Monday, May 11, 2009

Ludovic Lamothe, Haitian Composer Born May 12, 1882

[A Vision of Ludovic Lamothe; Charles P. Phillips, piano; IFA Music Records (2001) (55:00)]

Ludovic Lamothe is one of Haiti's most renowned classical composers. He was born in Port-au-Prince, his country's capital, on May 12, 1882. The Ludovic Lamothe page at is based primarily on research generously provided by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, specialist in Black composers for four decades and Professor of Music at Lawrence University, and on Vodou Nation: Haitian Art Music And Cultural Nationalism, by Michael Largey, published by The University of Chicago Press (2006). Ludovic's father Tacite Lamothe and grandfather Joseph Lamothe were both pianists as well. His mother was Virginie Sampeur, an accomplished poet.

Lamothe studied piano and clarinet in Port-au-Prince, showing early talent as a pianist and composer. In 1910, German merchants in Haiti raised a scholarship to send him to the Paris Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Louis Diemer. Upon his return to Haiti the following year, Lamothe made a living by giving piano lessons and presenting private salon concerts on Sunday afternoons. His favorite composer was Chopin, and a commemorative Chopin concert he gave at the Rex Theatre is said to have led to his nickname “Black Chopin”.

His compositions drew inspiration from Vodou ceremonial music, and his méringues ranged from the most elite to the most popular. La Dangereuse is the most famous example of his elite méringues. He won a Port-au-Prince City Council contest in 1934 for the best méringue de Carnaval with Nibo. Largey writes: “While the musical structure of “Nibo” is unremarkable, its social and political meanings for Haitian audiences are noteworthy. The occupation of Haiti by U.S. Military forces was scheduled to end on 21 August 1934, approximately six months after the 1934 carnival.” The author adds: “In this context, 'Nibo' was understood as an anticipatory anthem for the celebration to come in August 1934.” Lamothe died April 4, 1953.  A book of his sheet music was published by his family in 1955. [Full Biography]

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