Thursday, July 31, 2008

Deborah Thurlow, African American Horn Player, Composer & Conductor

The recordings of the African American composer Deborah Thurlow are pictured at and her biography can be found at

“Deborah Thurlow earned a CUNY BA through the Local 802 Music Program at Kingsborough CC/Lehman College in 1990 and a MFA in performance from SUNY Purchase in 1993. She is a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey and a freelance musician in the New York area and in Europe. In 1999 she produced a two-day music event, Next Horn Wave, where she put together horn players from the East and West coasts and Europe to perform music devoted to the art of both contemporary and jazz improvisation. She has been favorably reviewed in the press, including the NY Times. In addition, her one act play with music, The Creative Void Of The Planet Earth, had an Equity Showcase run of seven performances in April 1997 by the New Media Repertory under the direction of Miranda MacDermot. In the past she has performed with the Pina Baush Ballet Company, Franz Kaman, David Amram, Anthony Davis, The New York Composers Orchestra, and many others too numerous to mention.

“She studied both composition and orchestration with John Corigliano at Lehman College. She has received grants from Meet the Composer, ASCAP Awards, William Petshek Music Fund and the Puffin Cultural Foundation. Her works are published with Ensemble Publications/Nichols Music Company and DSM Producers who caters to the film and tv industry exclusively. She has received grants from Meet the Composer, William Petshek Music Fund, The Puffin Cultural Foundation and also Composer in Residence at Morehead State University in Kentucky in the summer of 1988 and has been reviewed favorably in the New York Times and other printed media. Her one act play with music The Creative Void Of The Planet Earth, had an Equity Showcase of seven performances in April of 1997 by the New Media Repertory under the direction of Miranda MacDermot. She has four recordings to her credit, Angelic Waves - Part 1 (2000), Angelic Waves - Part 2 (2003) are independent releases and I Am (2001), Patchworks (2004) on the Capstone Records label. In 2008 she will release her fifth CD, The Darwin Effect, with Capstone Records.” Robert McFerrin, Sr. Sang in William Grant Still's "Troubled Island"

[Robert McFerrin, Sr. (1921-2006), photo at]
“Robert McFerrin Sr., was an African-American baritone opera and concert singer who became the first black male to appear in an opera at the Metropolitan Opera house in New York City, his debut following by less than three weeks the well-publicized breaking of the color barrier by contralto Marian Anderson.” “He is best remembered as the father of singer and conductor Bobby McFerrin, with whom he sometimes performed.”

“McFerrin’s New York career began in 1949 with a small part in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars. His performance attracted the attention of Boris Goldovsky, who gave him a scholarship to study at the Tanglewood Opera Theatre outside of Boston. There, in 1949, he made his operatic debut in Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto. He then joined Goldovsky’s touring company, where he added roles in Charles Gounod’s Faust and Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Iphigenie en Tauride. In addition, he sang with the National Negro Opera company in Verdi’s Aida and at the New York City Center Opera Company in the world premiere of William Grant Still’s Troubled Island. Finally, he returned to Broadway for a revival of Green Pastures in 1951 and the following year for some performances in My Darlin’ Aida, an updated version of the Verdi opera set in Memphis in 1861.” Full Post [William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at]

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Global Voices Online: Haiti, U.S.A.: Musical Militia

Janine Mendes-Franco is Regional Editor, Caribbean, for Global Voices Online, She published this post about AfriClassical on July 30, 2008: “AfriClassical quotes author Michael Largey in its profile of Haitian classical composer Occide Jeanty (1860-1936): By performing pieces that had extramusical programs referring to Haitian political resistance, the Musique du Palais National, with Occide Jeanty conducting, became a symbol of Haitian resistance, albeit in musical, not military terms.” AfriClassical is happy to add Janine's blog, Francomenz, to its Favorite Blogs.

Comment On Performance of William Grant Still's “Mother and Child” at Ebenezer Baptist Church

[Africa: Piano Music of William Grant Still; Denver Oldham, piano; Koch 3 7084 2H1 (1991)]

Yesterday AfriClassical posted “Danielle Belen Nesmith & Atlanta Symphony Perform William Grant Still's 'Mother and Child'”. We have received this comment on the post: “Thank you for posting the review from the AJC. Supporting these artists is so important. Keep up the good work. Leatrice Ellzy, National Black Arts Festival”. AfriClassical welcomes this message from The National Black Arts Festival, “Celebrating 20 Years of Art and Culture, 1988-2008”.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Occide Jeanty (1860-1936), Haitian Composer, Resisted U.S. Occupation With Music

Occide Jeanty (1860-1936), who is profiled at, was one of Haiti's leading classical composers. Michael Largey has written Vodou Nation: Haitian Art Music And Cultural Nationalism, published by The University of Chicago Press (2006). He says Jeanty's father was Occilius Jeanty, director of a Haitian military band called the Corps de Musique. Occide was also successful in music, and won a trumpet scholarship at the Paris Conservatory. Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma is Professor of Music at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin and has written about Black classical music for four decades. He has generously made his research entry on Occide Jeanty available to this Website: "His teachers in Paris included Arban (Jeanty’s principal instrument was the valve cornet), pianist Antoine-François Marmontel, and Douillon." "In 1885 he left Paris to become music director to President Lysius Felicité Salomon writing musique du palais in Port-au-Prince, where a street was later named for him, and a stamp issued in centennial tribute in 1960."

Largey adds: "Jeanty wrote at least eight processional marches, six funeral marches for Haitian dignitaries and their families, and four patriotic marches, as well as various polkas, gavottes, and méringues." "Jeanty also wrote patriotic pieces, including the 'Chant National' (with lyrics by Haitian poet, Oswald Durand) in 1897 and the commemorative march '1804' in celebration of the centennial of Haitian independence."Occide Jeanty composed 'Les Vautours de 6 Décembre' (The vultures of 6 December) to protest humiliation Haiti suffered at the hands of the German navy in the Emile Lüders Affair. Jeanty was a general in the Haitian army when the U.S. Occupation began in 1915. He left his post a year later; conflicting explanations were given for the departure. He was reinstated in 1922 and held the position during the rest of the occupation, which ended in 1934. The author continues: "By performing pieces that had extramusical programs referring to Haitian political resistance, the Musique du Palais National, with Occide Jeanty conducting, became a symbol of Haitian resistance, albeit in musical, not military terms." "Jeanty's most famous composition, 'Dessalines ou 1804: Marche Guerrière' (Dessalines or 1804: War March) - known to Haitian audiences as '1804' - was another example of a work that, through performance, became an unofficial anthem of Haitian resistance and political autonomy until the end of the occupation in 1934." Occide Jeanty died in 1936.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Danielle Belen Nesmith & Atlanta Symphony Perform William Grant Still's “Mother and Child”

[William Grant Still (Photo is the sole property of William Grant Still Music, and is used with permission.)]

NBAF Review: ASO Electrifies at Ebenezer
By Pierre Ruhe Monday, July 28, 2008, 01:02 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“For the past eight years, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has ventured from its Symphony Hall home to perform a free show in Ebenezer Baptist Church as part of the National Black Arts Festival. The distance between Midtown and downtown’s Sweet Auburn district is just a few miles, but in mood and expectation — and, strikingly, engagement with the audience — these concerts often seem like a world away. Sunday evening, in the church’s Horizon Sanctuary, the ASO and conductor Robert Spano played to a full house and revisited its Ebenezer formula: young minority musicians take the solo spot in a short work or a movement from a concerto, followed by a complete reading of a popular, barnstorming symphony.”

“First up was cellist Khari Joyner, an incoming senior at Lakeside High School, playing the opening movement of Haydn’s C Major Cello Concerto, premiered in the 1760s. Joyner already boasts an impressive local resume, as a student in the ASO’s minority-center Talent Development Program and as principal cellist in the disciplined Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. He’s a charismatic soloist, too, finding the essence of the concerto’s elegant passions — rewarded with a grateful standing ovation.

“Violinist Danielle Belen Nesmith is a graduate of the University of Southern California and winner of the 2008 Sphinx Competition, a Detroit program that fosters the talents of budding Hispanic and black classical musicians. With a lush, honeyed tone, she offered two gems, William Grant Still’s 'Mother and Child,' a lovely little song for violin and orchestra from 1943, and Wieniawski’s 1853 daredevil 'Polonaise Brillante,' exactingly played.” Full Post [William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at]

Comment On “Revival Arts Blog: Celso Machado at Mission Folk Festival”

Yesterday AfriClassical posted “Revival Arts Blog: Celso Machado at Mission Folk Festival” on the Afro-Brazilian guitarist and composer who was born in Brazil in 1953 and now lives in Canada. Jason of Revival Arts Blog has made a comment we very much appreciate: “Thanks for your comment and link on your blog! It was wonderful to read up on Celso Machado and listen to some of his music on your website. Even though we only saw him perform a little, he was one of the highlights of the Mission Folk Music Festival. His love and dedication to music was evident in everything he did from body percussion, to getting the crowd involved, to playing guitar and to creating new sounds with his water bottle. Our 5 year old son was transfixed and giggling through much of his performance.”

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Revival Arts Blog: Celso Machado at Mission Folk Festival

[Celso Machado at Mission Folk Festival in Fraser River Heritage Park, British Columbia, Canada;]

Revival Arts Blog, July 27, 2008:
“We’re hanging out at the Mission Folk Music Festival this weekend. Jason and I are huge fans of world music so we’re grooving to the sounds of Ireland, Canada, Africa, Asia and South America. Just like theatre is a welcome break from movies, seeing music performed live has a fresh vitality that can rarely be captured in recordings. Of course Jason is bringing the camera to the festival and is constantly scanning the performers and crowd for interesting things to take pictures of. We love people watching at the Mission Folk Music Festival as the people are as colourful as the music." [Celso Machado (b. 1953) is a globe-trotting Afro-Brazilian guitarist, singer and composer who now lives in Canada but still performs far and wide. His personal website is and he is also profiled at]

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Aaron Dworkin is Keynote Speaker for International Society for Music Education July 25

Aaron Dworkin, who is profiled at, was a keynote speaker at the 2008 conference of the International Society for Music Education (ISME) in Bologna, Italy. On Friday, July 25 he made a presentation which was described in advance at the ISME website:

Breaking the Sound Barrier: The Sphinx Organization and Classical Music
Named a 2005 MacArthur Fellow, Aaron P. Dworkin is the Founder and President of the Sphinx Organization, the leading arts organization based in the United States that focuses on youth development and diversity in classical music. In his presentation, Mr. Dworkin will discuss the lack of diversity that exists in the classical music field in America. As part of this analysis, he will share statistics from orchestras, music schools and youth orchestras that lay the foundation for his work building greater representation of Blacks and Latinos in the industry. He also covers the issues facing minority composers and the obstacles to greater visibility of their historical contributions to the classical music repertory as well as current commissions.

In addition, he will provide an overview of the Sphinx Organization and the impact of its programs including their Preparatory Music Institute in Detroit, Performance Academy in Boston, Artist Series at Carnegie Hall, various educational programs in schools around the country and the flagship program of the organization, the Sphinx Competition for young Black and Latino musicians. Dworkin will also share a brief video on the organization that includes clips of several of its ensembles, featuring the Sphinx Symphony, Sphinx Chamber Orchestra and the Harlem Quartet.

Friday, July 25, 2008

'Justin Holland: Black Guitarist in the Western Reserve' Was Born July 26, 1819

[Justin Holland; Photo Courtesy Douglas Back]

"Justin Holland was born to free black parents in Norfolk County, Virginia on July 26, 1819," Barbara Clemenson writes in her article Justin Holland: Black Guitarist in the Western Reserve.
Guitarist Douglas Back has made a recording which includes five works of the composer, American Pioneers of the Classic Guitar, Mento Music Press SMM 3023 (1994). It can be ordered at his website,

The CD liner notes by Douglas Back tell us of two separate periods during which Justin Holland was a student at Oberlin College in Ohio, first for a year in 1841, when he was 22, and later for a shorter time in 1845. Douglas Back writes: “After returning to Oberlin in 1845, Holland married and soon moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he established himself as a teacher of guitar, mandolin, piano and flute, becoming the city's first black professional.” “Between the years 1848 and 1854 Holland participated as an assistant secretary and member of council at National and State Negro Conventions, where he worked alongside such noted activists as Frederick Douglass. He is known to have worked with the Underground Railroad...”

The liner notes continue: “Although Holland seldom performed in public, he developed a national reputation as a composer and arranger for the guitar. To the average amateur guitarist of the day, his numerous arrangements made his a household name. Of his approximately 350 published works for the guitar, which include two acclaimed methods, only about one-third are extant.” “Justin Holland died at his son's home in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 24, 1887. His son, Justin Minor Holland and daughter, Claire Monteith Holland were also accomplished guitarists...” [Justin Holland is profiled at]

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cover Art of Duke Ellington's “Black, Brown and Beige”, RCA Victor DC 39 (1944)

[Black, Brown and Beige: A Duke Ellington Tone Parallel to the American Negro, as played by the Composer and his Famous Orchestra at his Carnegie Hall concerts; RCA Victor DC 39 (1944)]

On Feb. 7, 2008, AfriClassical posted “Suites of Duke Ellington, James Price Johnson, Scott Joplin & William Grant Still”. It quoted the blog of WFIU, “Night Lights”: “It took Ellington 12 years to achieve his goal–the 45-minute-long Black, Brown and Beige Suite: a Tone Parallel to the History of the Negro in America, which is now considered to be one of his greatest works.” A reader named Bill has commented on the post: “Hi Just wondered where the above image is from, as I've never seen the album with that artwork before, it's really nice.” Information on the cover art in question can be found online at Apparently, the cover art first appeared on the 1944 RCA Victor release on 78 rpm records. Music websites indicate the CD with the cover picture is no longer available, but the complete title and catalog number are provided in the above caption. [Duke Ellington, James Price Johnson, Scott Joplin and William Grant Still are profiled at]

Morehouse College and Atlanta Symphony First Staged Scott Joplin's Opera “Treemonisha”

[Scott Joplin's Treemonisha; Original Cast Recording; Polygram 435709 (1992)]

The Scott Joplin page at tells of the 1975 production of Joplin's opera, Treemonisha, by the Houston Grand Opera, as orchestrated by Gunther Schuller. A visitor to the website has informed us that the work was first staged in 1972 by Morehouse College and the Atlanta Symphony. The following two paragraphs have been added to the Scott Joplin page:
In 1911 Joplin published the opera Treemonisha. The work was said to contain some of his best music. One theater agreed to produce it, but later reneged. Treemonisha was first staged in a concert performance in Atlanta, Georgia by the Afro-American Music Workshop of Morehouse College and the Atlanta Symphony under Robert Shaw, conductor. Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma recalls: “The Atlanta production ran for two consecutive nights to full (and mixed) houses in late January 1972. This was the original version via T.J. Anderson.” The choreographer and stage director was the famed African American dancer Katherine Dunham. Uzee Brown, Jr. made his operatic debut in the role of Parson Alltalk.

On January 30, 1972 The New York Times published a review by Harold C. Schonberg: “In writing 'Treemonisha' - the libretto was his own – Joplin clearly intended to author a social as well as musical document. He set up the forces of ignorance and superstition against liberalism and education represented by a young lady named Treemonisha.” “Morehouse College, aided by a Rockefeller grant, gave 'Treemonisha' an ambitious performance. Thomas J. Anderson, a visiting professor at the college, orchestrated the opera in a style that follows the one example of Joplin's orchestration that has come down to us.” The opera concludes with 'A Real Slow Drag.' Schonberg writes: “This slow drag is amazing. Harmonically enchanting, full of the tensions of an entire race, rhythmically catching, it refuses to leave the mind. Talk about soul music!” The opera's professional premiere is generally considered to have been the 1975 production of the Houston Grand Opera, for which Gunther Schuller produced the orchestration. The music can be heard on an original cast recording, Polygram 435709 (1992).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lydian Singers Hold Press Briefing on 'Song of Hiawatha' Trilogy by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

[Performances Page of Website of The Lydian Singers]

On July 3, 2008 AfriClassical posted “The Lydian Singers of Trinidad and Tobago Perform 'Hiawatha' Songs of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor”. The Lydians tell AfriClassical a Press Briefing for the upcoming opera season is being held Friday, July 25, 2008 at the Bishop Anstey High School Hall (located on Keate Street in Port of Spain), at 7:30 pm. In a press release by Christine Lewis, The Lydians announce: “From 2nd to 4th October 2008, the stage of Queen’s Hall will be transformed into a Native American Village as the Lydians, with Steel, present 'Scenes from the Song of Hiawatha' a trilogy composed by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Directed by Pat Bishop, the Lydians will joyously tell the story of Hiawatha’s wedding to Minnehaha, who left her tribe, the Dakotas, to marry Hiawatha, an Iroquois. Then will follow the heartbreaking tale of Minnehaha’s death, as famine and disease ravage the tribe; and finally Hiawatha’s prophecy of the future devastation of his people, and his departure 'to the Land of the Hereafter'. There are few, if any, operas set in the New World that speak of the people of the First Nations and this is really the story of a great leader. [The Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is profiled at]

Monday, July 21, 2008

Albany 1011: Songs of Duke Ellington, Florence Price, Thomas Greene Wiggins & Henry T. Burleigh

[Songs of America: Oral Moses, bass baritone; Rosalyn Floyd, piano; Timothy Holley, cello; Albany ALB 1011 (2008)]

Albany Records ALB 1011 (2008):
"A kaleidoscope of American culture presented by the magnificent bass-baritone Oral Moses.This recording is, in many respects, a unique and creatively conceived kaleidoscope of American culture presented through the expressions and influences of African Americans. Moses and Floyd offer exceptionally convincing interpretations of each song, with clear understanding of the nature and unique message contained in each. The diverse genres, art songs by African American composers and artful settings of spirituals, also include works written by other Americans who use idiomatically African American musical resources, and whose creative energies have been powerfully influenced by African American folk life. This is a delightful tapestry of works that comprise a cross section of musical personalities and compelling lyrical content."

The 20 tracks on the CD include: No. 10. Concert of Sacred Music: no 3, Come Sunday by Edward "Duke" Ellington; 11. That Welcome Day by Thomas Greene Bethune; 16. To the Dark Virgin by Florence Beatrice Price; 18. I been in de storm so long by Traditional, Arranged by Henry Thacker Burleigh. The performers on each of the four tracks are: Oral Moses (Bass Baritone), Rosalyn Floyd (Piano), Timothy Holley (Cello). [The composers Duke Ellington, Florence Price and Thomas Greene Wiggins, and the arranger Henry Thacker Burleigh, are profiled at]

Eugenia Zukerman Interviews Rachel Barton Pine and Nokuthula Ngwenyama July 22

[Nokuthula Ngwenyama, African American Violist and Violinist. Photo by Darla Furlani]

Daily Staff Report, Sunday July 20, 2008
“VAIL — On Tuesday at 5 p.m., Eugenia Zukerman, the artistic director of Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and the arts correspondent for 'CBS Sunday Morning,' will interview Rachel Barton Pine and Nokuthula Ngwenyama in the lobby of the Vilar Performing Arts Center. A provocative interviewer and an accomplished musician, Zukerman’s repartee will provide informative and interesting insight to the world of classical music from the string perspective. The discussion is free and open to the public. Pine, a violinist, has received worldwide acclaim for her thoughtful interpretations, which she applies to an extremely diverse repertoire.

Ngwenyama (pronounced “En-gwen-ya-ma”) has been celebrated in the press as providing “solidly shaped music of bold, mesmerizing character” (Gramophone magazine). She has performed extensively across the U.S. and abroad, including concerts with the Atlanta, Baltimore and Indianapolis symphonies as well as the National Symphony Orchestra. Ngwenyama’s recitals have taken her from Tokyo’s Suntory Hall to the Louvre, to the White House. Ngwenyama will be featured on the viola. [Nokuthula Ngwenyama is profiled at]

Kevin Scott Conducts SUNY Orange Symphonic Band in Free Concerts August 1, 2 & 8

AfriClassical has received word from Kevin Scott, an African American conductor:
The Symphonic Band, led by Kevin Scott, Conductor, is comprised of SUNY Orange students and members of the community and will play some of your favorite movie, TV and radio themes: Star Wars, The Simpsons, The Flintstones, Pirates of the Carribean, and more. Friday, August 1 at 7 p.m., Pine Bush Area Arts Council Concert, Village Centre Gazebo, Pine Bush. Saturday, August 2 at 7:30 p.m., Thomas P. Morahan Memorial Park, Greenwood Lake. Friday, August 8 at 7 p.m., Middletown Festival Square. Free and open to the public, Rain or Shine. For more information call 845-341-4393.

SUNY Orange Faculty Profiles:
“Since taking over the SUNY Orange Symphonic Band in January 2006, Kevin Scott has sculpted a remarkable turnaround for the group by reaching out to the community, plucking talented artists, and infusing his dedicated, professional and workmanlike attitude into his performers’ practices and concerts. So when Scott pronounces his vision of the symphonic band serving as a beacon not only for the College, but the entire Hudson Valley and beyond, it’s easy to believe he will accomplish his goal.”

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Works of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor & Jeffrey Mumford in Baltimore's River Concert Series July 25

Maryland Daily Record
Place to Be
July 25 Concert
Mahler's revolutionary song-symphony, “Das Lied von der Erde,” will captivate audiences for the final River Concert at St. Mary's College of Maryland. The Chesapeake Orchestra, under the musical direction of Jeffrey Silberschlag, will also perform
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's "Overture to Hiawatha" and the Maryland premiere of Jeffrey Mumford's "Verdant and Shimmering Air." Details about the concert are on the River Concert Series Web site at or call 240-895-2024. The free outdoor concerts overlook the St. Mary's River and begin at 7 p.m., with grounds opening at 5 p.m. [Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is profiled at]

Saturday, July 19, 2008

“American Composer” Magazine on Alvin Singleton, African American Composer

[Sing to the Sun: Chamber Music by Alvin Singleton, Troy 902 (2007)]

20 july/august 2008 21
Alvin Singleton
by Kyle Gann
“The orchestral success of
Alvin Singleton baffles me, for the same reason that I’m surprised
by the continuing popularity of Sibelius. I consider myself a connoisseur of exotic and peculiar tastes suggestive of insight superior to that of the average classical music lover. I love Sibelius for his quirks, his austere independence, his counterintuitive gestures, so foreign to all previous
orchestral rhetoric. He’s the kind of composer I would expect to be a specialty, a maven’s obscure delight, and it dilutes my pleasure in him slightly that he is so widely appreciated by people who otherwise savor Tchaikovsky and Grieg.

“Likewise, Singleton is hardly the kind of bombastic purveyor of moto perpetuo percussion who makes a splash in concertopeners, and even less the kind of highly technical composer faintly praised by academics. His music is soulful, with an understated simplicity that I particularly prize and that I would expect the oh-sosuperficial classical music world to crassly misunderstand. I want him to be ignored and underrated so I can knowingly laud him as far better than the current run of orchestral racehorses. But somehow, despite his music’s poignant subtlety, his reputation needs no help from the likes of me. He’s doing just fine.

“So I am forced to conclude that there are conductors? managers? Audiences? out there thirsting for new classical music that is long on substance and short on bells and whistles. Singleton’s music is often slow, at the beginning of pieces almost motionless. American orchestral composers aren’t supposed to be slow. That’s soulful Eastern Europe territory, for religious types who suffered under Communism: Arvo Pärt, Giya Kancheli, Henryk Gorecki, Ljubica Maric´. Yet Singleton’s music, for all its Atlantabased Americanness (though he did spend a long, crucial part of his career in Austria) is sometimes leisurely to the point of stillness.” “Composer Kyle Gann is a professor at Bard College. His latest book is Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice...” Full Post

Friday, July 18, 2008

“Goosepimples arrived as Aaron Dworkin of Sphinx began his talk” in London

A blogger tells of a presentation at Southbank Centre, a London cultural complex:
Highlights of The Week (Monday to Friday)
by lemn sissay on Fri 18 Jul 2008 09:07 PM BST
“On Wednesday I attended a talk at The Southbank centre. It was inspirational. It was about the power to make change. Goosepimples arrived as Aaron Dworkin of Sphinx began his talk 'I was brought up with white adoptive parents'. He was explaining about how to get minorities into classical music.” [Aaron P. Dworkin is an African American violinist as well as Founder/President of the Sphinx Organization. He is profiled at]

Myrtle Hart Society: Francis Paraïso, French Beninese Pianist and Composer

From the May eNewsletter of the Myrtle Hart Society,
On Friday, his MySpace page said that he was "deciphering Coleridge-Taylor's piano music." Twenty-four- year-old French Beninese Francis Paraïso began his piano studies at age 12 at the 'Conservatoire National de Région d'Angers'. Three years later, he began to compose for his instrument. In 2001, he obtained his final degrees in piano, chamber music, music theory and musical analysis. He obtained the same degrees in 2004 in a National Music School in Paris. After his French high school diploma, Francis enrolled in The University of Musicology where he obtained his 'Maîtrise' of Musicology (fourth year of university study) in 2005. By 2006, he had earned his 'DESS' (fifth year of university studies in Direction and Management of Music). In 2007, Francis earned the pianist accompanist degree. Often concertizing his own piano works and chamber music concerts, he is also the accompanist for the opera and the orchestra and teaches piano in a national music school. Francis Paraïso's works contain piano pieces, chamber music, a musical, duos voice/piano. His favorite composer is César Frank and among his influences are French composers such as Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Jean Cras, Paul Le Flem, Gabriel Fauré, Guy Ropartz, Louis Vierne, Charles Koechlin, Edvard Grieg, Joaquin Turina, Albert Roussel, Gabriel Dupont, Marcel Labey, Florent Schmitt.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

At West Virginia Public Radio, 'Light' Composers Include Edmond Dédé (1827-1903)

[Edmond Dede; Hot Springs Music Festival; Richard Rosenberg, Conductor; Naxos 8.559038 (2000)]

Classically Speaking: Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond
Lighten up! (CD Reviews)

“2008 is the centenary of Leroy Anderson’s birth (he lived from 1908 to 1975), and during this year Naxos Records is issuing a complete series of Anderson's music, performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin.” “Along with Anderson, we've been playing a few other engaging 'light' music composers, including Arthur Ketèlbey, Edmond Dédé, and Raymond Scott. And to think, Saint-Saëns forbade the publishing of his 'Carnival of the Animals' until after his death to avoid being known as a composer of light music! It doesn’t seem to have been such bad company after all.” Full Post Posted by Mona Seghatoleslami at 7/17/2008 1:45 PM

Edmond Dédé (1827-1903) is profiled at He was born as a free Creole of color in New Orleans. Racial hostility toward African American musicians in the city caused him to interrupt his music studies and flee to Mexico. Upon returning to New Orleans, Dédé worked as a cigar maker, as musicians often did at the time, until he could put together the money needed to travel to Europe. He graduated from the Conservatory of Music in Paris, married a French woman, and worked for 27 years as a conductor in Bordeaux. An African American composer, musician and conductor named Samuel Snaer, Jr. (1835-1900) conducted the first New Orleans performance of Dede's Quasimodo Symphony. Patrons and music critics alike regarded the concert as a great success.

Second Annual Tribute to Francis Johnson, Music Master of Early Philadelphia, Aug. 9 at 8 PM

[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)]

Saturday August 9, 2008 8:00 PM
Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia
Come celebrate the life and times of Francis Johnson, Philadelphia's composer and bandleader who brought diversity to the 1800s with the Rodney Mack Philadelphia Big Brass. Featuring a special side-by-side performance by Bravo Brass, the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra's Brass Ensemble. Presented by Class Acts On Tour in cooperation with the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. Tickets: 800-838-3006 [Francis B. Johnson
was an African American bugler, bandleader and composer whose life has been researched by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music, Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin. The research has been made available to]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nokuthula Ngwenyama (b. 1976), African American Violist, at “Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival”

[Nokuthula Ngwenyama (b. 1976); Photo by Darla Furlani]
Bravo! pays homage to the classics this week

Associate artistic director Lynne Mazza share her personal upcoming concert favorites
Lynne Mazza
Vail CO, Colorado

Wednesday is Bravo’s afternoon Casual Classics at the Vail Chapel, a lovely space for chamber music. Mozart’s renowned duo for violin and viola, with violinist Rachel Barton Pine, making her Bravo debut, joins festival favorite violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama. There is a charming story behind the composition of this piece; come to the concert and read about it in the festival program. All are familiar with Mendelssohn’s magnificent, and only, Octet, but we at Bravo are excited to introduce a new octet by Joachim Raff (who also only wrote one), who worshipped Mendelssohn; though Mendelssohn’s influence is obvious, Raff has his own style.” Full Post Nokuthula Ngwenyama is an acclaimed African American violist and violinist who is profiled at She is also a Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Notre Dame. She records on the EDI Records label and her website is:

Christmas Music Sought for Chamber Music Group or Small Ensemble

John Malveaux has asked AfriClassical to post a research inquiry: “I have been unable to locate any chamber or small ensemble (12 or less) pieces by a composer of African descent specifically appropriate for the annual Christmas Celebration at the Dorothy Chandler Music Center in Los Angeles. The piece may include vocals or be all instrumental. Please help. Thanks, John Malveaux

CBC Radio 2 Blog: “Africlassical, Musicians & Technology, Arts Education”

AfriClassical is honored by this post from Canada's CBC Radio 2, a network which has long brought classical music to Canadians, and also to millions of nearby listeners across the U.S. border:
CBC Radio 2
Posted by Li Robbins on July 15, 2008 at 11:30 AM

Possibly the best thing to come out of the proliferation of blogs is the exploration of specifics. For instance, a blog like Africlassical, which is a companion to a website devoted to the "African Heritage in Classical Music."

Or Hugh Sung's blog, all about "helping musicians adopt technology to enhance their art and lifestyle."

And Dewey21C, a brand new blog about arts education.

It's dedicated to "the belief that the arts are part of our genetic code. That the arts are in the DNA of every child, and that our job as teachers, parents, mentors, advocates, and administrators is to provide quality, sustained arts learning pathways for every child to develop fully as a human being. "

Hear hear. And that's just what emerged from the wide world o'bloggin' this morning.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Witnessing First Performance of Florence Price's Symphony No. 3 in C Minor

[Symphony No. 3; Mississippi River Suite; The Oak; The Women's Philharmonic; Apo Hsu, Conductor; Koch 3 75182H1 (2001)]

Mike S. Wright of London, England is Chair of the International Society of African to American Music. He tells AfriClassical: “I have been a long admirer of Florence Price's works and was initially made aware of her organ works many years ago. This happened when I caught sight of some and just thought I would give them a 'quick whirl'. That was all that was needed to make a big impression. Whilst I was also aware of her spiritual arrangements, it never occurred to me at the time that she was into something big like symphonies! I became aware of the Symphony in E minor (No 1) of 1931-2 and it was not until Judith Anne Still's superb conference in Flagstaff in June 1998 which featured Florence Price's Symphony No 3 in C minor (understood to have been first performed in Detroit in 1940) existed at all.

Dominique-René de Lerma and I witnessed this symphony's first performance at this landmark conference. It is a fine symphony and full of period character worthy of some even greater recordings by mainstream orchestras around the world! Bravo Women's Philharmonic for making the CD. This symphony is in full romantic style and is unmistakably nationalistic with more than a few hints of spirituals. Influences of Dvorak and possibly Still abound with a strong first movement perhaps not quite matched later on. However, the Juba style rhythms in the third movement help to give the work some real character and Maestro Ronnie Wooten led an enthusiastic orchestra in a distinctive performance. To me it was a discovery but to this date, I have not heard whether Price's 2nd symphony (presumed at that time to be lost) has ever surfaced. Perhaps some readers of this may have some idea! I would also like to add that in that same event on another evening, Maestro John McLaughlin Williams led the same orchestra in a welcome premier performance of William Grant Still's orchestral version of Florence Price's Dances in the Canebrakes.”

American Symphony Orchestra Thanks AfriClassical for Post on 2009 William Grant Still Concert

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

On June 7, 2008 AfriClassical quoted Leo Botstein, Conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra, from the ensemble's feature entitle “Ask the Maestro”: “
Though Bernstein and Gershwin may not be our first choices when the Bard Music Festival turns again to an American theme, rest assured that we are planning to do more American music both at the Bard Festival and during our regular season in New York. I hope you will join us for our March 22, 2009 concert of music by William Grant Still, one of the greatest but underrepresented American composers.” We have received a comment from the American Symphony Orchestra: “Thank you for passing the word along from our own Ask the Maestro! For more information about the upcoming Still concert, please visit:

Dictionary of African Composers is Online Again

On June 12, 2008 AfriClassical announced that the Dictionary of African Composers, which had provided biographies and lists of works, was no longer accessible. The resource had been compiled at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Today a comment on the post was made by Alexander: “The website 'Dictionary of African Composers' has moved to a new address!! Go to

The home page at the new address is entitled
Dictionary of African Composers by Alexander Johnson. Here is an excerpt from the Introduction: “And yet: the music of Africa itself remains poorly documented, with only a small number of its composers finding their way into the reference works that most commonly found in the libraries of the world. The present ‘Dictionary of African composers’ aims to fill that gap. The Dictionary will, of course, be continually updated and expanded. Additions, corrections and suggestions are always welcome, and should be sent to Alexander Johnson [].”

AfriClassical Is 41st In Technorati Ranking of “The Top 50+ Classical Music Blogs”

SNOB-MUSAC Technorati Edition, July 11, 2008
Hundreds of people blog about classical music. Chris Foley's PageFlakes page on classical music blogs lists 220 and links to each one! Scott Spiegelberg, author of the blog “Musical Assumptions”, has released the Technorati version of his “Semi-annual Naming of Blogs Mostly Used to Scribble About Classical Music” (SNOB-MUSAC). The list is also known as “The Top 50+ Classical Music Blogs”. For the first time, AfriClassical is among the top 52 classical music blogs, on the basis of Technorati search rankings. “The Google backlinks edition” is a separate ranking. Scott explains: “
Unlike with Technorati, which only counts links in the last six months, Google backlinks can accumulate. Thus older blogs gain a benefit.” AfriClassical is not among the older blogs; it will celebrate its first anniversary July 20.

Philip Achille, Harmonica Player of African Descent, is BBC Young Musician of the Year

BBC Young Musician of the Year
Tabor Foundation Award
The Tabor Foundation Award of £2000 has been made to the young chromatic harmonica player, Philip Achille. This award is given to help with the costs of special tuition with the intention of helping the recipient to realise his/her potential.

Philip had lots of opportunities as a child to try different instruments, including violin, organ, double bass and saxophone, but it was the chromatic harmonica which he started playing at the age of 9 that would slowly become the most important thing in his life. Philip has taken part in many competitions and festivals, most recently becoming the National Harmonica League Player of the Year 2005 and the World Youth Solo Chromatic Harmonica Champion 2005. Philip plays in his school Sax Group, Big Band and Symphony Orchestra as well as the Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra and a band called The Hedonists. He is currently studying for A-levels in Music, Human Biology, Chemistry and Maths, and hopes to study at a music college in London for a year before going on to university. Philip also enjoys playing video games and surfing the internet, and his ambitions include becoming a professional jazz musician, raising the status of the chromatic harmonica and making people happy through his music.

Thami Zungu is Believed to be First Black Conductor of a Full Opera in South Africa News, Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cheerful opera appeals to young and old

The Tshwane University of Technology’s (TUT’s) Department of Performing Arts (Vocal Art) has 'concocted' just the right 'potion' as the ideal antidote to and escape from the daily doom and gloom South Africans have become accustomed to. In July and August, the Department will stage L’Elisir d’Amore (Elixir of Love), one of Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti’s most frequently performed operas. It features some of the most beautiful arias, among others, Una furtive lagrima (A furtive tear), which suits the voices of the young cast perfectly.”

Although the opera premiered in Milan as far back as 1832, its storyline – in particular the love potion bit - is not far removed from South Africa, where all sorts of concoctions are used as part of traditional healing, says Thami Zungu, the conductor and a lecturer at the Department. 'Dulcamara reminds me of a guy on a taxi I used to travel in, who sold potions capable of curing almost anything,' Thami says. As far as is known, Thami is the first black conductor in South Africa to conduct a full opera.” “L’Elisir d’Amore will be performed at the Breytenbach Theatre in Sunnyside, Pretoria, on 26 and 30 July and on 1 August at 19:30. On 27 July and 3 August performances will start at 15:00.” Full Post