Sunday, August 31, 2008

Justin Elie, Haitian Composer & Pianist, Born September 1, 1883

[Justin Elie, Cover photo of sheet music for Nostalgie]

The composer and pianist Justin Elie, who is profiled at, was born Sept. 1, 1883 in Cap Haïtien, Haiti. He began his music education in his home country and continued it in France at the Cours Masset. In 1901 he enrolled in the Paris Conservatory, where he studied piano, harmony and composition. A brief biography of Justin Elie is contained in Vodou Nation: Haitian Art Music And Cultural Nationalism, written by Michael Largey: “At the height of his career, Justin Elie (1883-1931) enjoyed the most prominent international reputation of all the Haitian composers; this reputation was fostered by his frequent trips abroad from his student days on.”

“Justin Elie's Méringues populaires (1920) were a set of six dances published by R. de la Rozier Co. in New York City that set a tone of resistance toward the U.S. occupation, albeit in a form that only Haitian audiences would recognize.” “Elie wrote several pieces that used Indianist musical motifs and descriptive programs that put Native Americans at the center of Haitian musical life. Unlike Lamothe, whose audience was primarily drawn from Haiti, Elie developed his career in the United States.” “Two of Elie's Vodou derived works, 'Scènes Vaudouesques' and 'Deux Poèmes Vaudouesques,' were written while Elie was beginning his composing career in Haiti (Durand 1983, 2).”

“Eager to make a career of music composition, Justin Elie left Haiti on 12 September 1922 and moved to New York City.” “His wife, Lily, joined him in New York in February 1923 and the two of them performed frequently in recitals that included Elie's compositions.” “Elie's first compositions with Carl Fischer were his 'Haitian Legend' (Légende Créole) for violin and piano (1921), 'Prayer at Eventide (Prière du Soir) Invocation No. 2' (1922) for chamber orchestra, and the piano compositions 'The Echo (Ismao-o!): Ancient Mountain Legends, No. 1 (Les Chants de la Montagne No. 1)', 'Nostalgia (Nostalgie): Ancient Mountain Legends No. 2 (Les Chants de la Montagne No. 2),' and 'Nocturne: Ancient Mountain Legends No. 3 (Les Chants de la Montagne No. 3)' (1922).”

Both the publisher and scholars gave Elie credit for an ethnographic knowledge of Native American music which Michael Largey argues is not demonstrated in his works. The author finds blatant misrepresentations in the unsigned program notes which accompanied the composition Kiskaya, in which the African roots of Haitian music were instead attributed to Latin American countries. Largey writes: “Unfortunately, the work that might have secured Elie's name in the memories of concert-going audiences in the United States was never published.” “In spite of its technical and artistic merits, Fantaisie Tropicale was never published due to Elie's sudden death on 3 December 1931 of a cerebral hemorrhage. His body was sent to Haiti where it was buried at a ceremony officiated by Elie's friend and fellow musician, Occide Jeanty.”

Friday, August 29, 2008

Marvin V. Curtis Named Conductor of Indiana University South Bend Symphonic Choir
South Bend choir appoints conductor
SOUTH BEND — Marvin V. Curtis has been named conductor for the South Bend Symphonic Choir, an ensemble in residence at Indiana University South Bend. Curtis recently was appointed dean of the Ernestine M. Raclin School of Music at IUSB and had been the assistant dean and choral director at Fayetteville (N.C.) State University before coming to IUSB.

Prior to his appointment at IUSB, Curtis also served as artistic and musical director for the FSU Summer Opera Series. In addition, he was the first black composer to be commissioned to write a choral work, “The City on the Hill,” for a presidential inauguration. It premiered at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration and was performed by the Philander Smith Collegiate Choir of Little Rock, Ark., and the United States Marine Band.

William Chapman Nyaho Releases “ASA: Piano Music of Composers of African Descent”

[ASA: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent; William Chapman Nyaho, piano; MSR Classics MS1242 (2008)]

William H. Chapman Nyaho was born in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 28, 1958. He was to become a virtuoso pianist, gifted professor of music and dedicated collector and editor of piano music of the African Diaspora. When he was only ten months old his parents returned to their native Ghana with him. He grew up there and graduated from Ghana's Achimota School after studying piano with John Barham. Nyaho received his B.A. in Music from Oxford University in the U.K. After studies in piano at the Conservatoire de Musique in Geneva, Switzerland, and with Henri Gautier, he earned a Master of Music degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Nyaho studied with David Renner at the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his Doctoral degree in Music.

Dr. Nyaho's website is He is also profiled at His credits include a remarkable 5-volume anthology of sheet music published by Oxford University Press, Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora. His first solo piano CD of works of composers of African descent is Senku: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent, Musicians Showcase 1091 (2003). Nyaho's newest recording is ASA: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent; MSR Classics MS1242 (2008). The composers represented on the CD were born between 1900 and 1975 and come from the far corners of the African Diaspora:

Fred Onovwerosuoke (b.1960) Nigeria; STUDIES IN AFRICAN RHYTHM
Robert Kwami (1954-2004) Ghana;JANUARY DANCE
Isak Roux (b.1959) South Africa; AFRICAN JOURNAL
Bongani Ndodana (b.1975) South Africa; FLOWERS IN SAND
Halim El Dabh (b.1921) Egypt; COMA DANCE
Amadeo Roldan (1900-1939) Cuba; PRELUDIO CUBANO
Ludovic Lamothe (1882-1953) Haiti; LA DANGEREUSE
Alain-Pierre Pradel (b.1949) Guadeloupe; POMME CANELLE
Florence Price (1887-1953) USA; DANCES IN THE CANEBRAKES
Wallace Cheatham (b.1946) USA; THREE PRELUDES
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004) USA; TOCCATA

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Women's Jazz Orchestra Plays Music of Margaret Bonds at Festival of Sacred Music Sept. 26

Guardians of Sound and Spirit
Date: September 26, 2008; Time: 7:30 PM; Location: First United Methodist Church of Santa Monica; Address: 1008 11th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90403 , Santa Monica, 90403. North Beach Area Phone: (310) 398-8258. Admission: Free. Accessibility: Wheel Chair Access. Website: Description: Honoring and continuing the tradition created by the great all-female jazz bands of the 1940s, Lesa Terry and the Women’s Jazz Orchestra (WJO) celebrate diversity in spirituality, ethnicity, and gender. The WJO offers a unique interpretation of symphonic and vocal sacred music. Compositions by Mary Lou Williams, Margaret Bonds, Lesa Terry, and Kimberly Diaz draw on African, African American, and Afro-Latin genres, highlighting the importance of these cultural roots, and demonstrating the intimate connection between sacred music and jazz. The WJO’s innovative instrumentation - comprised of Nedra Wheeler on bass, Maria Martinez on drums, Lori Andrews on jazz harp, and a big-band string section - fulfills a dual role, supplying both a rhythmic foundation and improvisational expression. Gospel singers Elaine, Francine and Janine Martin add tasty vocals to this fine blend of delectable distaff musicianship. [The African American composer Margaret Allison Bonds (1913-1972) is profiled at]

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bassoonist John Heard Plays Music of William Grant Still at Appalachian State Univ. Sept. 11

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

University News
Appalachian State University
Posted August 26, 2008 at 2:21 pm · By ASU News
Boone, North Carolina — Bassoonist John Heard presents a guest recital Sept. 11 at Appalachian State University’s Hayes School of Music. Susan Slingland will provide piano accompaniment. His performance begins at 8 p.m. in Broyhill Music Center’s Recital Hall. Admission is free. Heard will perform works by Giovanni Antonio Bertoli, Francois Devienne, William Grant Still and Bentsion Eliezer. Heard is a former professor and chairman of the Department of Music at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Heard has been a featured soloist with symphony orchestras in North and South America, Europe and Asia. He founded the Miami Wind Quintet and was the ensemble’s bassoonist for 22 years. He has recordings on the Kleos, IMP Carlton Classics, ProNova, Mastersound, Antes and Irida labels. An American Record Guide review of one of his recordings stated, “John Heard hails from the faculty of Miami University in Ohio, but judging from this recording he should be hailing from the Vienna Philharmonic. This is quality bassoon playing by any standard: lustrous tone, unfaltering technique, and intense communicative skill.” [The African American composer William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at]

Comment on “African Art Music for Flute”

On Monday, May 26, 2008 AfriClassical posted “African Art Music for Flute: Wendy Hymes, flutes, and Darryl Hollister, piano." A comment has been received from wlcn: “This new CD beautifully and colorfully performed by flautist Wendy Hymes and pianist Darryl Hollister is a must buy! A refreshing addition to the CDs for Flute & Piano, this recording features compositions by composers of African descent and brings to attention the wonderful repertoire out there that should become part of the musical canon. The CD is captivating from beginning to end. It makes for a fabulous recital CD and I certainly hope musicians will seek this music out to perform.

As the statement in the liner note informs "the works presented here offer us a glimpse of the spirit and traditional musics of Africa. The composers' diverse training backgrounds have led each to connect with different African and Western musics, but each has succeeded in finding their own unique voice and how to connect with diverse audiences on multiple continents."

The first tracks are Nigerian composer Fred Onovwerosuoke's " Three Pieces for Flute & Piano". The opening track "Just Before Dawn also includes Narrator Richard Moore; then followed by "Iroro" and "Ayevwiomo". Hymes and Hollister produce a wonderful atmospheric, dancing and trancelike reading of this set.

Bongani Ndodana's "Visions Part I & II" for solo flute performed here with such grace, color and sensitivity by Dr. Hymes, are evocative of the music of South Africa.

The seven movements of "Republic Suite" by JH Kwabena Nketia are performed by the duo. They give a kaleidoscopic performance of music influenced by Ghanaian musical idioms.

The Three pieces by Nigerian composer Joshua Uzoigwe's "Oja Flute Suite" are also phenomenally performed by Wendy Hymes. The first piece is for solo flute and the rest accompanied with piano. Hymes and Hollister are so totally attuned to one another and delightfully musically and rhythmically tight.

This fantastic CD ends with Ugandan composer Justinian Tamusuza's "Okwanjula Kw'Endere." Oce again brilliantly and colorfully performed, this work takes advantage of all the different sounds one can draw out of the flute.

The more one listens to the CD, the more one appreciates the sheer genius of the composers and the masterfully performances. I am thrilled Hymes and Hollister put this together and hope they will put out many more recordings.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Exhibit on William Grant Still, Nov. 17-Dec. 12, Columbus Lowndes Library, Mississippi

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

Columbus Lowndes Library System
314 7th St N, Columbus, MS 39701
Created by Delta State University Charles W. Capps, Jr. Archives and Museum
William Grant Still (May 11, 1895 - December 3, 1978) was an African-American classical composer, born in Woodville, Mississippi, who wrote more than 150 compositions. He was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony of his own (his first symphony) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television. He is often referred to as “the dean” of African-American composers. [The African American composer William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at]

Chicago Sun-Times: “Seeing, hearing 'The Planets' under the stars”

[Paul Freeman conducted the first half of "The Planets" at Pritzker Pavilion Friday night. (Courtesy)]

REVIEW Sinfonietta's striking visuals give extra gravity to Holst suite
August 25, 2008
A rambunctious round of applause greeted Chicago Sinfonietta Executive Director Jim Hirsch's request that the thousands before him in Millennium Park "clap sheepishly" if they were hearing this orchestra for the first time.

As regular subscribers of the Sinfonietta noticed on this humid Friday night, the boundless new audience assembled before the Pritzker Pavilion was ripe for recruitment to the orchestra's season series, which begins in September. Tailor-made for a more general audience than say, Music of the Baroque, the Sinfonietta thrives on cross-genre collaborations like the ones it cultivated with bluesman John Primer, rock act Poi Dog Pondering and even the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. Playing with technology is fast becoming a part of the Sinfonietta mojo as well.

For Friday night's free hi-fi, multimedia presentation of Gustav Holst's astral tribute "The Planets," the 21-year-old orchestra's first impression before the summering masses was bolstered with the help of the Adler Planetarium's astronomer and visual artist Dr. Jose Francisco Salgado, whose memorable accompanying video couldn't have been a more striking complement to Holst's score. With a 45-foot-by-26-foot movie screen broadly draped in front of the orchestra, each planet got its own mini-movie that had the crowd as absorbed in a production than any other classical multimedia show in recent memory.

Leslie Dunner, music director of the Joffrey Ballet, conducted "The Planets" in the second half of the program while founding member Paul Freeman took the first. Dunner provoked a biting blast from the brass in the opening "Mars" that showed a new side to the Sinfonietta's usually modest horn section. "Saturn," on the other hand, spun along with ageless serenity. And Anima, formerly the Glen Ellyn Children's Chorus, tight-roped the stratospheric choral lines that hypnotically dissolve in the mysterious final movement, "Neptune."

Freeman opened the night with a tempered cruise through Ulysses Kay's boisterous little work "Theater Set for Orchestra" but then kicked it into high gear for Alberto Ginastera's propulsive "Estancia: Four Dances." Bravos to concertmaster Carol Lahti and flutist Janice MacDonald for their poignant solos in the work's "Wheat Dance" movement. The whole shebang easily made one of the outdoor summer season's most lasting impressions. [Maestro Paul Freeman (b. 1936), Founder/Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, and Ulysses Simpson Kay (1917-1995) are profiled at]

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Comment on Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson Program Note by Dominique-René de Lerma

[Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004): A Celebration; Chicago Sinfonietta et al.; Paul Freeman, Conductor; Cedille 90000 087 (2005)]

On June 3, 2008 AfriClassical posted: “Program Note on Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson's Sinfonietta No. 2, Generations”. A comment has been made by Tristan L. Sullivan: “I heard Generations for the first time tonight. I thought it was freakin brilliant; I loved it. Thank you Coleridge.” The Program Note was written by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, who has specialized in Black composers for four decades. He is former Director of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago, where Perkinson was Coordinator of Performance Activities at the time of his death in 2004. [Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson and Dr. Paul Freeman are profiled at]

Friday, August 22, 2008

Scott Joplin: Classical Composition As Well As “ragtime and boogie-woogie piano playing”

[Piano Rags; Roy Eaton, piano; Sony SBK 833 (1995); Scott Joplin's Treemonisha; Original Cast Recording; Polygram 435709 (1992)]
Michael Hoinski August 22, 2008 Books & the Culture
“Music has proved a wand of empowerment for the vast array of Texans who have wielded it.” “This between-the-lines conclusion—that music enables transcendence—grows out of Hartman’s thesis: that Texas’ ethnic diversity has engendered a musical cross-pollination that forms the backbone of American music. The manifestation of that notion is The History of Texas Music, a concise primer on the state’s music, examined in social, political, and economic contexts.” “Hartman takes one step backward to Scott Joplin of Texarkana, whose ragtime and boogie-woogie piano playing, learned under the tutelage of a German-Texan named Julius Weiss, foreshadowed two jazz geniuses...” [Charlie Christian and Ornette Coleman]

Scott Joplin (1868-1917), who is profiled at, was more than a pianist of "ragtime and boogie-woogie". He attempted to establish himself as a composer of larger-scale works, with a folk ballet called The Ragtime Dance in 1902 and a 1903 opera A Guest of Honor. In 1911 he 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 January, 1972 in a concert performance in Atlanta, Georgia by the Afro-American Music Workshop of Morehouse College and the Atlanta Symphony under Robert Shaw, conductor.

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.” 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.”

Chicago Sun-Times: “Sinfonietta makes Pritzker debut beneath the 'Planets'”

[Dr. Paul Freeman (b. 1936), Founder/Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta]

Chicago Sun-Times
August 22, 2008
The Chicago Sinfonietta is having another go at the solar system. In May 2006, the orchestra gave two performances of Gustav Holst's "The Planets" that featured an elegant video movie of the planets using images photographed over the years by NASA space probes. With its gigantic images of roiling sunspots and orbs that looked like art objects hung against deep, black space, the video, created by Jose Francisco Salgado of the Adler Planetarium, deftly enhanced Holst's dramatic score.

Paul Freeman, Conductor
7:30 tonight
Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Washington
Audiences at those concerts at Dominican University and Symphony Center were enthralled, and the Chicago Sinfonietta staff immediately started thinking about a repeat performance. That performance will happen at 7:30 tonight in Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Admission is free. Tonight's concert, conducted by the Sinfonietta's founding music director, Paul Freeman, also includes the Overture to Ulysses Kay's "Theater Set," a four-section work composed in 1971, and "Estancia Dances" by Ginastera. [Maestro Paul Freeman (b. 1936), Founder/Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta; and Ulysses Simpson Kay (1917-1995), are profiled at]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Percussion Plus Project Performs Music of Tania León at DePauw University Aug. 31

Pianist May Phang Joins The Percussion Plus Project for August 31 Concert
DePauw University
Greencastle, Indiana
“August 21, 2008, Greencastle, Ind. - The DePauw University School of Music will open its 124th concert season with a performance by the DePauw-based ensemble, The Percussion Plus Project. Titled "Works for Percussion Plus Piano," the program will begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday, August 31 in Kresge Auditorium of the Judson and Joyce Green Center for the Performing Arts. Admission is free. The ensemble will be joined by guest artist May Phang, piano, a member of the School of Music faculty.”

“The concert will feature contemporary works by Czech composer Tomáś Svoboda, Cuban composer Tania León, and the premier of A Kind of Standoff by Puerto Rican composer Armando Bayolo. DePauw Professor Amy Lynn Barber, who founded The Percussion Plus Project in Prague in 1993, describes the upcoming performance as "a great opportunity to feature our remarkable colleague May Phang in three virtuosic pieces of wildly different musical styles.” [Full Post] [Tania Justina León is profiled at Her own website is:]

Songs of Margaret A. Bonds & William Grant Still at UC Berkeley Sept. 24, 12:15-1p.m.

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

Art Song: 56th Annual Noon Concert Series
Performing Arts - Music: Noon concert September 24 12:15-1 p.m. Hertz Concert Hall
Department of Music
University of California, Berkeley
Angela Arnold, soprano; Jeffrey Sykes, piano
Songs by Wolf, Chausson, Debussy, Richard Strauss and American composers William Grant Still, Margaret Bonds and Kirke Mechem. Tickets not required. Event Contact: 510-642-4864 [African American Composers Margaret Allison Bonds (1913-1972) and William Grant Still (1895-1978) are profiled at]

Chicago Sinfonietta Plays 'Overture to the Theater Set' of Ulysses Simpson Kay Aug. 22

[Ulysses Kay: Works for Chamber Orchestra; Metropolitan Philharmonic Orchestra; Kevin Scott, Conductor; Troy 961 (2007)]

The Planets at Millennium Park
Friday, August 22, 2008
7:30 p.m.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park

The Adler Planetarium and Chicago Sinfonietta present an encore presentation of Gustav Holst's The Planets on Chicago's most spectacular outdoor stage.
Adler astronomer Dr. Jose Francisco Salgado's breathtaking video suite is projected on a giant screen while the orchestra performs Holst's masterpiece. Immerse yourself in this unforgettable pageant of sight and sound. The concert is free and open to the public.

Adler telescope volunteers will be stationed at the southeast corner of the Great Lawn (by the entrance to the BP Bridge) from 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. to facilitate free telescope-viewing.
Kay: Overture to the Theater Set
Ginastera: Estancia Dances
Holst: The Planets
This program is generously supported by the Pritzker Foundation. [Ulysses Simpson Kay (1917-1995) is profiled at, along with Paul Freeman (b. 1936), Founder/Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta]

James P. Johnson Plays on 'Classic Piano Blues', New CD From Smithsonian Folkways

[Classic Piano Blues; Smithsonian Folkways 40196 (2008); Victory Stride: The Symphonic Music of James P. Johnson; The Concordia Orchestra; Marin Alsop, Conductor; Music Masters 67140 (1994)]

Smithsonian lets legends of the ivories out of the vault
Scott Barretta • Special to The Clarion-Ledger • August 21, 2008
“Moses Asch founded the Folkways label in 1948 and the 2,168 albums he issued captured everything from the mating rituals of frogs to the political folk songs of Woody Guthrie. Since acquiring the label in 1987, the Smithsonian Institution has kept these titles available, but also recorded new material and issued compilations such as Classic Piano Blues (Smithsonian Folkways) to highlight the kings and queens of the ivories in its vaults.”

“Katherine Handy sings her father W.C.'s classic Yellow Dog Blues with backing by Harlem stride pianist James P. Johnson, who also contributes his interpretation of Hesitation Blues.” [Full Post][James Price Johnson (1894-1955) was an African American pianist and composer best known as the Father of Stride Piano, an intermediate style between ragtime and jazz. The liner notes for the CD Victory Stride explain: “Despite little recognition and limited encouragement, James P Johnson would write two symphonies, a piano and a clarinet concerto, two ballets, two one-act operas and a number of sonatas, suites, tone poems and a string quartet.” He is profiled at]

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

'Treemonisha' Film at Festival of the Arts, Ogunquit, Maine Sept. 8

[Treemonisha: An Opera in Three Acts by Scott Joplin; Sony (1976)]

August 20, 2008 6:00 AM
“OGUNQUIT — Ogunquit Performing Arts announces another fun-and-action-filled Capriccio Sept. 1 through 14, the 18th year for this fabulous townwide Festival of the Arts that signals the end of the summer season in Ogunquit. 'Treemonisha,' Scott Joplin's only opera, is a special film presentation at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Dunaway Center.”

Scott Joplin (1868-1917), profiled at, was known the world over as the “King of Ragtime” He attempted to establish himself as a composer of larger-scale works, with a folk ballet called The Ragtime Dance in 1902 and a 1903 opera A Guest of Honor, but neither work was performed widely. In 1911 Joplin published the opera Treemonisha. The work pits the forces of ignorance and superstition against those of education. It 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. The VHS version is based on the 1975 production of the Houston Grand Opera, for which Gunther Schuller produced the orchestration. The video tape is still available at music websites. The music can also be heard on an original cast recording, Polygram 435709 (1992).

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guébrou, 85-year-old Ethiopian Classical Pianist and Nun, In Concert

[Ethiopiques 21: Ethiopia Song; Buda Musique 860122 (2006)]

The above CD is available online for $13.19 from Allegro Music, which says: “An outstanding pianist and a remarkable composer, Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guébrou (now a Christian nun in a Jerusalem monastery) once recorded her own piano solo works, steeped in Ethiopian culture. The rich, personal poetry of these songs brings to mind Claude Debussy or Carlos d'Alessio's 'India Song' – a rare curiosity indeed, with beautiful melodies and a charming interpretation.”
From Jerusalem with Love: The Ethiopian Nun Pianist
Concert Review
By Makeda Amha
Published: Tuesday, August 19, 2008
“New York (Tadias) - Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru performed at a sold out benefit concert for the first time in 35 years at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, DC last month. The 85-year-old nun and renowned classical pianist and composer captured an eager audience, along with seven young performers who shared the stage with her.

“The first set at the July 12th event included 'The Song of the Sea' in E-Flat Major and 'Mother Love' in G major and the previously unpublished 'The Phantoms' — a set of works evoking early and vivid childhood memories from her early life, growing up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and traveling in Switzerland at the age of six. She played with an unabashed love for melody and thoughtfulness, finishing the set carefully with Beethoven’s 'Fur Elise,' one of her favorites.”

“Her astounding ability as a classical pianist and ability to warmly express 'Reverie,' was a pleasure to listen to, as was 'Presentiment,' a sweet, poetic Sonata in B-Flat Major. She finished the set with a moving 'Quo Vadis,' a spiritual reflection that asks where everyone is going. After a laudatory announcement from the audience, Emahoy returned to the stage to perform 'Homeless Wanderer,' a beautifully-phrased piece, with an improvisatory quality that only she can express.” [Full Post]

Monday, August 18, 2008

William Grant Still helped evoke “...elements of Americana into European classical music.”

[Africa: Piano Music of William Grant Stilll; Denver Oldham, piano; Koch 3 7084 2H1 (1991)]
August 18, 2008
Letter from Europe (Part Two)
Stuart Nicholson

“Today, the dissenting voices raised against Dvorák’s New World Symphony, intended as a lesson on how to forge American nationalism within the Western tradition of classical music, seem quaint with the emergence of composers such as Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, William Grant Still and Elliot Carter who have successfully evoked elements of Americana into European classical music.

“T.S. Eliot once pointed out that no artist can work outside the tradition because the tradition will stretch to accommodate anything artists do. The critics who railed against Dvorák’s New World Symphony, such as Edward MacDowell, who in racist outrage, complained, “Masquerading in the so-called nationalism of Negro clothes cut in Bohemia will not help us,” failed to acknowledge how art evolves.” Full Post [The African American composer William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at]

Invitation to Music Department of National Library of France, 2:00 PM Wednesday August 27

Sylvie Dreyfus–Alphandéry is Director of Collections of the National Library of France, responsible for diversity of Library visitors. She has asked us to announce an invitation to visit the Library's Music Department, Wednesday, August 27 at 2:00 pm. To register for a free visit, call 01 53 79 49 49 or send E-mail to The address is 58 rue de Richelieu, 75002 Paris.

“Negro Folk Symphony” of William Levi Dawson to air on 8pm EDT Aug. 18, 2008

[Negro Folk Symphony; Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Neeme Järvi, Conductor; Chandos 9226 (1993)]

Greg Kostraba is Classical Music Director of WGTE 91.3 FM in Toledo. He tells AfriClassical: “I wanted to let you and your readers know that I will be broadcasting the Detroit Symphony's performance of William Levi Dawson's "Negro Folk Symphony" this evening, August 18th, 2008 on Evening Classics. The show can be heard on-line at from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. EDT. Thanks!! -- Greg [The African American composer and choral director William Levi Dawson (1899-1990) is profiled at]

History of the Americas: William Grant Still Conducted Los Angeles Symphony At Hollywood Bowl

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

History of the Americas
Thursday, August 14, 2008
African-Americans In The Twentieth Century
African-Americans 1920s
William Grant Still (1895-1978) was the guest conductor of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl. He became the first African-American given the honor to conduct a major symphonic orchestra.”

William Grant Still was an African American composer, oboist, arranger and conductor who was born in Woodville, Mississippi and died in Los Angeles, California. One of the proudest and most historic moments of Still's career took place on July 23, 1936, when he conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a performance of his own compositions at the Hollywood Bowl. William Grant Still is profiled at

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Those who create and enjoy Classical Music “have never been exclusively white”

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; Cedille 90000 055 (2000)]

The Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is one of 52 composers and musicians who are profiled at, so AfriClassical is happy to link to this post on the blog of Jonathan and Maria Taylor:
Sunday, 17 August 2008
Leicestershire, United Kingdom

On snobbery and classical music
“People (like me) who mainly listen to so-called 'classical music' are often - both implicitly and explicitly - accused of snobbery. The assumption that dedicated classical music listeners are somehow elitist is everywhere, and has even been internalised in the classical music world itself: so often, concert promoters, radio stations, award panels, arts councils, local councils, funding councils and so on insist on a false inclusiveness, an avowedly 'low-brow' approach which amounts to a patronising attempt to broaden audiences beyond the white middle-classes. The fact that classical music listeners and practitioners have never been exclusively white or middle-class is lost and ignored for political reasons. Look at Mahler, rising from the Jewish working classes in a Bohemian backwater to being declared the "most famous man on earth"; look at Goldmark, who rose from obscurity and starvation; look at Samuel Coleridge-Taylor....”

“This modern belief that classical music is somehow inherently snobbish, and that it's only of interest to an exclusive middle or upper-class clique has, I think, had the effect in education of actually reducing opportunities for lower-middle-class or lower-class students in music. Because it is assumed that classical music is of interest only to an elite; because it is assumed that no one would want to study it from other backgrounds; because of a false kind of inclusiveness which reduces classical music to the status of an expensive luxury which must always be leavened with pop and other kinds of music; because of all this, classical music in education has, through no fault of its own, been partly shut off from state education.” Full Post

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Gathering Note: Works of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor & Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Violin Concerto; Lorraine McAslan, violin; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Nicholas Braithwaite, conductor; Lyrita SRCD.317 (2007)]

The Gathering Note
There’s always more
August 16, 2008 by oznitorres
“If you want to know the honest truth, the only reason why I wanted to write on any blog was to spread the Gospel of Classical Music, to persuade and convert citizens of this planet to the best music around. Recommending new pieces to those of us who are still developing their admiration for this music is one of the best ways of shedding light on the shaded corners of composers we know, and potentially brand new composers. My list, like Fogel’s or Carstensen’s is a personal assessment of music that I listen to that other people might not recognize right away. I’m convinced of their worth, and I hope you will to.”

3. Violin Concerto in C major, Op. 5, no. 1 of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Mozart wasn’t entirely original as you might have surmised by his countless “inspirations” from composers like Johann Christian Bach and Michael Haydn. In the realm of concerti, Mozart was influenced by this French-Black composer, whose music has many of the same suave features that Mozart’s music has. This concerto, the first of three on the disc, will make that immediately apparent.”

“4. Violin Concerto in G minor, Op. 80 of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: This is a fabulous violin concerto in the Dvorak mode, and will delight you instantly. This British-Black composer was heavily influenced by Dvorak, and it comes through beautifully in this recording with violinist Philippe Graffin.” [Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Full Post (1875-1912) are profiled at along with 50 other classical composers, conductors and instrumentalists of African descent]

Sodi Braide, Soon To Perform In U.S., Will Be Heard On WHPK-FM Chicago August 19

[Sodi Braide: Franck, œuvres pour piano; Lyrinx\Talents LYR 249 (2006)]

The Nigerian pianist Sodi Braide recently told AfriClassical: “I thought you might like to know of two upcoming performances scheduled in the US: I shall be performing in the Impulse Artists Series in Houston, Texas from September 12th to 17th (including chamber and outreach programmes, with a solo recital on the 17th); and then in the Dame Myra Hess recital series in Chicago on February 18th, 2009. I'll send more info later. Best regards, Sodi”

Sergio Mims is host of a classical music radio program in Chicago and online. He tells AfriClassical he will air portions of Sodi Braide's CD of Piano Works of César Franck, Lyrinx 249 (2006): “I wanted you to know that I will be playing Sodi Braide's piano transcription of Franck's Two Chorales for Organ on my classical music program on WHPK-FM (Chicago 88.5 FM) Tuesday Aug. 19 from 12 Noon to 3PM (U.S. Central Time). The show can also be heard on-line livestream on On the show as well will be Olivier Messiaen's Turangalia Symphony and Mozart's Piano Quartet in E-flat major. Sergio Mims”

Friday, August 15, 2008

ChoralNet: Happy Birthday Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; Cedille 90000 055 (2000)]

AfriClassical is pleased to republish a birthday tribute to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor from
Friday, August 15, 2008
August 15th is Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's birthday, an English composer born in Croydon, England, on August 15, 1875. So why is he being mentioned on ChoralNet? Well, he's had quite an impact on American music. Read this about the composer from the Cambridge Choral Society's website: “In the United States Coleridge-Taylor's music and work inspired the establishment of the Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society. This was a choral society in Washington, DC composed of some 200 African American singers for the purpose of performing Coleridge-Taylor's works. This society sponsored Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's first visit to the United States where he conducted them in a concert at Constitution Hall.
“The paternity of Mr. Coleridge-Taylor and his love for what is elemental and racial found rich expression in the choral work by which he is best known (Hiawatha's Wedding Feast), and more obviously in his African Romances, Op. 17, a set of seven songs; the African Suite for the piano, Op. 35; and Five Choral Ballads, for baritone solo, quartet, chorus and orchestra, Op. 54 being a setting of five of Longfellow's Poems on Slavery. Also, in the foreword of his `Twenty-four Negro Melodies' Samuel Coleridge-Taylor thanks a number of people who have helped him find these melodies, but he mentions in particular, '...the late world-renowned and deeply lamented Frederick J. Loudin, manager of the famous Jubilee Singers, through whom I first learned to appreciate the beautiful folk-music of my race, and who did so much to make it known the world over.'" [Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is profiled at]

Role of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges in Commissioning Haydn's “Paris Symphonies”

[Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Violin Concertos, Op. 5, Nos. 1 & 2; Op. 3, No. 1; Op. 8, No. 9; Bernard Thomas Chamber Orchestra; Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Violin; Arion 68093 (1990)]

On Aug. 11, the blog “1001 Classical Recordings” posted “142. Joseph Haydn – Symphony no. 83, 'La Poule' (1785)”. Haydn's Symphony No. 83 (“The Hen”) is one of his Paris Symphonies. Their premier performances were conducted by Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) in 1787:“The individual responsible for commissioning the symphonies from Haydn was Claude-François-Marie Rigolet, Comte d'Ogny (i.e., count of Ogny), an aristocrat still in his twenties (his life dates were 1757-1790). The Count, who was the 'Intendant Général des Postes' (postal service superintendent), grew up in a very musical household, where his father kept a great collection of musical manuscripts. Patronage of music may have been an extravagance for the Count, since at his death he left a huge debt of 100,000 livres.
“The actual negotiations with Haydn were carried out at Ogny's request by Joseph Boulogne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the talented leader of the Loge Olympique orchestra. Haydn was paid 25 louis d'or for each symphony plus 5 louis for the French publication rights; the sum was apparently very satisfactory from Haydn's point of view, since the lack of copyright laws had generally prevented him from profiting much from his popularity as a composer.” Full Post [Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges is profiled at] 'Occide Jeanty Music Resists Tyranny'

On July 29, 2008 AfriClassical posted 'Occide Jeanty (1860-1936), Haitian Composer, Resisted U.S. Occupation With Music'. We are happy to report that the post has been republished at under the title 'Occide Jeanty Music Resists Tyranny' along with the original links and the Technorati tags.

'100 Music Education Bloggers' Campaign Has Only 28 Openings Left

On June 30, 2008 AfriClassical posted “AfriClassical Joins 100 Music Education Bloggers”. The post linked to information on the project to enroll 100 bloggers dedicated to Music, Education and Technology by the beginning of 2009. Joseph Pisano announced on Aug. 13, 2008 that the campaign has added blog No. 72, Educación Musical. This is the first Spanish-language blog in the group. Joe encourages more music education bloggers to apply, and still hopes to meet the January 1, 2009 deadline for 100 Music Education Bloggers. AfriClassical encourages bloggers who support diversity in classical music to consider this exceptional opportunity. The list of current members is available at

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Afro-British Composer, Born August 15, 1875

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Violin Concerto; Lorraine McAslan, violin; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Nicholas Braithwaite, conductor; Lyrita SRCD.317 (2007)]

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born on August 15, 1875 in the London suburb of Croydon, England. His mother was an English woman and his father was an African physician who returned to his home country of Sierra Leone when he found he could not attract patients for a medical practice of his own. A family friend oversaw the youth's musical training and arranged an admission interview at the Royal College of Music. That led to his enrollment as a violin student in 1890. Two years later he switched to composition and was taught by Charles Villiers Stanford. He had works performed in public while still a student at the college. Coleridge-Taylor wrote his Symphony in A Minor in 1896, we are told by Lewis Foreman in the liner notes of the world premiere recording, Classico 684 (2006).

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a leading Pan-Africanist who collaborated extensively with the African American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar. He rose to prominence in 1898, the year he turned 23, on the strength of two works. The first was Ballade in A Minor. Next came Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, for which he is best known. The work is a setting of verses from Song of Hiawatha by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He conducted its premier to great acclaim. The work was staged hundreds of times in the United Kingdom and North America during the next 15 years. The composer made three hugely successful tours of North America, in 1904, 1906 and 1910.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor credited the Fisk Jubilee Singers with introducing him to African American spirituals, which he included with songs from Africa in his 24 Negro Melodies, Op. 59 (76:48). Coleridge-Taylor frequently appeared as conductor for his works and those of others. He took on multiple teaching positions, beginning in 1895, in an effort to support his family. Because of the lack of a royalty system in Britain, he was paid only once for each composition, no matter how successful it became. Exhaustion from overwork contributed to the pneumonia from which he died on Sept. 1, 1912, at age 37.

After a long period of neglect, the music of Coleridge-Taylor has been revived in recent decades, with many performances and recordings. His Clarinet Quintet will be played on Sept. 1, 2008 at the BBC Prom Concerts, and will be heard live on BBC Radio 3. From Oct. 2-4, 2008, The Lydian Singers of Trinidad and Tobago, with Steel, will present Scenes from the Song of Hiawatha. [Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is profiled at]