Wednesday, April 30, 2008

André Watts At Gilmore Keyboard Festival May 8, 9 & 10

The African American pianist André Watts will take part in three events during the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in West Michigan, beginning with a Master Class at 9:30 am Thursday, May 8 in the Little Theatre on the Western Michigan University East Campus in Kalamazoo. The event is free and open to the public. André will join the Grand Rapids Symphony and David Lockington, Conductor, for two concerts in the De Vos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids, at 8:00 pm Friday, May 9 and Saturday, May 10, 2008. For tickets, which range from $16 to $60, call 616.454.9451, ext. 4. Both concerts feature Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole; Grieg: Piano Concerto; and Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2.

André Watts was the son of an African American soldier and a Hungarian woman. His parents raised him in Europe until the age of 8. Here is an excerpt from his Biography, from The Gilmore Festival:
“André Watts burst upon the music world at the age of 16 when Leonard Bernstein chose him to make his debut with the New York Philharmonic in their Young People's Concerts, broadcast nationwide on CBS-TV. Only two weeks later, Bernstein asked him to substitute at the last minute for the ailing Glenn Gould in performances of Liszt's E-flat Concerto with the New York Philharmonic, thus launching his career in storybook fashion. More than 45 years later, André Watts remains one of today's most celebrated and beloved superstars. His performances each year with the world's great orchestras and conductors and his sold-out recitals and appearances at the most prestigious international festivals bring him to every corner of the globe.

During the 06/07 season, Mr. Watts celebrated his 60th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his debut (with the Philadelphia Orchestra). In honor of this milestone and his numerous achievements and contributions to the world of classical music, he was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in June 2006. During that special season, Mr. Watts performed with many of the American orchestras with which he has had close relationships for many years including the Philadelphia Orchestra in Philadelphia and Carnegie Hall, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Atlanta, St. Louis, National, Indianapolis, Seattle and Milwaukee symphonies. During the 07/08 season, he makes an eleven city tour of the East Coast with the Bergen Philharmonic which includes a concert at Carnegie Hall and a recital tour to Japan. Full Biography

“The Complete Symphonies Concertantes” of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges Released

André L. Adler, President of the Avenira Foundation in Lucerne, Switzerland, informs AfriClassical of the release of a world premiere recording, Le Chevalier de Saint-George: The Complete Symphonies Concertantes On 2 CDs; CD1 276017 and CD2 276018; Avenira (2008). The U.S. Distributor is Qualiton Imports, Ltd., The liner notes for both CDs are by Michelle Garnier-Panafieu, whom André says “ one of the most esteemed personalities and experts regarding classical music of the second half of the 18th century in France.“

Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) is profiled at, where 12 audio samples of his music can be heard. The new CDs have been recorded by the Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra, under conductors
Jiří Malát and František Preisler. The violin soloists are Miroslav Vilímec (b. 1958), Jiří Žilák (b. 1948), and Michal Pospíšil (b. 1960).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Biography of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges Enters Second Printing

[The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow; Gabriel Banat; Pendragon Press; Hillsdale, New York (2006)]

Joseph de Bologne, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), was the Afro-French composer, violinist and conductor who won fame as France's finest fencer before launching his career in classical music. He is profiled extensively at, where a dozen audio samples of his music can be heard.

The most authoritative biography of Saint-Georges in English is: The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow; Pendragon Press (2006) by the noted violinist Gabriel Banat. The book has continued to receive very favorable reviews from numerous publications, and is held in high regard by the Saint-Georges specialists upon whom we rely. It is the first English biography we consult when questions about the composer arise.

The New York Times published an article entitled “A Swashbuckling Violinist, Fresh From The 1700s”, by Roberta Hershenson, on January 6, 2008: “Mr. Banat, who had an acclaimed solo career before becoming a 23-year member of the New York Philharmonic, considers Saint-Georges the first significant black classical composer. Now retired, Mr. Banat, 81, has spent years researching and writing about Saint-Georges, who made music in the court of Marie Antoinette and went on to lead a regiment of black soldiers in the French Revolution.”

Consequently, we were pleased to receive this news from the author today: “I am happy to be able to tell you that having sold out the first, a second printing with all the mistakes corrected at last, will be ready in a couple of weeks.” AfriClassical congratulates Gabriel Banat on the well-deserved success of his scholarly account of the life and music of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges. It is readily available from major book dealers, including and Barnes and Noble.

William Grant Still in American Composers Unit

[Afro-American Symphony; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Karl Kruger, conductor; Bridge 9086 (1999)]

In Crystal, Minnesota, Barb Jones is introducing students at St. Raphael's Catholic School to works of American composers, including the
Afro-American Symphony of William Grant Still (1895-1978), who is profiled at Listening Lessons: Mrs. Jones' Blog. Students in K-8 have been listening to several American Composers. Ask them about Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown,” or “Variations on America” by Charles Ives. Do they remember “Scherzo” from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story? How about “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson? William Grant Still’s “Afro-American Symphony” was full of call and response, and we finished our unit by listening to one of the great female American composers - Amy Beach, who wrote “Piano Concerto.” Students in grades 5-8 had a listening test over these composers (hopefully they took good notes) as well as some general music theory that they reviewed in Jeopardy.

Comment on Jonathan Cambry, African American Pianist (b. 1982)

On April 24, 2008 AfriClassical posted “Jonathan Cambry (b. 1982), African American Pianist in Chicago, Performs on YouTube”. Today we received this appreciative comment from Jay: “Jonathan Cambry is one of the best classical pianist minds that I've ever seen in person. Anyone who has seen his YouTube videos has to be surprised with what they see, not just as an African American, but as an accomplished pianist. Thanks for covering him!”

Monday, April 28, 2008

Duke Ellington, African American Composer, Pianist and Bandleader, Born April 29, 1899

[The Definitive Duke Ellington; Sony 61444 (2000)]

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974) was an African American composer, pianist and jazz band leader. He was born into a middle-class family in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 1899. Although best known for composing, leading and performing about 2,000 "big band" jazz pieces, Ellington also composed orchestral, chamber and solo piano works in the classical genre. His classical music has gradually gained new listeners in recent years due to recordings on CD.

Africana Encyclopedia recounts Ellington's association with the Cotton Club in Harlem: “In the fall of 1927 the Ellington orchestra secured a long-term gig at the Cotton Club, New York City's most prestigious nightclub, which was wired to permit 'live' remote radio broadcasts that gave
Ellington nationwide recognition.”
In keeping with the times, the Cotton Club was racially segregated. Only whites were admitted as patrons; all of the waiters and most of the entertainers were African American. During the engagement at the Cotton Club the band was called the Cotton Club Orchestra.

In 1943 Ellington and his orchestra performed at New York's legendary Carnegie Hall. The program included a ground-breaking 44-minute work entitled Black, Brown, and Beige: A Tone Parallel to the History of the American Negro. The work did not fit the conventions of either jazz or classical music, and the response of music critics was so disappointing that Ellington never again performed the entire piece in public. However, Africana Encyclopedia notes: “Neither Ellington nor Strayhorn were dissuaded from creating other large-scale jazz suites, including the Liberian Suite (1947); Harlem (1951); the Festival Suite (1956); Such Sweet Thunder (1957), a musical tribute to Shakespeare; Suite Thursday ( 1960), which paid tribute to author John Steinbeck; and the Far East Suite (1966).

Ellington also composed film scores for Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and Paris Blues (1961). Ellington's Piano Concerto was premiered in 1955 by Don Shirley and the NBC Symphony of the Air, at Carnegie Hall. Ellington began exploring spiritual themes with his Concert of Sacred Music in 1965. Africana Encyclopedia says of the work: “In the Beginning, God, Ellington's opening movement, won a 1966 Grammy Award for best original jazz composition. In 1968 Ellington composed a Second Sacred Concert. At the time of his death he was preparing a third.

Ellington participated in the Civil Rights movement from the 1940s on. In 1941 he wrote the score for the musical
Jump for Joy, a show intended to debunk common movie stereotypes of African American popular culture. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, led by Neeme Järvi, Conductor, has recorded three of Ellington's works for symphony orchestra on CDs released by the British label Chandos. Harlem, Suite from "The River" and Solitude are found on Chandos 9909 (2001). Suite from "The River" also appears on an earlier disc, Chandos 9154 (1993). Harlem is also found on Chandos 9226 (1993). Full Biography

Akin Euba, Nigerian Composer Born April 28, 1935

[Chaka: An opera in two chants; City of Birmingham Touring Opera; Simon Halsey, Conductor;
Music Research Institute MRI-0001CD (1999)]

Akin Euba was born in Lagos, Nigeria on April 28, 1935 and spent his early years there. He is a member of the Yoruba ethnic group and is profiled at His biography is Akin Euba: An Introduction to the Life and Music of a Nigerian Composer by Joshua Uzoigwe. It is a 1992 publication of the Bayreuth African Studies Series, edited by Prof. Eckhard Breitinger.

Akin Euba received his first piano lessons from his father, beginning in 1943. His father clearly expected him to make music his profession. Euba's second piano teacher was Major J.G.C. Allen, a British civil servant with whom he began instruction in 1948. Euba won first prize at the First Nigerian Festival of the Arts in 1950.

After two years of study at Trinity College of Music, Euba changed his program to allow himself to concentrate on courses he considered of more value to his future career. His biographer recounts: “These subjects included piano, composition, harmony and counterpoint, orchestration, organ and score-reading.”

In four years at Trinity College of Music, Akin Euba earned three degrees in piano performance and teacher training. Uzoigwe tells us Akin Euba regarded his first major composition to be a 1956 work, Introduction and Allegro for Orchestra. He earned Fellowship diplomas at the College in 1957 in Composition and Piano Performance. Euba submitted a string quartet for the Composition Fellowship. He went back to Nigeria in 1957 and served as a Senior Programme Assistant (Music) at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation until his promotion to Head of Music in 1960. The author continues: “Two works which were written as a result of his experiences at this time are Six Yoruba Songs for voice and piano, and Two Yoruba Folk Songs for unaccompanied choir. They were both completed in 1959. In the same year that he was promoted as Head of Music (1960), Akin Euba wrote another work entitled The Wanderer for violoncello and piano.”

Akin Euba's curriculum vitae observes that his creative concepts have no better representation than the opera
Chaka, MRI 0001CD (1999): Briefly stated, Chaka is a fusion of 20th century techniques of composition with stylistic elements derived from African traditional music, particularly the music of the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria. Moreover, the orchestra is a combination of African and Western instruments.” Full Biography

The Angeles Players, An African American String Ensemble

[Top: The Original Angeles Players; Bottom: The Angeles Players Today. Photos courtesy of Joseph R. Taylor]

On April 26 AfriClassical posted: “Music Without Borders Concert: Works of William Grant Still and Carlos Chavez June 29”. The performers will be The Angeles Players and the African American opera singer Hope Foye. Today we post photos and history of The Angeles Players, provided to us by the concert's producer,John Malveaux/Music Untold, “The Angeles Players began in 1982 in the garage studio of Mark
Cargill (violin) with Valencia Williams (violin), Joseph R. Taylor (viola) and Clavis Ballard (cello). They were then known as the 'Original' Angeles String Quartet. Over the years, the personnel has changed or augmented, keeping with three of the originals, Val, Joseph and Clavis. For almost 20 years, the Angeles Players have performed throughout the Los Angeles region as a quartet up to a small chamber orchestra, performing for the Shambrey Chorale, numerous church functions, conventions, weddings and chamber music concerts. The present ensemble consists of Joseph R. Taylor (violin), Vernon Humphries II (violin), Darrel Sims (viola) and Clavis Ballard (cello). The above black and white photo shows the Angeles Players with John Sims (violin), Valencia Williams-Mitchell (violin), Joseph R. Taylor (viola) and Clavis Ballard (cello) in a 1984 Shambrey Chorale concert with Jester Harrison.”

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Music Without Borders Concert: Works of William Grant Still and Carlos Chavez June 29

AfriClassical is pleased to publish this poster for the Music Without Borders Concert. Works of the African American composer William Grant Still (1895-1978) and the Mexican composer Carlos Chavez (1899-1978) will be performed by The Angeles Players and Hope Foye on Sunday, June 29, 2008 at 3 pm at the Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach, California. The concert is produced by John Malveaux/Music Untold, [William Grant Still is profiled at]

Friday, April 25, 2008

Comment: Origin of H. T. Burleigh's “Goin' Home” is Controversial

[Deep River: Songs and Spirituals; Oral Moses, bass-baritone; Ann Sears, piano; Troy 332 (1999)]

On April 20 AfriClassical posted a National Public Radio essay by Maestro Marin Alsop, who explained that Henry T. Burleigh's song
Goin' Home was adapted from Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony. We have received a comment by E-mail from Mike S. Wright, Chair, International Society for African to American Music: This is controversial and some say 'Goin' Home' came before the New World symphony. Having said that, there is less controversy over the fact that the spiritual Lord, how come me here Lord is in the American Quartet.” [The African American composer, arranger and bass soloist Henry Thacker Burleigh (1866-1949) is profiled at]

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Nokuthula Ngwenyama With The Performers of Westchester May 2, 8:00 PM

Friday evening, May 2, at 8:00 PM:
It is our good fortune that Matt Haimovitz, one of the leading cellists of his generation, returns for his 5th consecutive Performers season, teaming up with our own Andy Simionescu and virtuoso violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama with an unusual and compelling program. Françaix’s Trio, while a 20th century work, is brimming with neo-classical charm. Dohnanyi’s Brahms-influenced Serenade is enlivened by Hungarian folk song and dance. And Mozart’s Divertimento, although for only three instruments, is a truly monumental work reflecting the composer’s Enlightenment humanistic ideals. (It is featured on Mr. Haimovitz’s CD release "Mozart the Mason" on his own Oxingale label.)”

Nokuthula Ngwenyama (b. 1976) is an acclaimed American violist and violinist of Zimbabwean-Japanese heritage. She is also a Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Notre Dame University. She records on the EDI Records label. Her website is:

Black Symphonists Concert in Los Angeles, May 4, 2008, 5:00 pm

[Portrait of José Mauricio Nunes Garcia (1767-1830) by José Mauricio Nunes Garcia, Jr.]

Experience the grandeur and sophistication of musical gems penned by eminent symphonists of the African diaspora dating from 1600 to the present. Glenn Graub, cellist; Marissa McLeod and Jeff Corwin violinists join the Afro-American Chamber Music Society Orchestra in a performance of
Symphonie Concertante, Op. 6, No. 1, of Joseph de Bologne, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Other works featured include: African Suite by Fela Sowande; Overture by José Mauricio Nunes Garcia. $20 admission. Wilshire United Methodist Church, 4350 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. Contact: 310-677-8155.

The Afro-American Chamber Music Society Orchestra was founded in 1988 by Janise White, Musical Director, Harpsichord. Celinda Searle Levno, Flute. Tom Jones, Conductor. [José Mauricio Nunes Garcia, Joseph de Bologne, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges and Fela Sowande are profiled at]

Jonathan Cambry (b. 1982), African American Pianist in Chicago, Performs on YouTube

Jonathan Cambry (b. 1982) is an African American classical pianist in Chicago who has posted 37 YouTube videos of his playing of piano works of composers including Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin. He is CEO of, “The Ultimate Piano Community”. He writes, a blog where he tells of his piano studies from the of age 3. Immediately after high school, he studied and performed in Italy during an 8-week program based in Milan. “In 1997, Jonathan was the recipient of a Silver Medal at the NAACP ACT-SO Competition for Music/Classical, and won Gold Medals in 1998 and 1999 in the categories of Music/Classical and Music/Contemporary.”

“While at Northern Illinois University, Jonathan studied privately with Dr. William Goldenberg, and was a recipient of the Jane Jenkins Lovering Memorial Scholarship (2005) and received a master class from world renowned pianist and professor Martin Canin of the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. Jonathan continues to study piano with professor Kuang-Hao Huang at the Chicago College of the Performing Arts.” Full Bio

Budget-Price CDs of Works of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges

[Saint-Georges: Violin Concertos 2; Qian Zhou, violin; Toronto Camerata; Kevin Mallon, conductor; Naxos 8.557322 (2003)]

A recent AfriClassical post discussed a budget recording of works of William Grant Still and Ulysses Kay. Today we take a brief look at two budget CDs of violin concertos of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), who is profiled at (1) Saint-Georges: Violin Concertos; Takako Nishizaki, violin; Cologne Chamber Orchestra; Helmut Müller-Brühl, conductor; Naxos 8.555040 (2000) (67:54). (2) Saint-Georges: Violin Concertos 2; Qian Zhou, violin; Toronto Camerata; Kevin Mallon, conductor; Naxos 8.557322 (2003) (65:30). We did not find any other new recordings of the works of Saint-Georges selling at budget price.

Among the websites which sell each of these recordings for $8.99 US are,, and lists them at $7.99 US. The lowest prices we found in a quick search of websites on which we have come to rely were at Marketplace Merchants, a variety of third-party stores which sell CDs through the website of We priced only new recordings. Naxos 8.555040 sold for as little as $5.33 US, and Naxos 8.557322 was as low as $4.91 US. We found the CDs selling at Presto Classical, based in the U.K., for
£4.99 each.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Girma Yifrashewa's CD “Elilta” Is Now Available For Download has been proud to present the amazing life and career of Girma Yifrashewa, the Ethiopian classical pianist and composer. He was born in Addis Ababa on October 15, 1967 and first saw a piano at age 16, yet he overcame many obstacles to earn a Master's Degree in piano performance in Sofia, Bulgaria. In October 2007 AfriClassical published a post with audio samples of all six tracks of his 2006 CD “Elilta” (“Cry of Joy”).

The CD “Elilta” is presently sold only in Ethiopia. Yet, listeners elsewhere need not wait for international distribution before enjoying Girma's compelling performance of his compositions. We were delighted to learn recently that his own website offers each of the six CD tracks for $0.99 US, and the complete CD for $5.99 US. The mp3 tracks and the audio of the complete recording are available at:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 Follows AfriClassical Closely, “Tracking the Best Black Blogs”, keeps a close eye on AfriClassical: “A website on African Heritage in Classical Music. AfriClassical is in the Lifestyle category. Our archive has 94 entries from the last 90 days and we last checked for a new entry _ minutes ago.” A very useful feature is “This Entry's Referrals”, consisting of “All embedded links in this entry that reference external sources.” We recently added to our Favorite Blogs list.

Comment: H. T. Burleigh's “Goin' Home” Was Adapted From Dvorak's “New World Symphony”

On April 20 AfriClassical posted a National Public Radio essay by Maestro Marin Alsop, who explained that Henry T. Burleigh's song Goin' Home was adapted from Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony. Burleigh is profiled at We have received a comment by E-mail from David Robinson:

“Thanks for the write-up on "Going Home." I always tell my students that it was originally a Negro spiritual that Dvorak put into a symphony. Now I know it was written by Harry Burleigh. Also, I would like to get that set of music by William Grant Still and Ulysses Kay. Do you advertise any music stores that would have the recordings you advertise? I have passed along your information to my students so that they can study the black composers and know how to look for their music.
By all means, I hope that you are in touch with the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. (NANM), which I serve as a board member and youth orchestra director. They can be reached at
I am forwarding this note to NANM's president, Roland Carter.”

We appreciate the comment from David Robinson. The 2-CD set with William Grant Still's From the Black Belt and Darker America, and Ulysses Simpson Kay's Six Dances for String Orchestra, is The Incredible Flutist, VoxBox CDX 5157 (1996). While some music stores may have it in stock, it is widely available on the Internet. A Google search returned a string of websites offering it. They included,,,, Barnes and Noble, CD Universe and AfriClassical is acquainted with Roland Carter and the NANM, whose program we posted for a convention last year. We hope other educators will also tell students about information found on AfriClassical or

Monday, April 21, 2008

Raymond Harvey Conducts At The Gilmore Keyboard Festival May 3 & 10

The African American conductor Raymond Harvey is Music Director and Conductor of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. He will conduct two concerts during The Gilmore Keyboard Festival, which calls itself: “The largest gathering of keyboard artists in North America...”. It will take place in West Michigan April 24-May 13, 2008. Maestro Harvey's website relates: “With an immediately noticeable style that has been described as 'elegant, but suffused with energy,' Raymond Harvey has garnered critical acclaim on symphonic podiums throughout the United States.

Now in his ninth season as Music Director of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Harvey was previously Music Director of the Springfield Symphony in Massachusetts and the Fresno Philharmonic in California. He has appeared as guest conductor with many of the country's leading orchestras, including those of Philadelphia, Atlanta, St. Louis, Utah, Indianapolis, Rochester, Buffalo, Detroit, Louisville, New Orleans and Minnesota, as well as the New York Philharmonic's Young People's Concerts and the Boston Pops.

Equally at home in the world of opera, Mr. Harvey serves as Artistic Director of the El Paso Opera in Texas. Recognized as an outstanding pianist, choral conductor and teacher, Raymond Harvey holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree from Oberlin Conservatory of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Yale School of Music.”

Gilmore Festival Chamber Orchestra (Grand Rapids) Saturday May 3, 8:00 pm, Royce Auditorium, St. Cecilia Music Center - Grand Rapids
Aubade, Concerto chorégraphique
Coleurs de la cité céleste (Colors of the Celestial City)
Appalachian Spring (original instrumentation)

Members of the Grand Rapids Symphony, David Lockington, conductor, and the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Raymond Harvey, conductor, unite to form this fantastic chamber orchestra. Pianists performing are Lori Sims, Gilbert Kalish and Jeremy Denk. The Poulenc work is for solo piano and 18 instruments. The Janácek work is for piano left hand and winds.

Gala - Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra with Ingrid Fliter Saturday May 10, 8:00 pm, Chenery Auditorium
Eight Russian Folk Songs, Op. 58
Piano Concerto in A, No. 23, K. 488
Piano Concerto in F Minor, No. 2, Op. 21

Younger African American Composers Include Rollo Dilworth, Stephen Newby & Gary Nash

[Got the Saint Louis Blues: Classical Music in the Jazz Age; VocalEssence Ensemble Singers and Chorus with orchestra; Jearlyn Steele, soprano; Michael Forest, tenor; Paul Shaw, piano; Philip Brunelle, Conductor; Clarion CLR907CD (2004)]

VocalEssence is a remarkable choral and instrumental music program in Minnesota which was known as the Plymouth Music Series when it was founded in 1969 by Philip Brunelle, Artistic Director. notes: “The Series immediately established the marks of its future success: world, United States, and Midwest premieres; famous guest artists; commissions of new works (over 115 to date); and a reputation for surprise.” The VocalEssence Chorus is comprised of 120 singers; the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers number 32. Soloists and instrumentalists complement the two choruses.

In February, AfriClassical published a post on “WITNESS: The Duke Ellington Effect”, held Feb. 17, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The concert announcement online said “Duke Ellington’s adventurous spirit opened the way for the next generation of African American composers...”. We received an E-mail reply from Philip Brunelle: “Thanks. We had a marvelous WITNESS set of concerts this year with lots of new pieces by a younger group of African Americans including Rollo Dilworth, Stephen Newby, and Gary Nash.”

The printed program for “WITNESS: The Duke Ellington Effect” included this portrait of the Artistic Director of VocalEssence: “Philip Brunelle, artistic director and founder of VocalEssence, is an internationally renowned conductor, choral scholar and performer. Believing that listeners and musicians alike must experience music of many genres and styles, he has worked enthusiastically – and tirelessly – to expand audiences for rarely heard works of the past and worthwhile new music. His conducting engagements have taken him across the United States, South America and Europe. Recently he has conducted the New York Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra and at the Berkshire Choral Festival. He conducted at the Oregon Bach Festival in July 2007 and will return this summer.”

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Music of William Grant Still & Ulysses S. Kay On 2-CD VoxBox Budget Recording

[The American Composers Series - The Incredible Flutist; Six American Dances for Strings; Westphalian Symphony Orchestra Recklinghausen; Paul Freeman, Conductor; From the Black Belt, Darker America; Music for Westchester Symphony Orchestra; Siegfried Landau, Conductor;
Vox Box 5157 (1996)]

“'I prefer music that suggests a program to either pure or program music in the strict sense,' [William Grant Still] said. What he meant is immediately apparent in the pair of works recorded here.
From the Black Belt (11:13) was composed in 1926, scored originally for small orchestra and later published for full orchestra. The sections of the suite are: Li'l Scamp (:08); Honeysuckle (3:45); Dance (:31); Mah Bones is Creakin (:13); Blue (2:32); Brown Girl (2:43); Clap Yo' Han's (1:08).” “Darker America, a symphonic poem for chamber orchestra, was written in 1924 and won a publication prize from the Eastman School of Music. It depicts the triumph of a people over their sorrows through prayer.”

Ulysses S. Kay, Shirley Fleming writes, “...prefers to work in what one might call a broad European tradition. He has followed the classic guidelines, composing chamber music, concertos, cantatas, symphonies, and two one-act operas, one of them a Koussevitsky Foundation commission (
The Boor, based on Chekhov) and the other The Juggler of Our Lady,written in [1955] and presented at Xavier University in Louisiana in 1962 and by Opera/South in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1972. His Six Dances, composed in 1954, reveal his affinity for tradition infused with a robust and unmistakeable American spirit. The dances are designated: 1) Schottische; 2) Waltz; 3) Round Dance; 4) Polka; 5) Promenade; 6) Galop.”

VoxBox sells most of its recordings in 2-CD sets which typically cost less than a single full-price CD. Titles tend to remain in the catalogue indefinitely. The works of William Grant Still and Ulysses Kay are found in
The American Composers Series on The Incredible Flutist, VoxBox CDX 5157 (1996). Walter Piston, Peggy Stuart Coolidge and Daniel Gregory Mason are also included. Although released in 1996, this recording remains widely available at websites based in Britain, Canada and the U.S. William Grant Still and Ulysses Simpson Kay are profiled at

H. T. Burleigh's “Goin' Home” Was Adapted From Dvorak's “New World Symphony”

[Deep River: Songs and Spirituals; Oral Moses, bass-baritone; Ann Sears, piano; Troy 332 (1999)]

Maestro Marin Alsop wrote an essay for National Public Radio, April 18, 2008, noting that the African American composer Henry "Harry" Thacker Burleigh (1866-1949) adapted a melody from Dvorak's
New World Symphony for his song Goin' Home. Burleigh is profiled at Audio samples accompany Marin Alsop's essay for NPR:

Symphony No. 9 is nicknamed New World because Dvorak wrote it during the time he spent in the U.S. in the 1890s. His experiences in America (including his discovery of African-American and Native-American melodies) and his longing for home color his music with mixed emotions.”
The New World Symphony's best-known melody surfaces in the 'Largo' movement, with its aching English horn solo. It was later adapted into the song 'Goin' Home' by Harry Burleigh, a black composer whom Dvorak befriended while in New York. But I'm always moved by the church-like chords that come before that now-famous tune. In a stroke of innovative genius, Dvorak brings these opening chords back at the climax of the finale, where all the melodies from the symphony reappear, transformed by the journey.” [Full Post]

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Simon Le Duc, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges & Pierre-Montan Berton L'Ainé On CD

[Mozart in Paris;Yura Lee, violin; Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie; Reinhard Goebel, conductor; Oehms Classics OC 705 (2007)

In the Fall of 2007, the website of Oehms Classics posted this description of a new CD,
Mozart in Paris, combining works of Mozart and four other composers which were influential during Mozart's time in Paris in 1778-1779:
At this year’s Mozart Festival in Augsburg, Reinhard Goebel and the Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie presented works from the 'Concert Spirituels' milieu in Paris. The Concerts Spirituels played an important role in 18th century Parisian musical life and were the venue for many premieres of symphonic works. Even Mozart wrote a work for this series: the 'Paris Symphony' K. 297. Composer, violinist and conductor Chevalier de Saint-George was also active in Paris at the same time. Later generations would characterize him as the 'Black Mozart' and stylize him in legendary terms. And indeed, Saint-George, born on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, was multi-talented, becoming one of the most scintillating figures of the age: he enjoyed the highest respect as a violin virtuoso, fencing master, conductor, composer and – ladies’ man. Soloist in his Violin Concerto in G Major op. 2/1 is Yura Lee, winner of the 2006 Leopold Mozart Violin Competition.”

The works on the CD are:
Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782): Sinfonia in D Major, Op. 18, No.6 (1779)
Simon Le Duc (1742-1777): Symphony in E-flat Major (1777)
Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799): Concerto in G Major, Op. 2, No. 1 (1772)
Pierre-Montan Berton L'Ainé (1727-1780): Nouvelle Chaconne in E Minor (1762)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): “Parisian” Symphony in D Major, KV 297 (1778)

Richard Eckstein explains in the liner notes:
“The program on this CD was never played
per se at a 'Concert spirituel'. The violin concerto by Chevalier de Saint-George, possibly the most significant violinist during the development of the classical violin technique, was no longer performed at the time of Mozart's Paris stay in 1778/1779. In addition, an absolutely authentic presentation of the works of one 'Concert spirituel' would last at least three hours. The concerts were extremely long and contained an exotic mixture of works: the repertoire ranged from French and Italian arias to sonatas and then on to symphonies and solo concertos. In contrast, this recording represents the compositional achievements that the 22-year-old Mozart found in Paris.”

MSU Presents World Premiere of Adolphus Hailstork Commission April 26

Serenade “To Hearts Which Near Each Other Move,” by Adolphus Hailstork, to honor Whartons

Michigan State University College of Music, April 1, 2008
EAST LANSING, Mich. – On Saturday, April 26, Wharton Center will make history when the MSU Symphony Orchestra, University Chorale, and State Singers pay tribute to Clifton and Dolores Wharton with a world premiere commission by Michigan State University alumnus and award-winning composer Adolphus Hailstork.

This musical piece, Serenade “To Hearts Which Near Each Other Move,” was commissioned by the Michigan State University College of Music and Wharton Center for Performing Arts. The centerpiece for the text was “Love’s Philosophy,” a poem by Percy B. Shelley, which was suggested by Dolores Wharton. Hailstork selected additional poems by Shelley to complete the work.

Serenade was written in direct response to Mrs. Wharton's statement that she wished the love story could be told,” said the piece’s composer Adolphus Hailstork, a 1971 alumnus of the MSU College of Music. “After our initial meeting in New York City, Mrs. Wharton sent the text to “Love's Philosophy” and my research into Shelley began. I hope I have written a love song worthy of what she wanted to express.” Full Post [The African American composer Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork (b. 1941) is profiled at]

Pianist Roy Eaton on TV in Manhattan April 26, 9:30 pm

The African American classical pianist Roy F. Eaton,, is well known for performing and recording the works of the African American ragtime and classical composer Scott Joplin, and for interpreting the piano works of other composers, including Chopin and William Grant Still. Roy Eaton tells AfriClassical he will be appearing on the program “Active Aging” Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 9:00 PM. It can be seen on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, Time Warner Cable Channel 34 abd RCN Cable Channel 83. The website is

Shirley Joel, program host, adds: “Our programs focus on vibrant older people, who are doing interesting and productive activities although past the typical age of retirement. They feature individuals like Roy (having revived a career as a concert pianist despite a hiatus of 50 years)...who help dispell the myth and counter the image that all older people are sick or non-productive, and prove that there is a second and even third act in life.”

Chamber Works of Three African Americans at Richmond Music Festival May 2

[Deep River: Songs and Spirituals; Henry Thacker Burleigh, composer; Oral Moses, bass-baritone; Ann Sears, piano; Troy 332 (1999)]

Henry T. Burleigh (1866-1949), R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) and William Grant Still (1895-1978) are African American composers who are profiled at Their works will be heard at Virginia's Richmond Music Festival,
Friday, May 2 – 8 p.m.
Bon Air Presbyterian Church
Concert: American Mosaic
(Recital by 2008 Chamber Music Workshop participants – 7pm)

In the Southland, Henry T. Burleigh
Gamin, William Grant Still
El Bolero, Charles C. Perkins
In the Southland, Henry T. Burleigh

Cello Sonata (2007), John Hilliard
In the Bottoms, R. Nathaniel Dett
Las Sombras de los Apus, Gabriela Lena Frank
A Selection of Songs, George Gershwin

This concert was brought to our attention by Clarke Bustard, who writes Letter V: The Virginia Classical Music Blog. We were not familiar with Gamin, so we turned to “International Opus: Musical Diversity For A New Millenium”:
William Grant Still — Mother and Child/Gamin
Alexa Still’s arrangement of two movements from the Suite for Violin is a wonderful addition to the solo flute repertoire. Mother and Child is lyrical, sustained and expressive, employing the singing qualities of all of the flute’s ranges and is reminiscent of both spirituals and Debussy. Gamin is a rhythmic, humorous and jazzy piece which contrasts the previous movement and challenges the flutist technically. Recorded by Alexa Still on Koch International Classics [3-7192-2H1 (1994)].