community-oriented ensemble, the Providence String Quartet, AfriClassical received a message of appreciation, along with additional information, from Heath Marlow, Director of Development & Artistic Program Administrator:

Our mission is indeed to build and transform one of Providence's urban communities. We came to know H. T. Burleigh because the Providence String Quartet wanted to collaborate with bass-baritone Frank Ward, who happened to also be the parent of one of our teenage violin students. Frank has a great interest and passion for the songs and spirituals of African-American composers, including Howard Swanson, Margaret Bonds, Leslie Adams, H.T. Burleigh, Hall Johnson and Wendell Whalum.

You can view five arrangements of H.T. Burleigh songs performed by Frank and the Providence Quartet here:

You ask me if I love you? *

Elysium *

Deep River *

Wade in de Water *

Goin' Home *

*Arranged for quartet by another CMW friend, the incomparable Jeff Louie.

[Heath Marlow tells us that thanks go to CMW friend Justin Baker for the YouTube videos of the Providence String Quartet and bass-baritone Frank Ward performing their “Dvorak in America” program at Tufts University on February 2. The website of Frank Ward, Jr., Bass-baritone, is]

Thanks From Darrel Andrews, Composer of 'King's Wonderful Dream'

On Saturday, January 5, 2008, AfriClassical posted “Shreveport Symphony Orchestra Premieres 'King's Wonderful Dream' by Darrel Andrews”. Rashida Black of The Myrtle Hart Society,, has forwarded an E-mail from the composer which refers, in part, to the AfriClassical post: “Because of the AfriClassical website, a radio Producer/Host has contacted me. His name is Jonathan L. Overby of Wisconsin Public Radio. He said he stumbled upon the AfriClassical website where he learned of my orchestra work, and has offered me the privilege of interviewing me on my body of work and/or projects past/future. So you see, you have been of GREAT HELP and I want to THANK YOU.”

Jessie Montgomery, African American Violinist & Composer

[Jessie Montgomery Demonstrates Violin Technique At Third Street Music School Settlement in New York City. Photo Credit:]

Following yesterday's AfriClassical post on the community-oriented Providence String Quartet, we obtained additional information from Heath Marlow, Artistic Program Administrator at Community MusicWorks, who explained that in addition to performing as a violinist with the PSQ, Jessie Montgomery is a composer. He gave me the link for the 8-minute YouTube video of her composition "Strum" being played by the PSQ:

We found the rhythm and melody so appealing that we plan to listen to the recording many more times. When Jessie was 18 she was Second Place Laureate in Violin at the Sphinx Competition. reports that she won the first Rising Star Award as a violin alumna of the Third Street Music School Settlement in New York City.

Community MusicWorks Biography
Jessie Nzinga Montgomery began her musical studies at age four on the violin at the Third Street Music School Settlement in New York City. Thanks to the creativity and expertise of her teachers Alice Kanack and Nicholas Scarim, she was already seriously involved in the art of improvisation and composition by age eleven. In 1998 and 1999, she was a recipient of the Composer’s Apprentice Award given by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

After high school, Jessie pursued a bachelor’s degree in violin performance at The Juilliard School. Midway through her studies, she served as a composer for a new music series presented by the New York Youth Symphony in 2001. While living in New York City, she continued her studies with composers Derek Bermel, and Steven Burke. She has been a composer for two independent films, one of which was in collaboration with her father, Ed Montgomery, also a composer and independent film producer.

Jessie resides in the West End of Providence where she is a member of the Providence String Quartet and teaches violin, improvisation, and composition to Community MusicWorks students.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tania León's “Horizons” At Beijing Congress of International Alliance for Women in Music

Tania Justina León (b. 1943) is an Afro-Cuban composer and conductor of contemporary classical music. Born in Havana, she is Director of Music Composition at Brooklyn College, where she has been a member of the faculty since 1985. Her work Horizons will be heard at the opening concert of the IAWM Congress 2008.

The "2008 Beijing International Congress on Women in Music" will be held April 18-22, 2008, on the China Conservatory of Music Campus. The five-day congress will feature established women composers as well as students, musicologists, educators, performers and conductors. Full Post

Tania Justina León is profiled at]

The Providence String Quartet Aims “ help build and transform an urban community”

[Providence String Quartet Members (from Left to Right) Jessie Montgomery, Jesse Holstein, Sebastian Ruth, and Sara Stalnaker.]

A March 15, 2008 post on the blog Community MusicWorks was entitled: “John Hope dinner & concert”, and read: “A few photos from Friday's free dinner and Providence String Quartet concert at the John Hope Settlement House on Westminster Street.” Photo No. 4 had this caption: “The PSQ performing H.T. Burleigh songs with Frank Ward”. Intrigued, we visited the “About Us” page of the ensemble's website, where we quickly discovered it is a highly unusual group which has a permanent residency in designated areas of Providence, Rhode Island:

Based on the conviction that musicians can play an important public service role, Community MusicWorks has created opportunities for a professional string quartet to help build and transform an urban community.

Community MusicWorks provides free after-school programs that build lasting relationships between musicians and children who live in the West End, South Side, Elmwood, and Olneyville neighborhoods of Providence, Rhode Island.

Our programs are built around the unique permanent residency of the Providence String Quartet. All four members teach the violin, viola, or cello to children, perform locally, mentor their students, and organize community events for entire families.

[Henry Thacker Burleigh is profiled at]

Audio Samples of Opera “Opu Jaja” by Nigerian Composer Adam Fiberesima

[Highlights from the Nigerian Opera Opu-jaja; Decca LP]

In a post on March 18, 2008, the blog With Comb and Razor discusses an LP recording of the opera
“Opu Jaja” by the late Nigerian composer Dr. Adam Dagogo Fiberesima. The London Symphonia performs with the chorus of the English Chorale singing in the Ijaw language. Martyn Ford is the conductor. The post, which provides two audio samples of the recording, is excerpted below:

And now for my next number, I'd like to return to the classics...

After writing about Martha Ulaeto yesterday and how her career was jumpstarted by an appearance in Adam Fiberesima's Opu Jaja, it occurred to me to dig out my old copy of (highlights from) the opera to see if I could spot her on it.

Of course, that proved a futile pursuit for one whose ear for the nuances of operatic sopranos is as tin-plated as mine, but I figured I'd post a little bit about the opera, since I've never blogged about Nigerian art music (though I have for some time thought about a post on "serious music" composers like Ekundayo Phillips, Fela Sowande, Ayo Bankole, Akin Euba, Samuel Akpabot, Joshua Uzoigwe, Lazarus Ekwueme and Okechukwu Ndubuisi).

But for now we're talking about Adam Dagogo Fiberesima. I'll go ahead and paste in the bio from the back of the LP:

Adam Fiberesima is one of the few gifted Composers of our time. Born in Okrika, in the Rivers State of Nigeria in the year 1926, he developed his musical interest when his father gave him lessons on the piano. He proved himself by giving surprises to his father's friends who thought there was something unusual about his musical gift.”

Act II Scene

Full Post [Samuel Akpabot, Akin Euba and Fela Sowande are profiled at]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Farewell for Neeme Jarvi: William Grant Still's “Afro-American Symphony”

Farewell for Neeme Jarvi by Robert M. Murray

“I close with a review of one of the performances of that tour

Damn Good Yankees
The Guardian, Tuesday 5, 1998
Arts Reviews

Inspired... Neeme Järvi conducts the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
We expect first division American orchestras to be good, says Edward Greenfield, but the second division can be just as dazzling.
As recordings have regularly shown, the quality of American orchestra can be dauntingly fine, not just the old top five—New York, Boston, Philadelphia-Cleveland and Chicago—but those in the second division. On this showing it would be hard to exaggerate the achievement of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, whose tour of Britain culminated in a Barbican concert not just of dazzling brilliance—we expect that of American players, but of stirring warmth too.
The program could hardly have been more taxing, a sequence of orchestral showpieces American repertory in the first half, Prokofiev and Ravel in the second. If dazzle was what we expected and got, it was the inspired conducting of Neeme Järvi that set the performances on a higher plane. He did not just bring out pin-point ensemble, but persuaded the players to perform with a flexible expressiveness akin to what one expects of a solo player, not a whole orchestra geared to precision. That came out forcibly in the rarity in the program, the Afro-American Symphony of William Grant Still, the first black composer to storm the symphonic citadel in America. This is an amiable piece of four ripely lyrical movements, episodic rather than symphonic in structure. With the main blues theme smoothly persuasive, this performance totally disarmed criticism.