Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kenneth Amis, African American Composer, Tuba Player and Member of Empire Brass

[Kenneth Amis, Tuba, With Fellow Members of Empire Brass; Solo Eclipse; MIT Wind Ensemble; Kenneth Amis, tuba; Bill McHenry, tenor saxophone; Amis Musical Circle AMC-CD-050 (2008)]

Kenneth Amis was born and raised in Bermuda. He began playing the piano at a young age and upon entering high school took up the tuba and developed an interest in performing and writing music. A Suite for Bass Tuba, composed when he was only fifteen, marked his first published work. A year later, at age sixteen, he enrolled in Boston University where he majored in composition. After graduating from Boston University he attended the New England Conservatory where he earned a Master's degree in composition. Mr. Amis has been commissioned to write for the annual Cohen Wing opening at Symphony Hall in Boston, The Massachusetts Instrumental Conductors Association, the Belmont High School Band, Gardener High School Band, the New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble and the College Band Directors National Association.

“As a tuba player Mr. Amis has performed as a soloist with the English Chamber Orchestra and has been a member of the Tanglewood Festival Orchestra and the New World Symphony Orchestra. He has served on the faculties of Lynn University, Boston University, Boston University Tanglewood Institute and the Pacific Music Festival in Japan. Mr. Amis is presently the tuba player of the Empire Brass, a Performing Artist for Besson tubas, a composer for Boosey & Hawkes Publishing and holds the International Brass Chair at the Royal Academy of Music in London. For more information about obtaining arrangements, transcriptions and compositions by Kenneth Amis visit the Amis Musical Circle web site. (

“The Empire Brass enjoys an international reputation as North America's finest brass quintet, renowned for its brilliant virtuosity and the unparalleled diversity of its repertoire. The five musicians - all of whom have held leading positions with major American orchestras - perform over 100 concerts a year in cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington, London, Zurich and Tokyo.” “The Empire Brass is the first brass ensemble to win the prestigious Naumberg Chamber Music Award.”

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Comments From 'American Legacy' Editor and Author on Antonín Dvořák & Henry T. Burleigh

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

AfriClassical recently posted: “American Legacy: 'A Czech In The Land Of Spirituals' on Antonín Dvořák & Henry T. Burleigh”. We brought the post to the attention of Adina Williams, author of the article which prompted the post, and we sent a Letter to the Editor of American Legacy, Audrey Peterson:
“Dear Editor, When my copy of American Legacy Magazine arrived I was immediately drawn to the compelling article by Adina Williams, "A Czech In The Land Of Spirituals". Henry T. Burleigh is one of the Composers of African Descent who are profiled at my website, AfriClassical.com. I have posted excerpts from the article on my blog:
The article does a great service to the memory of Henry Burleigh and deserves to be widely read. Sincerely, William J. Zick, Ann Arbor, MI”

American Legacy Editor Audrey Peterson responded:
“Dear Mr. Zick, Thank you for such kind words; I've forwarded your e mail to the author, who is thrilled, to say the least. I've looked at your blog and thank you for bringing the article to the attention of your readers. Henry Burleigh does deserve wider attention! Best wishes, Audrey Peterson”

Adina Williams replied as well:
Dear Bill, Much appreciated! Dvorak has been such an obsession of mine. All the fascinating connections with Burleigh, Duke, Sissieretta... Hope it sheds some light. It seems to have opened up some interesting dialogue, as I am getting some heartfelt, soul-searching responses. Look forward to reading your work, as well. I will alert folks to your wonderful website and blog. May I include you on my Jazz List? Again-thanks for your kind words, Adina
Adina Williams
Promotion Executive, Jazz & Standards
Boosey & Hawkes - Publisher
[Editor's Note: Boosey & Hawkes publishes the Simrock editions of Antonín Dvořák and Johannes Brahms; works of Jazz composers such as Wynton Marsalis, Charles Mingus and Chick Corea; and those of Classical composers including Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, John Adams and Steve Reich.]

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pianist Richard C. Alston Has Arensky CD & Performs African American Composers on YouTube

[Anton Arensky: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 2; Twelve Etudes for Piano, Op. 74; Etude Op. 36, No. 13; Etude Op. 25, No. 3; Richard Alston, piano; Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Paul Freeman, conductor; Centaur Records CRC 2307 (1997)]

The African American pianist Richard C. Alston has performed widely in the United States and Europe in solo recitals and concerts with orchestras. His website tells us: “A native of East Orange, NJ, Richard received his first instruction from Dorothy Earley, and by the age of eight, was playing organ and piano for the First Baptist Church in Union, NJ. He later continued with Sylvia Rabinof of New York and received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Juilliard School of Music, in New York City, where he studied with Irwin Freundlich and Josef Raieff. He was later awarded the highly prestigious Maria Guerra Judelson Scholarship in piano to return to Juilliard for his Master’s degree as well.” Richard Alston played the role of Jasbo Brown in the Metropolitan Opera's revival of “Porgy and Bess”. Richard Alston is Professor of Music at Essex County College in New Jersey and has frequently served as a part-time instructor at Rutgers University's Newark Campus. He is also on the Board of Music Advisors of the Education Opportunity Program (EOP) at Westminster Choir College, a division of Rider University in Princeton.

Anton Stepanovich Arensky (1861-1906) was a Russian composer of the Romantic Period. Richard Alston is the piano soloist on a recording of Arensky's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 2; Twelve Etudes for Piano, Op. 74; Etude Op. 36, No. 13 and Etude Op. 25, No. 3. The Czech National Symphony Orchestra performs under the direction of Paul Freeman, conductor, who is profiled at AfriClassical.com, on Centaur Records CRC 2307 (1997). Alston also performed two of the etudes on NPR's classical music program Performance Today for a broadcast on July 28, 1998. The program's website gives this background: “Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov predicted that his former student Anton Stepanovich Arensky would be 'soon forgotten' as a composer. Pianist Richard Alston proves him wrong with his performance of two Arensky etudes. (Centaur CRC 2307)” Alston says he met Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma “...when I made my debut with the Symphony of the New World, Everett Lee conducting.” Dr. De Lerma wrote this note of thanks for a copy of Arensky CD Alston sent him: “Thank you so very, very much for the Arensky CD! This healthy romantic literature I had not known before. You have performed a great service in bringing it to light..........you play so totally musically! It is a splendid recording! Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music, Lawrence University”

Richard Alston specializes in repertoire of composers of African descent. An example of his many recitals is one listed in the April 2009 E-Newsletter of Essex County College: “Professor Richard Alston, music coordinator at ECC, will be the featured pianist in the concert/lecture 'Classically Black' on April 9, 2:30 p.m. in the Dasher Student Center, Newark campus. He will perform the works of composers of African descent.” Composers of African descent in Alston's repertoire range from Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) to George Walker (b. 1922). The pianist has 13 concert videos, including Adagio in F Minor of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, at:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Broadway Magazine: 'Tin Pan Alley Rage: Irving Berlin Plagiarist?'

[Photo from Roundabout’s Tin Pan Alley Rag by Joan Marcus.]

“Tin Pan Alley Rage: Irving Berlin Plagiarist?
BROADWAY MAGAZINE—The new offering from Roundabout Theatre is Mark Saltzman’s Tin Pan Alley Rag, featuring the music and characters of Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin. The two men are unquestionably saints in the cannon of American popular music. However, there is more than a little suggestion that Mr. Berlin may have also been a bit of a sinner too. In Charles Hamm’s book, Irving Berlin Songs Of The Melting Pot: The Formative Years, it is put forward that Irving Berlin was accused of plagiarizing 'Alexander’s Ragtime Band' from Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha. Quoting Joplin’s widow from Hamm’s book: 'after Scott had finished writing [Treemonisha], and while he was showing it around, hoping to get it published, someone stole the theme, and made it into a popular song. The number was quite a hit, too, but that didn’t do Scott any good.'”

“The suggestion that Berlin plagiarized Alexander’s Ragtime Band is not a new one. In Edward Berlin’s book King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era, it is pointed out that as early as 1911, there were reports that Joplin was angry with Irving Berlin. By 1916, Berlin came out publically and addressed rumors around the song, though he didn’t address the Joplin connection directly. Hmmm. Come on and steal, come on and steal Alexander’s Ragtime Band?! [Full Post] [Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was a Ragtime and Classical composer and pianist of African descent who is profiled at AfriClassical.com]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

American Legacy: 'A Czech In The Land Of Spirituals' on Antonín Dvořák & Henry T. Burleigh

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

“American Legacy, The Magazine of African-American History & Culture, http://www.AmericanLegacyMag.com/” has published a “Special Music Issue” for Summer 2009. One of the articles is:
“A Czech In The Land Of Spirituals”
by Adina Williams
“Years ago, as a young woman and a fairly advanced student of music and violin, I had the opportunity to perform Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Z Noveho Sveta (“From the New World”). The sonorities and unique use of orchestral colors as well as the poignant melodic style of Dvořák stirred something deep within me, even then. As a teenager I had no idea that exploring Dvořák's life narrative and sharing his story with a global community through an online educational project with Carnegie Hall and PBS would later become such a vital part of my own professional and personal growth. And I never imagined, all those years ago when I was the only African-American violinist in the New York All-State Orchestra, that this distinguished Czech composer, known for his quiet, almost reclusive manner, could be outspoken, particularly when it came to race issues, something that not only could have jeopardized his musical career (and in some ways did) but might even have caused him and his family serious harm. If only I had known this back then when I felt so alone!” “Determined to find out more about Dvořák, I saved my pennies and recruited my mother and best friend to travel with me to his homeland in the summer of 2004.”

“What struck me the most about our visit to Dvořák's home was this: Amid the few surviving portraits of Dvořák's father, grandfather, wife, children and mentor and colleague Johannes Brahms was a painting in a well-worn but regal frame of an equally noble black man! Seeing it, I felt faint and my heart raced. Out from Antonín Dvořák's most intimate and beloved keepsakes beamed the countenance of Harry T. Burleigh. Why was this portrait hanging on the wall in the small house of a European composer in an out-of-the-way village in the Czech Republic? Where had the two men crossed paths? The answer to that question was fairly simple: Dvořák and Henry “Harry” Thacker Burleigh first met in New York City when Burleigh was a student at the National Conservatory of Music, where Dvořák served as director beginning in 1892.” [AfriClassical.com has a page, “Henry 'Harry' T. Burleigh (1866-1949): African American Composer, Arranger and Baritone” which includes ten audio samples, as well as a complete Works List by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, Professor of Music at Lawrence University, whose research on the composer has been made available to the website.]

'I decided to write my paper on Saint-Georges'; ' My instructor told me not to do it because he had never heard of him.'

[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)]

A visitor to AfriClassical.com has written a Guest Book entry which highlights an obstacle to learning of African Heritage in Classical Music:Tuesday, 6/23/09, 8:36 PM “Thank you so much for this site. I took an Introduction to Music class this summer to renew my teachers license. We had to do a small research paper on a composer. I figured I would do one on a black man. I could not believe how much information was out there. I decided to write my paper on Saint Georges Le Chevalier. My instructor told me not to do it because he had never heard of him. I sent him a snippet of information I had been researching. Nevertheless he was floored. He actually stated I had taught him something. I am so fascinated now about other black composers. I have fallen in love with classical music all over again. Thank you so very much. Tonia, Little Rock.”

We can only wonder how many other Music instructors in U.S. higher education demonstrate such indifference to the existence of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) and other composers of African descent!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fort Smith Symphony Records Premieres of William Grant Still's 4th & 5th Symphonies on Naxos

[William Grant Still: Afro-American Symphony; Fort Smith Symphony; John Jeter, Conductor; Naxos 8.559174 (2005)]

Judith Anne Still recently informed AfriClassical of a forthcoming recording of music of her father, William Grant Still, by the Fort Smith Symphony, whose Music Director and Conductor is John Jeter. Maestro Jeter, in his 13th season with the orchestra, agreed to be interviewed about the project. Fort Smith is the second largest city in Arkansas, located across the Arkansas River from Oklahoma. The Fort Smith Symphony is the state's oldest orchestra, and is in its 86th season. It won critical acclaim in 2005 when it released a Naxos American Classics CD of William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American), accompanied by world premieres of In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy (7:22) and Africa (Symphonic Poem) 27:51, on Naxos 8.559174. Among the many favorable reviews was one by MusicWeb International: “This is a great CD. The playing impressed me greatly. The Fort Smith Symphony under John Jeter obviously have a great sympathy for this music.”

The new disc is also a Naxos American Classics CD, and will feature William Grant Still's Symphony No. 4 (Autochthonous) (1947), Symphony No. 5 (Western Hemisphere) (1945, 1958) and Poem, for orchestra (1944) (12:30). The movements of the Autochthonous Symphony are found in the Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma at AfriClassical.com: 1. Moderato; 2. Slowly; 3. With a graceful lilt; 4. Slowly and reverently. The Western Hemisphere Symphony has these movements: 1. Briskly -– the vigorous, life-sustaining forces of the Hemisphere; 2. Slowly with utmost grace – the natural beautiful of the Hemisphere; 3. Energetically – the nervous energy of the Hemisphere; 4. Moderately – the overshadowing spirit of kindness and justice in the Hemisphere.

We asked John Jeter why he had first chosen to record the music of William Grant Still. He replied, “Well, it seemed like a good fit, and I had conducted a few of his works, previous to coming to Fort Smith, and it just seemed that he's really the closest thing the State of Arkansas has to a native composer.” “And also my experience with the music is that I felt that his works were pretty underrepresented in recording catalogs.” As for working with Naxos, John said: “They're the largest label in the world, and really their distribution, I think, is better than anyone else.” “The whole idea of making a CD is getting the music out there, right?” “And of course the first disc is available as a download, and this new one will be.” When asked about the expected release date, Maestro Jeter said: “It would be before the end of this calendar year.” We asked about his classical music broadcasts, to which he replied: “Yes, I do a show called Conductor's Choice on KUAF Radio. It's an NPR station in Fayetteville, Arkansas.” Jeter said he has done a number of weekly Music Education programs, and about 300-400 radio “music infomercials” on various topics, before switching to television. Speaking of the orchestra, he said “We're financially very stable, which is great news for us.” “It's a very positive setup here, all the musicians are very happy, they enjoy coming to play.” “The city is hugely supportive of the orchestra, so we're able to do quite a bit.” We asked the Music Director if he wanted to mention anything else, and he answered: “I would maybe just plug the William Grant Still Conference in November, and I know I'm going to be there doing a presentation on recording these pieces.” “I hope to see people there!”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Nathaniel Dett Chorale Performs at Ontario's Collingwood Music Festival August 8, 2009

[R. Nathaniel Dett Chorale]

Collingwood Music Festival
Nathaniel Dett Chorale
Saturday, 08 August 2009 - 7:30 PM
“A spirit of unity, rendered in song.” - The Globe & Mail
The Nathaniel Dett Chorale is Canada’s first professional choral group dedicated to Afrocentric music of all styles, including classical, spiritual, gospel, jazz, folk and blues. These 21 classically trained, outstanding vocalists have shared the stage with internationally recognized artists such as Juno Award-winning jazz pianist Joe Sealy; opera star Kathleen Battle and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; the Signal Hill Alumni Choir of Tobago, West Indies; and the Concert Choir of Hampton University, Virginia. The Chorale has also performed at events honouring world leaders Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and personalities Muhammad Ali and Oscar Peterson. These multi-faceted vocalists, whose talent stretches beyond the traditional expectations of a classical chamber choir, seek to broaden their vision to include all styles and genres of music, from classical to jazz, folk, blues and popular music, as appropriate to the traditions of the African Diaspora.

The Chorale’s vision is to be a premier performer of Afrocentric composers - past, present and future - and to be a touchstone for the education of audiences and communities regarding the full spectrum of Afrocentric choral music.
Collingwood, Ontario
Celebrating our 10th Season!The Collingwood Music Festival Association is the only community non-profit organization in the Georgian Triangle/Collingwood area that is dedicated to live concerts featuring the finest-calibre classical and World music. It was founded by our Artistic Director, Douglas Nadler, in 2000. [R. Nathaniel Dett was born in what is now Niagara Falls, Ontario on October 11, 1882. He died in Battle Creek, Michigan on October 2, 1943 and is profiled at AfriClassical.com]

Friday, June 19, 2009

Video: CommunityMusicWorks.org Rehearses 'Anthem' of Violinist Jessie Montgomery

[Jessie Montgomery]

“CMW is pleased to present ANTHEM: A Community MusicWorks Story, a short film about an original composition, a 'new piece of music for the nation,' commissioned by CMW to commemorate the election of the first African-American president of the United States. ANTHEM was composed by CMW resident musician Jessie Montgomery with lyrics by 16-year-old CMW student Kirby Vasquez. We hope that you will enjoy viewing ANTHEM: A Community MusicWorks Story online at YouTube or Vimeo. Please share ANTHEM with family and friends. If enough people watch the film and share it, CMW students may get their wish: to perform ANTHEM for President Obama at the White House!”

“Violinist Jessie Montgomery is a member of the Providence String Quartet, which forms the core of the Community MusicWorks Players based in Providence, Rhode Island.” “As the quartet-in-residence for Community MusicWorks, the Providence String Quartet provides free after-school music education and performance programming to youth in Providence's most underserved neighborhoods.” “Jessie Montgomery, violinist, joined the Providence String Quartet in 2004. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School where she studied with Sally Thomas. Jessie won second prize in the 2001 Sphinx Competition and was previously a member of The Young Eight, an all-African American string ensemble.”

Sequenza21.com: “Alvin Singleton’s 'After Choice' was simpler in design, but eloquently so”

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

AfriClassical has published two posts on the premiere of Alvin Singleton's After Choice by the new Orchestra of the League of Composers: “Orchestra of the League of Composers Debuts With 'adventurous music, Alvin Singleton Says” and “New York Times: 'After Choice' by Alvin Singleton 'was an engaging work for string orchestra'”. Today we present an excerpt from a review by Dr. Christian Carey at Sequenza21.com:

League of Composers/ISCM: Concert Review
June 14, 2009
Dr. Christian Carey
"Alvin Singleton’s After Choice was simpler in design, but eloquently so. A string orchestra piece, it consisted of intertwining arco melodies and pizzicati, often in two-part counterpoint or – even starker – played in unisons or octaves. Written in homage to jazz violinist Leroy Jenkins, it didn’t feature anything so overt as jazz inflections. Rather, Singleton based the piece on string parts from a previous orchestral work that Jenkins had admired.”

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Aaron Dworkin Discusses Sphinx Organization With DiversityInc In Carnegie Hall Video

[Aaron Dworkin (b. 1970) is profiled at AfriClassical.com as a Musician of African Descent]

AfriClassical has received this press release from SphinxMusic.org:
“Don’t miss this great interview with Sphinx Founder and President, Aaron Dworkin as he discusses Sphinx with Daryl Hannah of DiversityInc magazine backstage in the Carnegie Hall dressing room during the 2008 Sphinx Artist Series at Carnegie Hall”:
“Where Are the Black, Latino Composers? (VIDEO)"
By the DiversityInc staff
“It's rare that young people are interested in classical music. The Sphinx Organization is trying to change that. The group's president recently spoke to DiversityInc about all that Sphinx has to offer. Watch video” (5:14)

Alvin Singleton Tells AfriClassical of Tenure as Composer-in-Residence in Albania

[Alvin Singleton with wife Lisa celebrating in Tirana, Albania after a concert of his music performed by the Orchestra of Albanian Radio and Television conducted by Oleg Arapi. October, 2008 (Schott-Music.com)]

AfriClassical's interview with Alvin Singleton was first presented on June 12, 2009: “Orchestra of the League of Composers Debuts With 'adventurous music', Alvin Singleton Says”. The second instalment appeared on June 15, 2009: “Alvin Singleton: Imani Winds 'did a terrific job' Premiering 'Through It All'”.

AfriClassical also asked Alvin Singleton about his trip to Tirana, Albania in October 2008. The composer replied: “Oh this was just so fabulous. This is something that you could not even dream of! People still ask, 'Albania? Really?' I was invited by Doriana Molla and Adrian Morina of the cultural organization Eurynome Corp. This husband and wife team, who are from there, every year invite some sort of cultural exchange. They liked my music very much and felt that it would go over well in Albania. So they arranged for me to do a week residency and for the Albanian Radio Orchestra with maestro Oleg Arapi to play a concert of my music and for me to address students at the Arts Academy. And it was just fantastic. People are so warm. They don't have very much, but they have big hearts.” Alvin said the American ambassador attended with his wife and was very pleased by the visit. “The Molla Family, especially Jonida and Dritan, looked after every detail of the entire trip. It went very, very well. Really nice people, and I think it won't be the last time I'll be there. They were interested in me coming back to go to Kosovo. I'm gonna be the composer of the Balkan region,” he laughed. “Albania was closed all the years I lived in Austria. I lived in Austria for 13 years. They invited my wife too, so we were just whizzed off all the time somewhere. It was fantastic!”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tania León & Roberto Sierra Are Guest Composers at Wellesley College July 19-August 2

[Roberto Sierra; Tania León: Singin' Sepia; Bridge 9231 (2008)]

“Founded in 1945, the Chamber Music Center gives amateur chamber musicians and singers the opportunity to participate in ensembles coached by professional faculty musicians, live and socialize with composers from the Composers Conference, and play chamber music informally with old and new friends. The shared experience and synergy of these diverse musicians create a unique musical community and a very special musical opportunity for all the participants.

For summer 2009 (July 19 - August 2), we welcome Roberto Sierra (Cornell University) and Tania León (City University of New York) as distinguished guest composers. Concerts of traditional and contemporary repertoire are free and open to the public.” [Tania Justina León (b. 1943) is profiled at AfriClassical.com]

Comment on WeblogBahamas.com Post on Dr. Cleveland Williams & Scott Joplin's 'Treemonisha'

[Treemonisha Poster from Bahamas.com]

Earlier today, AfriClassical posted: “Cleveland Williams, Bahamian Baritone, Directs Scott Joplin's 'Treemonisha' in Nassau”. The following comment was also made today on WeblogBahamas.com: “William J. Zick said...It is inspiring to hear of the performances of Scott Joplin's "Treemonisha" in Nassau, starting July 6, 2009, under the direction of Dr. Cleveland Williams, the Bahamian baritone. The Scott Joplin page at AfriClassical.com
explains "Treemonisha" was first staged in January, 1972 in a concert performance. It was staged in Atlanta, Georgia by the Afro-American Music Workshop of Morehouse College and the Atlanta Symphony under Robert Shaw, conductor. The opera concludes with "A Real Slow Drag". On January 30, 1972 The New York Times published a review by Harold C. Schonberg which said, in part: "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!" I invite readers to visit the Scott Joplin page at my website.”

Cleveland Williams, Bahamian Baritone, Directs Scott Joplin's 'Treemonisha' in Nassau

[Scott Joplin’s ragtime opera Treemonisha will be staged on July 6 at the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts under the direction of Bahamian baritone Dr. Cleveland Williams (left) in aid of local charities including the Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Association. Chairman of the Heart Association, R. E. Barnes is pictured, right. (Photo from WeblogBahamas.com)]

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
“Bahamian Baritone Directs Rare Performance of Scott Joplin’s Opera Treemonisha, in Nassau Bahamas
A departure from the traditional European opera by Verdi or Puccini, Joplin’s African American production, directed by Cleveland Williams, will commemorate Bahamian independence and aid local charities. Nearly 100 years after it was written, Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha will debut in The Bahamas at the Dundas Centre for The Performing Arts on July 6th. Under the direction of Dr. Cleveland Williams, Joplin’s three-act opera will be performed by an all Bahamian cast of more than 57 artists in commemoration of the 36th anniversary of Bahamian independence. Gala night proceeds will benefit the Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation.

“The story is an inspiring look into the life of a rural African American community whose townspeople, led by young heroine Treemonisha, advance themselves in the post-slavery era by rejecting long held superstitions and deep rooted ignorance in favour of hard work and a commitment to education.” [Full Post]

March 27, 2009
“Treemonisha Opera to Feature All-Bahamian Cast
Treemonisha, an Opera in Three Acts by Scott Joplin, will be staged under the distinguished patronage of Philanthropists Sir Durward and Lady Knowles and in conjunction with the Sir Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation. It is one of the major events commemorating the 36th Anniversary of Bahamas Independence on July 10, 2009, and it will feature an all-Bahamian cast, including members of the National Dance Company. The opera brings to life such themes as ring-play, storytelling, superstition, voodoo, ignorance, religion, education and leadership. It is set on a freed-slave plantation, led by elders Ned and his wife Monisha, and tells the story of an 18-year-old girl, Treemonisha, who is elected to lead and teach the community of slaves to aspire to something better and higher than superstition and conjuring.” [Full Post] [Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was a Ragtime and Classical composer and pianist of African descent who is profiled at AfriClassical.com]

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Early Registration Ends July 1 for 'Music and the Arts: Still Our Only Future', Nov. 19-22, Natchez

[William Grant Still (1895-1978) (Photo is the sole property of William Grant Still Music, and is used with permission.)]

“Music and the Arts: Still Our Only Future” Conference
November 19-22, 2009
Natchez, Mississippi
Early Registration ends July 1st!
Plans for the upcoming “Music and the Arts: Still Our Only Future” Conference are progressing rapidly and many good things are in the works. The event will be well-attended by key figures in the fields of music and the arts, including the Executive Director of the Mississippi Arts Commission, music directors of major symphony orchestras, a former CBS producer, and others.

Please be reminded that Early Registration for the conference ends soon. Be a part of this important inaugural event and submit your registration by July 1st. Go to
http://www.williamgrantstill.com/nss-folder/conferenceinformation/ for full conference information. Participation qualifies for professional credit. Direct inquiries to wgsmusic@bigplanet.com.

Go to
http://www.williamgrantstill.com/natchezawaitsyou to see beautiful, historic Natchez, Mississippi where the conference will be held. We hope to have you join us in Natchez!
Lisa M. Headlee
“Music and the Arts: Still Our Only Future” Conference
Conference Director of Communication & Events

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sample 'Silk Hat and Walking Cane' of Florence Price by Pianist Charlotte Mueller

[Top: Symphony No. 3; Mississippi River Suite; The Oak; Florence B. Price, composer; The Women's Philharmonic; Apo Hsu, Conductor; Koch 3 75182H1 (2001). Middle: Margaret Allison Bonds. Bottom: Woman's Work: Music For Solo Piano; Charlotte Mueller, piano; MSR Classics MS 1160 (2006).]

Audio Sample of Florence B. Price's Silk Hat and Walking Cane

Prof. Charlotte Mueller directs the Piano Program of Lee College in Baytown, Texas. She has a diverse background of study and performance of music from the Baroque to the avant-garde. Her CD Woman's Work: Music For Solo Piano is a fascinating survey of attractive but neglected keyboard compositions of Florence B. Price, Margaret A. Bonds, Amy Beach, Germaine Tailleferre, Lili Boulanger, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Agathe Backer Grøndahl. MSR Classics MS 1160 (2006) was recorded live at a Conservatory of Music in Norway on International Women's Day. It is available at major music websites, and MSR Classics sells it directly for $14.95.

American Record Guide for November/December 2006 said “...this music is strongly melodic.” All Music Guide wrote in July 2006: "Mueller has an easy-going way of presenting these works [and is] very comfortable with the music, always making sure to bring out the melodies. ... it is great to see some neglected works and composers get a chance to be heard."

We asked Dr. Mueller for permission to post a 1-minute sample from Florence Price's Dances in the Canebrakes at AfriClassical.com She replied, in part: “I am very impressed with your website. I am glad to know about it and will refer all my colleagues and students to it. I know they will learn so much from your wonderful research and the excellent references to musicians and composers who so deserve recognition.” Excerpts from the liner notes follow.

“Florence Beatrice Price: Dances in the Canebrakes (1953) - The first African-American woman composer to write a symphony, Florence Price distinguished herself as one of the leading black composers of the early 20th century. She attended the New England Conservatory, enrolling as a Mexican, hoping that in so doing she would encounter less racial discrimination. She graduated in 1906. During her lifetime, she composed nearly 300 compositions and was recognized by leading musicians such as Frederick Stock, who conducted the Chicago Symphony in the 1933 performance of her Symphony in E minor, and Sir John Barbirolli who later commissioned a piece from her. Florence’s musical language is conservative yet replete with African-American musical idioms. Her Dances in the Canebrakes carry the inscription 'based on authentic Negro rhythms', and are written in a cakewalk rhythm.”

“Margaret Bonds: Troubled Water (1967) - Pianist and composer Margaret Bonds grew up during the height of the Harlem Renaissance. As a child, she met the leading black writers, musicians, playwrights and artists who congregated at her home during social gatherings organized by her mother. These encounters were to influence her attitudes throughout her life toward advocacy for social issues as well as recognition of women and African American musicians. During her youth, she studied composition with Florence B. Price and William Dawson, later attending Northwestern University where she received her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees. In 1933, while finishing her graduate degree, she distinguished herself as the first African American to perform as soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 1936, Margaret met writer and poet Langston Hughes, who she referred to as her 'soul mate,' and with whom she continued to collaborate in writing musicals, cantatas and song cycles until his death in 1967.” “Troubled Water, one of Margaret Bond’s few works for solo piano, is based on the Negro spiritual 'Wade in the Water'."

Alvin Singleton: Imani Winds 'did a terrific job' Premiering 'Through It All'

[Alvin Singleton, third person from right, with Imani Winds]

AfriClassical recently enjoyed a wide-ranging interview with composer Alvin Singleton (b. 1940). The first part was posted June 12, 2009, “Orchestra of the League of Composers Debuts With 'adventurous music', Alvin Singleton Says”.
We also asked Alvin about the work he was commissioned to write for the pioneering wind quintet comprised of musicians of color, the Imani Winds. He replied: “It was premiered last February at Spivey Hall near Atlanta, and since then they've played it at least four or five times.” “They had a big project commissioning for their 10th Anniversary and I was the first, I think, to be commissioned.” “Oh, they did a terrific job.” “It's a piece called Through It All.” “And they said it was a fitting title because of what they went through to get where they are.” “They have really done a lot for that medium, because when they do concerts it's really interesting. They don't do just that standard wind literature, they arrange things and then they write things themselves.” “There is an educational component every time they do a concert at a university. They're there about three or four days in residence doing workshops and discussing literature, and they teach individually.”

“Their programs are fantastic because they announce pieces from the stage. Each one in turn speaks.” “I was at the premiere of course, but I happened to be in Brooklyn when they played it here at the New York Public Library, the Main Branch in Brooklyn. They have a new auditorium there, and I went to that concert.” “One of the players said 'The next piece is by someone who was born in Brooklyn.” “And then somebody else said 'He studied here as a student.' “And then somebody else said, 'And he's right here in the audience.' Somebody else said 'His name is Alvin Singleton.' The crowd was just a local crowd. They just loved that. I liked it too, I had no idea it was coming like that! I was thrilled!”

“Imani Winds successfully premiered Alvin Singleton's beautiful and captivating new work: THROUGH IT ALL, at Spivey Hall in Morrow, Georgia on February 8th, 2008. It was the first work to be premiered in the LCP!” “This commission was made possible through ASCAP and Spivey Hall at Clayton State University.” “IMANI WINDS’ Legacy Commissioning Project (LCP) commemorates the ensemble’s tenth anniversary through the commissioning of several established and emerging composers of color.”

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ulysses Kay's 'Epigrams and Hymn' To Be Heard June 14 in Sisters Chapel of Spelman College

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

Historic 'Atlanta Music Festival' coming to Spelman College
“In 1910, downtown Atlanta's First Congregational Church of Christ launched what was then called the Atlanta Colored Music Festival, a program involving black and white composers and performers that helped 'discourage violence and advance respect between white and black Atlantans.' The concerts were a sensation, drawing a diverse crowd in an era of boiling racial tension, just four years after the Atlanta race riots.

“The original festival didn't last long. Last year, First Congregational's minister Dwight Andrews, an elegant and impassioned composer, revived the festival as part of his congregation's legacy. He made the point that the original event seemed like a 'cultural moment,' but added 'every cultural moment seems like a first time, going back 100 years.' This Sunday at Spelman's Sisters Chapel, Andrews, conductor Steven Darcey, Spelman organist Joyce Johnson and the Meridian Chorale will go at it a second time. The free concert, at 4 pm, features tenor Timothy B. Miller, among other solo singers, and includes Ulysses Kay's adventurous anthem 'Epigrams and Hymn' and Andrews' 'Benediction.'" Dr. Joyce Finch Johnson is also a Professor of Music.

Ulysses Simpson Kay, Jr. was an African American composer, conductor and professor who was born on January 7, 1917 in Tucson, Arizona. He died in Englewood, New Jersey on May 20, 1995. Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin has generously made his research entry on Kay available to AfriClassical.com, where his complete Works List for the composer can be found. Here is the entry for the work in question: “Epigrams and hymn, W126, for SATB & organ (1975). New York: Carl Fischer, 1975. 20p. Text: John Greenleaf Whittier, Rev. John Murray, and Samuel Longfellow. Commission: Prebysterian Theological Seminary, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, and Brick Presbyterian Church, for the American Bicentennial. Première: 1976/V/15; New York; Brick Presbyterian Church Choir; T. Charles Lee, conductor. Duration: 6:00.” [Full Biography]

Leon Bates Performs 'In the Bottoms' Suite of R. Nathaniel Dett on YouTube

[Gershwin: 3 Preludes, 6 Songs; Corea: 20 Children's Songs; Leon Bates, Piano; Naxos 8.550341 (1989)]

AmericanComposers.org says of the African American pianist Leon Bates: “Over the past twenty years, Leon Bates has emerged as one of America's leading pianists.” He has performed at many of the country's most prestigious concert venues. In 1989 Leon recorded 3 Preludes and 6 Songs of George Gershwin, and 20 Children's Songs of Chick Corea on a CD for Naxos, one of the leading classical music labels in the world. He made his solo debut at Carnegie Hall in 2000. AfriClassical has followed the career of Leon Bates since his March 2008 performance with the Chicago Sinfonietta under the direction of Paul Freeman. Recent posts include one on March 3, 2009, “Pianist Leon Bates Performs 'African-American Originals' at Haverford College”. Among the works he played at the concert was Juba Dance from In the Bottoms Suite, by the African American composer R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943).

On May 27, 2009 Leon Bates posted the complete In the Bottoms Suite of R. Nathaniel Dett on YouTube: Juba Dance (2:10), Morning Barcarolle (5:09), Honey (1:30), His Song (3:57) and Prelude: Night (4:51). In the liner notes for the CD R. Nathaniel Dett: Piano Works, New World Records 80367-2 (1988), Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma writes of Dett's start as choral director at Hampton Institute in 1913: “On his arrival, he was fresh from the success of In the Bottoms, a piano suite which had been premiered in Chicago's Music Hall by Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler.” A complete Works List for the composer has been compiled by Dr. De Lerma. It can be found on the R. Nathaniel Dett page at AfriClassical.com.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mokale Koapeng's 'Rhythm in Chains' Premiered at 'Cello and Piano Duo Recital' May 31

[Albie van Schalkwyk, piano; Berthine van Schnoor, cello; Mokale Koapeng, composer]

We recently heard from our friend Mokale Koapeng, whose composition was presented by The Unisa (University of South Africa) Music Foundation on 31 May 2009: “Dear Bill, The performance was last month. It was a premiere of my cello and piano work called 'Rhythms in Chains'.” He sent this announcement:

“The Unisa Music Foundation presents a Cello and Piano Duo Recital by Berthine van Schoor (cello) & Albie van Schalkwyk (piano). SUNDAY 31 MAY at 16:00, Unisa Conference Hall, Sunnyside Campus.

“Two of South Africa’s most seasoned chamber musicians of international renown, cellist Berthine van Schoor and pianist Albie van Schalkwyk have performed as a duo in all the main music centres in South Africa and India. After obtaining her BMus Honours degree from the University of Stellenbosch, Berthine studied in Salzburg, Austria. Albie continued his piano studies in London after completing his BMus degree at the University of Cape Town with Lamar Crowson. They are teaming up again for a Cello and Piano Duo Recital in the historic Unisa Conference Hall this Sunday.

“The interesting programme consists of Mendelssohn’s Variations Concertantes opus 17 and his Sonata no 2 in D major opus 58, Haydn’s Adagio Cantabile and Beethoven’s Variations on 'Ueber Mannern welche liebe fuehlen'. A special feature of this recital is the inclusion of works by South African composers Blake, Koapeng and Ram.”

New York Times: 'After Choice' by Alvin Singleton 'was an engaging work for string orchestra'

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

The New York Times
June 12, 2009
Music Review Orchestra of the League of Composers
The Debut of the Players Who Honor the Writers
“The debut of an orchestra during bad economic times is good news. So there was much to celebrate at the Miller Theater on Wednesday night when the Orchestra of the League of Composers gave its inaugural performance. The League has been promoting contemporary music for 85 years and has long sponsored a sizable chamber ensemble. With this concert, it introduced a 37-piece orchestra and got back into the business of commissioning works.”

“The orchestra, conducted expertly by the composer Louis Karchin, sounded terrific in this varied and demanding program. It began festively with Britten’s 'Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury,' a short work for three trumpets and a lesson for young composers in how to write an interesting piece for a public occasion. Mr. Dietz’s 10-minute 'Gharra' was an elemental, atmospheric score in which slinky themes and combative voices struggle to break free of an engulfing, dense, harmonically murky orchestral maze.

“Alvin Singleton’s 'After Choice,' one of two commissioned premieres on the program, was an engaging work for string orchestra in which mysterious yet playful plucked lines are juxtaposed with fitful, spiraling yet oddly calm legato lines. Julia Wolfe’s 'Vermeer Room' is inspired by Vermeer’s painting 'A Girl Asleep,' which depicts a young woman sitting at a table, dozing, her head propped up by her hand. But from Ms. Wolfe’s agitated, harmonically gnashing, brightly colorful score, the sleeping girl is having fitful daydreams. The concert ended with the premiere of Charles Wuorinen’s 20-minute 'Synaxis,' a boldly complex and texturally transparent work for four solo instruments and orchestra. In its uncompromising way, the music recalls the concertato pieces of Stravinsky. The soloists played brilliantly: Robert Ingliss (oboe), Alan R. Kay (clarinet), Patrick Pridemore (horn), and Timothy Cobb (double bass). That the orchestra dispatched Mr. Wuorinen’s challenging piece with such vibrant authority boded well for the future of this new ensemble.” [Full Post]

Orchestra of the League of Composers Debuts With 'adventurous music', Alvin Singleton Says

[Alvin Singleton (b. 1940)]

The day after the brand new Orchestra of the League of Composers premiered Alvin Singleton's After Choice, the composer took time out for an interview with AfriClassical before returning to Yaddo, the artist colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. This post covers the first part of the interview. The Brooklyn native said “I live in Atlanta and I am currently also a resident at Yaddo. I just came down this week for my premiere. I was supposed to be at Yaddo for the whole month.” We asked about the concert. The composer replied: “It was very successful," then added "We had a sell-out crowd and a program of really adventurous music.” “My piece was the only piece that was commissioned, but it wasn't the only premiere. There was a Charles Wuorinen premiere.” Critics were in attendance. The composer said he was expecting very favorable reviews.

We asked the origin of After Choice, his commissioned work. “After Choice, I wrote a piece for the American Composers Orchestra in 2004 for their Improvisation Festival.” “The orchestra piece was called When Given A Choice.” Part of the composition was “kind of a riff”, he said, “And so because I quoted something from that I named the new piece After Choice, and it's for string orchestra.”

Singleton dedicated the piece to a late friend of many years, “Leroy Jenkins, the composer, violinist and master improviser.” “He was such a decent person too, and we were very close.” Leroy Jenkins (1932-2007) dated and then married Linda Harris, a friend of Singleton, “...and by then, Leroy and I had developed a relationship, you know, he looked at my music and I looked at his music. We looked at scores together and we listened to recordings, went to concerts." The interview also touched on Alvin Singleton's trip to Albania in the Fall of 2008; Through It All, his recent commission from the Imani Winds; and his various composer residencies

Press-Telegram: “Musicians work hard to prepare for 'Bicentennial' premiere”

[Above: Chorale Director Zanaida Robles, with Akari Banno at the piano, leads a rehearsal. (Steven Georges / Staff Photographer); Below: Chorale Director Zanaida Robles runs through practice at Cal State Long Beach for the West Coast premiere of the Bicentennial Symphony. (Steven Georges / Staff Photographer)]

Musicians work hard to prepare for 'Bicentennial' premiere
By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 06/11/2009
LONG BEACH - “The hands of Zanaida Robles flutter like leaves in an updraft as the voices of 20 chorale members crescendo to a rousing conclusion. Robles, who will direct the singers for a performance Saturday, gives her charges an encouraging, 'That's great.' Then it's back to work. With only four rehearsals before show time, there is a lot of ground to cover. On Saturday, the MusicUntold orchestra and chorale will present the West Coast premiere of the 'Bicentennial Symphony,' the last completed symphony of late renowned composer Roy Harris.

“The music, which was debuted by the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. in 1976, on a weekend celebrating the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, has not been played by any orchestra since and is so rare that no archival recordings are known to exist. That means Robles and the singers, who are central to the piece, are creating their interpretation of the symphony's text from scratch. 'I really like it,' says Robles, director of classical choirs at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and a soprano soloist who has performed internationally. 'It's growing on me. The more (the chorale singers) bring it to life, the more I like it.'"

“John Malveaux, who has pulled the event together on a shoestring budget that has limited the time available for rehearsals and preparation, said the orchestra under Joseph Taylor seemed to be developing interest in Harris' unique style that grew the more they got into its nuances. Beyond its significance as the last symphony of one of the country's foremost composers, the 'Bicentennial Symphony' is unique in its bold and even jarring political statement. It may be an acquired taste that settles in in degrees through multiple listenings. The symphony went silent and was all but forgotten. That changes on Saturday, at Long Beach's annual Juneteenth celebration at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 1950 Lemon Ave., beginning at noon. With Latin jazz and new blues, there will be plenty of musical diversity. But the centerpiece will be the symphony, which begins around 12:30 p.m.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Organist Iann Quinn Plays William Grant Still's 'Reverie' on CD 'Variations on America'

[Variations on America: Iann Quinn plays American Organ Works on the Organ of Coventry Cathedral; William Grant Still: Reverie; Chandos CHAN 10489 (2009); William Grant Still (Photo is the sole property of William Grant Still Music, and is used with permission)]

The new CD Variations on America, Chandos CHAN 10489 (2009) includes a performance by organist Iann Quinn of William Grant Still's Reverie (4:38).
InfoDad.com: Family-Focused Reviews
June 11, 2009
“There is no instrument with a greater range than that of the modern keyboard: 11 octaves on a piano and potentially even more on an organ. Indeed, Iain Quinn takes full advantage of the 61-note manual compass and 32-note pedal compass of the organ of England’s Coventry Cathedral for his fascinating CD of some very American music. Quinn has made an excellent selection of better-known works and little-known ones, including some recording premieres. He has a real way with the music of Charles Ives, presenting Variations on 'America' with great flair, and including the two ad lib bitonal interludes that Ives added to the piece two decades after he originally wrote it. The other Ives works here, all early ones, have their own charms, with the surprising end of the Fugue in E flat major being particularly characteristic. Quinn brings his fine sense of style and proportion to all the organ works on this CD, from Barber’s well-structured, rather Romantic prelude and fugue to Cowell’s fairly bouncy fugal work, from William Grant Still’s effective miniature Reverie to Barber’s serious but not overly solemn Wondrous Love variations. The CD is particularly nicely laid out, opening with Copland’s Preamble, created in connection with the Declaration of Human Rights, and ending with Stephen Paulus’ Triptych, inspired by hymn texts and written in 2000 for the 150th anniversary of the House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.”

Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma's entry on Reverie reads:
Reverie, for organ (1962). Los Angeles: Avant Music, Western International Music, 1962 (A.G.O prelude book). Première: 1962/III/12; Pasadena; Pasadena Presbyterian Church; Robert Pritchard, organ. Duration: 3:56. Library: Library of Congress (holograph).” [The complete Works List by Dr. De Lerma is found on the William Grant Still page at AfriClassical.com]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Orchestra of the League of Composers Premieres Alvin Singleton's 'After Choice' 8 PM June 10

[Alvin Singleton (b. 1940)]

European American Music Distributors

June 2009
“The Orchestra of the League of Composers/ISCM Performs World Premiere of Alvin Singleton's After Choice in Inaugural Concert
The newly-formed Orchestra of the League of Composers, led by conductor Louis Karchin, celebrates its inaugural concert on June 10, 2009, with the world premiere of Alvin Singleton's After Choice. This event, hosted by WNYC Radio host John Schaefer, also features works by Elliott Carter, Christopher Dietz, Julia Wolfe, and Charles Wuorinen. Singleton's piece represents the first work the 85 year-old organization has commissioned in several decades.

“Composer Carman Moore writes of After Choice: 'Commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University for the Orchestra of the League of Composers, Alvin Singleton's 8-minute After Choice is a true gem-one of his most resourceful pieces. This extremely listenable work for string orchestra utilizes licks from the late violin master Leroy Jenkins in a manner at once austere and opulent. This work, in memory of Mr. Jenkins, juggles and juxtaposes a recurring pizzicato phrase against arco lines as it relentlessly grows. The elements of sudden silences and suspense are, of course, major players, but simply flat-out writing renders this work a true keeper.'

“Louis Karchin leads the Orchestra of the League of Composers in the world premiere of After Choice at Columbia University's Miller Theatre on Wednesday, June 10. Visit
http://www.schott-music.com and http://www.alvinsingleton.com for more information on the music of Alvin Singleton. Go to http://www.leagueofcomposers.org to learn more on the Orchestra of the League of Composers debut performance.” The website of the League of Composers says: “As the longest-serving American organization devoted to new music, the League is proud serve its mission to present new music written by emerging and established living composers alongside masterpieces from the 20th and 21st centuries.”