Saturday, October 31, 2009

'Blues Symphony' of Wynton Marsalis Parallels William Grant Still's 'Afro-American Symphony'

[Wynton Marsalis]

An Atlanta Symphony press release reads: “Music Director Robert Spano And The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra To Perform World Premiere Of Wynton Marsalis's Blues Symphony November 19-22, 2009.” The press release says: “Music Director Robert Spano will lead the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in the World Premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer-musician Wynton Marsalis’s new symphonic work, Blues Symphony. The new work celebrates the blues through the prism of different moments in American history, and will be the first work by Marsalis composed exclusively for symphony orchestra.”

To our mind, the news suggested striking parallels with the circumstances of William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American). On the William Grant Still page at, Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma comments on Still's Afro-American Symphony in Africana Encyclopedia: “A contemporary of Work and Dawson, William Grant Still based his first symphony, the Afro-American Symphony (1930), on the blues and his experience as a jazz arranger.”

Michael Fleming quotes the composer in the liner notes for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's recording of Still's Afro-American Symphony, Chandos 9154 (1993): “I knew I wanted to write a symphony; I knew that it had to be an American work; and I wanted to demonstrate how the blues, so often considered a lowly expression, could be elevated to the highest musical level.”

Adina Williams of Boosey & Hawkes, publisher for Wynton Marsalis, has forwarded a link to a Facebook Page on which he is “Talking about the Blues Symphony - Movement I-II [HQ] (4:22).”
“I'm working day and night on Blues Symphony, the piece I'm writing for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. I had a chance to sit down and talk about each of the 7 movements in the piece. Here are the first two. I'll be posting videos of me talking about the other movements in the days to come.”

On the video, Wynton plays several brief excerpts which provide a tantalizing preview of the Blues Symphony. While the times and the composers are very different, the music Wynton Marsalis played only strengthened our feeling that significant parallels exist between the composition of his first work written exclusively for symphony orchestra and the creation of William Grant Still's first symphonic work, the Afro-American Symphony. [William Grant Still is profiled at, which features a complete Works List compiled by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma]

Comment by email
Hello Bill, I am happy to see that Wynton Marsalis has not abandoned his classical interest and education. I look forward to hearing his new symphony. Gwendoline Y. Fortune

British Library, 'Samuel Coleridge Taylor: The Neglected Superstar' 10 Nov 2009

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Violin Concerto, Legend, Romance; Lorraine McAslan, violin; London Philharmonic Orchestra; Nicholas Braithwaite, conductor; Lyrita SRCD.317 (2007) (61:37)]

The British Library in London announces:
“Samuel Coleridge Taylor: The Neglected Superstar, Tuesday, 10 Nov 2009 from 18.30 – 20.30 in the Conference Centre. Price: £7.50 / £5 concessions. Book now for 10 Nov 2009, 18.30 – 20.30.

“Anglo-African composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor (1875-1912) was born in humble surroundings a short distance from the British Library, yet rose through his short life, despite many obstacles, to become the most celebrated and popular British composer of his generation. His most famous work,
Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, written when he was 23, gave him global fame and regularly filled the Royal Albert Hall in Britain. He had three highly successful tours of America, where he was welcomed at Roosevelt’s White House and gained iconic status amongst Afro-Americans. After years of neglect Coleridge Taylor’s reputation is once again on the rise.

“Join us for an evening of music and words devoted to his life and work. With contributions from pianist Julian Joseph, experimental violinist Adaggio, historian Jeffery Green, musicologist Dr John Snyder (University of Houston), author and historian Mike Phillips and more. With the support The Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library and in association with reelJEMS.

More about Coleridge Taylor
Part of Black History Month, a time when we highlight and celebrate the achievements of the black community and uncover hidden history about our communities.
[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is profiled at]

Z.A.M.A. CD 'Beautiful Haiti: Haitian Classical Music' by Jaegerhuber, Racine, Jean-Claude & Casseus

[Belle Ayiti: Mizik Savant Ayisyen (Beautiful Haiti: Haitian Classical Music); Zanmi Ansanm Mizik Ayisyen (Friends Together For Haitian Music). Cover Art: Painting by Haitian artist Ernst Toussaint. (75:29)]

The CD
Belle Ayiti: Mizik Savant Ayisyen (Beautiful Haiti: Haitian Classical Music) was recorded by a group called Z.A.M.A. Prof. Mary Procopio of Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan is a member . She plays the flute and is an ethnomusicologist. Mary tells us of her education, and identifies the composers on the recording: “[M]y masters is in ethno with a focus on Haiti, and my doctoral work was also on Haitian classical music, especially that which is inspired by traditional and ceremonial music.”

“The artists represented are Julio Racine, Werner Jaegerhuber, Martha Jean-Claude and Frantz Casseus. The majority of the works are by Jaegerhuber and two by Racine. Half of the CD is flute and piano with one solo flute work, the second half is for flute, viola and cello trio. The CDs are $20.00 plus $5.00 S & H, with 100% of the proceeds going for scholarship funds we started at several institutions in Haiti, and funds to bring five Haitian musicians here this winter for a four-month residency.” The CD
Belle Ayiti (75:29) is presently available from Mary Procopio,

Mary tells us: “The group, Z.A.M.A., consists of four musicians who met teaching at the St.Trinity Music Camp in Leogane, Haiti. We met in 2004, recorded half the CD in 2005 and the other half in 2007. It has been a fulfilling - but long - project! ZAMA stands for Zanmi Anmsanm pou Music Ayisyen--Friends Together for Haitian Music (or, another translation, Haitian Music Ensemble of Friends). The CD liner notes have detailed information about the composers, music and musicians.”

The liner notes of the CD tell us: “Rebecca Dirksen, piano, is working towards being a freelance applied-ethnomusicologist and is presently writing her post-graduate dissertation on Haitian music...” Ann Weaver, viola, received a Bachelor of Music degree from Cleveland Institute of Music and a Master of Music degree from Rice University. The liner notes say: “She is currently Principal Violist of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.” The notes say of Tom Clowes, cello, “Tom received his Bachelors of Music from Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he studied with Janet Anthony.”

The liner notes also tell us about the composers:
“Werner Jaegerhuber (1900-1953) received his musical training at the Voight Conservatory in Germany.” “In his
Trio for flute, viola and cello, and Musique pour Aieules de J.F. Brierre, Jaegerhuber discreetly incorporates the melodies taken from several ceremonial songs – Dambala Oh, Solè Oh, and Erzili Oh – in the flute part of the first, second and third movements, respectively.”

“Julio Racine (b. 1945) studied composition at the University of Louisville and has written a number of orchestral and chamber works, including two major works for flute. He is the former director of the
Orchestre Philharmonique Saint Trinité and the Holy Trinity Trade School in Port-au-Prince and currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky.” “Racine's Tangente au Yanvalou utilizes traditional rhythmic elements derived from the ceremonial music of Haitian Vodou. His Sonate Vodou Jazz utilizes melodies associated with Ezili and Dambala and rhythms taken from kongo, petwo and yanvalou, among others.”

“Martha Jean-Claude (1929-2001) was known as a soloist, singer and actor. Her first album,
Canciones de Haiti, was published in 1956.” “Having spent considerable time living in Cuba with her Cuban-born husband, Mme. Jean-Claude's 1995 album, Mwen se fanm 2 Peyi/Soy Mujer de Dos Islas, reflected her feelings and the importance of both countries to her.”

“Frantz Casseus (1915-1993), a guitarist and composer who was a student of Werner Jaegerhuber, was known for incorporating Haitian rhythms and melodies in his classical compositions. He moved to New York City in 1946, and recorded his
Haitian Suite for guitar in 1954 for Folkways Records.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sphinx Musicians, Local Students to Visit White House for Classical Music Series

Detroit, MI- For five local music students, next week is filled with classes-- including one at the White House. As a part of the music series, the White House will host students from the Sphinx Preparatory Music Institute at Wayne State University as a part of its forum on Classical Music on November 4, 2009. The Students will also take part in the Classical Music Student Workshop Concert where Mrs. Obama will introduce Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua Bell, Grammy Award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin, renowned cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and acclaimed pianist Awadagin Pratt.

Metro Detroit piano students David Valentine II, Alexandra Halladay, Breanna Lockhart, Jaina Bennett and Lindsay Walker will all attend a class taught by Awadajin Pratt, who was recently a member of the Sphinx Competition Jury earlier this year.

“The Sphinx Preparatory Music Institute has begun its fifth year in partnership with Wayne State University,” said Sphinx Founder and President Aaron Dworkin, “and the tremendous talent and dedication of these local students will undoubtedly shine through as they attend classes with master musicians in our nation’s capital.”

More than a dozen Sphinx alumni will attend, including Competition Alumni Maia Cabeza, Robert Switala, Alexandria Switala, Clayton Penrose-Whitmore, all violinists, who will attend a class with Joshua Bell. In addition, Sphinx musicians will also partake in a class with cellist Alisa Weilerstein including Competition Alumni Anna Maria Litivenko, Gabriel Cabezas and Sphinx Performance Academy students Khristine Raymond and Jordan Boucicaut.

The music series is part of a focus on the arts and arts education and the important role it plays in the development of youth academically and in building self-esteem. The October Music Series focused on a night of Latin music and included performances by Gloria Estefan, Marc Antony, José Feliciano, and Los Lobos.

The Sphinx Preparatory Music Institute at Wayne State University is a tuition free program offering classes to Detroit students in music history, music theory/ear training and instrumental performance. It serves string, woodwind, brass, percussion and piano instrumentalists, ages 11-18, with a focus on middle school students. The Sphinx Preparatory Music Institute is supported by Ford Motor Company Fund, Erb Family Foundation, Bingham Trust, Nation Endowment for the Arts and the City of Detroit. For information, please visit

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Violinist Quinton I. Morris Performs Bach Concerto with Orchestra Seattle on Nov. 1

[Quinton I. Morris]

For Immediate Release
October 29, 2009
Jeffrey James Arts Consulting
Violinist Quinton I. Morris Performs Bach Concerto with Orchestra Seattle on November 1 in Seattle, Washington
Violinist Quinton I. Morris will join conductor George Shangrow and Orchestra Seattle for a program of the music of J.S. Bach on Sunday, November 1 – 3 PM at First Free Methodist Church, 3200 Third Ave W, near the campus of Seattle Pacific University. Mr. Morris will perform the Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041. Other works on the program are Bach’s Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild, BWV 79 and Missa Brevis in G, BWV 236, with the Orchestra and the Seattle Chamber Singers.

Tickets for the November 1 performance are $25, $20 for seniors and $10 for students 18+. For tickets or more information, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit
Orchestra Seattle is a 60-member semiprofessional orchestra. The membership includes professional musicians, music teachers, and highly skilled amateurs who choose to work together under the direction of George Shangrow. Membership is by audition and performers join in the commitment to maintaining excellence in artistic performance and to participate in the unique contribution that Orchestra Seattle, together with the Seattle Chamber Singers, brings to audiences in the Seattle area. Visit them at Quinton I. Morris enjoys a multifaceted career as a concert violinist, chamber musician, teacher, director and founder of The Young Eight String Octet. Dr. Morris has given solo and chamber music performances in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.

Students Perform 'Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora' by Dr. William Chapman Nyaho

[Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora; Compiled and Edited by Dr. William H. Chapman Nyaho; Volume 2, Intermediate; Oxford University Press (2007)]

AfriClassical has learned that Students of Carmen Still will be presenting a program of piano music from Dr. William Chapman Nyaho’s “Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora”, as well as a set of pieces by Hungarian composer Lajos Papp. The recital is at 5:00 PM on November 14, 2009 at Northwest Pianos in Bellevue. The address is 13310 Bel-Red Road, Suite 100, Bellevue, WA 98005.

Works are as follows:
Ufie III
Christian Onyeji, Nigeria
Dancing Barefoot in the Rain, from "African Sketches"
Nkeiru Okoye, (Nigeria/USA) b. 1975
Silk Hat and Walking Cane, from "Dances in the Canebreakes"
Florence Price, (USA) 1887-1953
Jamaican Dance No. 2, from "Three Jamaican Dances"
Oswald Russell, (Jamaica) b. 1933
The Bamboula (African Dance), from "24 Negro Melodies" Op. 59 No. 8
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, (UK) 1875-1912
Egwu Amala, from "Talking Drums"
Joshua Uzoigwe, (Nigeria) 1946-2005
Troubled Water
Margaret Bonds, (USA) 1913-1972
Etude in C# minor, from "12 Etudes for Piano"
H. Leslie Adams, (USA) b. 1932
Barcarolle, from "In the Bottoms Suite"
Nathaniel Dett, (USA) 1882-1943

[Dr. William Chapman Nyaho is profiled at and has a website of his own,]

Newsmakers at William Grant Still Tribute Conference Nov. 19-22 in Natchez, Mississippi

[William Grant Still: Symphonies Nos. 4, 'Autochthonous' & 5, 'Western Hemisphere'; 'Poem'; Fort Smith Symphony; John Jeter, conductor; Naxos 8.559603 (2009); Cover painting ”Crossing America in an express train, United States” (1859) by Nathaniel Currier and James Merrit Ives, The Art Archive]
Newsmakers to Appear
Several of the artists who will perform at the William Grant Still Tribute Conference and in the concert have been in the news lately, and the public will be able to meet them. Aaron Dworkin, President and Founder of the Sphinx Organization, has been recognized by Newsweek as one of the 15 people who are making a difference in America. Dworkin will be delivering the keynote address on Friday, November 20. Conductor John McLaughlin Williams is the first African-American to win a Grammy Award. Williams will be a featured soloist on the violin during the concert and he will be giving a presentation during the conference. Dr. Herbert Woodward Martin, poet laureate, was talked about on CBS for his discovery of a lost speech by Martin Luther King. Dr. Grant D. Venerable II is academic vice-president at Lincoln University and is becoming known for his innovative strategy for revitalizing the Black universities and colleges.

Other recognized authorities presenting in this Natchez conference are John Jeter, Music Director of the Fort Smith Symphony, who is the conductor on the latest blockbuster CD by Naxos which contains the last two symphonies by William Grant Still, David Abner Smith who is largely responsible for the renovation of the African-American Museum in Woodville, and James Barnett, of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, who is conducting important research that involves Mississippi oral history. At the Conference, Barnett is hoping to speak to any who have historical information, especially regarding African-American cultural traditions.
[William Grant Still (1895 -1978) is profiled at, where a complete Works List by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma is also found]

African American Pianist Awadagin Pratt Plays at White House in Nov. 4 Evening Concert

White House ready to showcase classical music

(AP) WASHINGTON — “After showcasing jazz, country and Latin music, the White House is going classical next week. The Nov. 4 lineup for an evening concert in the East Room includes Grammy-winning violinist Joshua Bell, Grammy-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Awadagin Pratt. Earlier in the day, the White House will hold music workshops on violin, cello, piano and classical guitar for 120 students from middle schools and high schools across the country. The White House lineup for the classical events appears designed to showcase a younger and diverse selection of accomplished musicians.” [Full Post]
“Born in Pittsburgh, Awadagin Pratt began studying piano at the age of six. Three years later, having moved to Normal, Illinois with his family, he also began studying violin. At the age of 16, he entered the University of Illinois where he studied piano, violin, and conducting. He subsequently enrolled at the Peabody Conservatory of Music where he became the first student in the school's history to receive diplomas in three performance areas - piano, violin and conducting.

“In 1992 Mr. Pratt won the Naumburg International Piano Competition and two years later was awarded a 1994 Avery Fisher Career Grant. He has played numerous recitals throughout the U.S. including performances in New York at Lincoln Center, Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center, Los Angeles at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Chicago at Orchestra Hall.“ ““Mr. Pratt is currently an Associate Professor of Piano and Artist in Residence at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.”

Jean-Louis Mambo, Classical Pianist From Ivory Coast, Signs Guest Book at

Yesterday Jean-Louis Mambo signed the French Guest Book at and left a brief comment. He says he is a classical pianist from Ivory Coast, and is a student at the Salmon School of Music of Casablanca. He closed with the words: “Long live classical music in Africa!” We invited Jean-Louis Mambo to tell us more about his pursuit of a career in classical music, and he has done so.

Jean-Louis thanks us for our interest in him. He says he is from Ivory Coast and is 25 years old. Jean-Louis says he is passionate about classical music and so decided to leave everything else behind and devote himself to his profession. In his youth, he says, he was a student at a seminary which trained future priests. It was there that he learned to play the organ. After leaving the seminary and obtaining a Bachelor's degree, he simultaneously began private studies in law and music/musicology in Ivory Coast. Twice a week, he took classical piano lessons at the Conservatoire National of Abidjan. After two years he obtained a Diploma of General Artistic Studies with a concentration in Music and Musicology.

He continued studying law until he was hired by a firm of accountants and solicitors. He worked for the firm for two years, but never lost his desire to be a professional pianist. In March 2008, he resigned and chose to devote himself to the piano. He says the main difficulty he encountered was a lack of qualified teachers and graduates to train young pianists. Jean-Louis says he was unable to obtain a scholarship to study abroad, so he decided to use his modest savings to go to Morocco, where he arrived in August, 2009.

Jean-Louis reports that he enrolled in a French School of Music which has a good curriculum. The problem, he says, is that it is difficult to have a job, obtain an education and live decently. He says he has encountered racial discrimination in employment and housing but has decided to continue his studies while seeking solutions. Jean-Louis says he has no piano on which to practice, and even the public conservatories refuse to rent piano rooms to foreigners. It is really difficult, he says, and he intends to go to a country which is more open to classical music. He has not yet made any recordings, he says, but intends to use his talent for bringing attention to Africa.

Jean-Luis says he discovered while using the Internet to find African musicians interested in classical music. He encourages us to continue our work, and signs “Sincerely, Jean-Luis MAMBO.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 'Birmingham hosts grand final of Voice of Black Opera competition'

[Boyce Batlang; Photo from]

On Oct. 22, 2009 AfriClassical posted: “Mmegi Online Botswana: 'Batlang to compete in Voice of Black Opera' for Coleridge-Taylor Award.” Another story on the competition has appeared in the online version of the Birmingham Post:

Birmingham hosts grand final of Voice of Black Opera competition
Oct 27 2009
Birmingham is to host the final of an international competition to find the best black or Asian opera singer in the Commonwealth. The inaugural Voice of Black Opera competition, a biennial event organised by the British Black Classical Foundation, reaches its climax in the Great Hall, at the University of Birmingham on Saturday, October 31. Seven finalists will be performing in the final, accompanied by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, in front of a judging panel which includes legendary African-American mezzo and soprano Grace Bumbry, Detroit-born soprano Maria Ewing and virtuoso pianist, composer and broadcaster Julian Joseph.

The Foundation's Patron, one of this country's greatest singers, Sir Willard White has given his name to the winning trophy – The Sir Willard White Trophy will go, along with the title The Voice of Black Opera 2009 to the winner. The Samuel Coleridge Taylor Award will go to the singer who gives the best performance of a song or aria by a black composer and the Brixtonian Trophy will be presented to the most promising voice.

Prizes include an engagement during the Rosenblatt Recital series at St John’s Smith Square, London, in 2010, coaching with Welsh National Opera, a travel and vocal development bursary and a package of other benefits including photography, wardrobe consultancy and language coaching. Presented by the Black British Classical Foundation, VOBO seeks to encourage, promote and recognise excellence among black and Asian classical singers, whilst developing audience attendance of classical music and opera in those communities. [Full Post] [The Afro-British composer and conductor Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is profiled at]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

YouTube Videos of Marlon Daniel in Prague; Previews of Vivaldi Concert in New York, Nov. 8

[Marlon Daniel]

Marlon Daniel sends us YouTube videos of about 5 minutes each of rehearsals in Prague, followed by two links to preview information for the Nov. 8, 2009 concert in New York:
Conductor Marlon Daniel shares with us the theories and music of Gustav Mahler. Observe the preparation involved for an electrifying performance by Marlon Daniel with special guest soprano Melissa Cintron, and the Praga Sinfonietta for Mahlers Symphony No. 4 in G Major.
Conductor Marlon Daniel shares with us the theories and music of Johannes Brahms. Observe the preparation involved for an electrifying performance by Marlon Daniel with special guest violinist Hristo Papov, cellist Kalin Ivanov, and the Praga Sinfonietta for Brahms's Concerto for Violin and Cello in A Minor Op. 102.
Ensemble du Monde, Daniel / Nie, Amenduni, Kameda / VivaldiKaufman Center: Merkin Concert HallNew York, New YorkSunday, 8 November 2009 – 7:00 PM
Ensemble du Monde: Wonders of the Red Priest
Sunday, November 08, 2009 7:00 pm

On the opening concert of the 2009/10 Ensemble du Monde season, the orchestra will present ‘Wonders of the Red Priest’, an All-Vivaldi concert featuring virtuoso Italian flutist Antonio Amenduni, the beautiful voice of mezzo-soprano Lara Nie and brilliant German/Japanese violinist Koh Gabriel Kameda, winner of the Henryk Szeryng International Violin Competition.

Ensemble du Monde Marlon Daniel, Music Director & Conductor

VIVALDI Concerto grosso in G Minor, RV 578
VIVALDI Cantata: Qual Per Ignoto, RV 677 Vedro con mio diletto from Il Giustino RV 717 Lara Nie, mezzo-soprano
VIVALDI Flute Concerto in G Minor, RV 439 “La Notte” Flute Concerto in D Major, RV 428 “Il Cardellino”
Antonio Amenduni, flute
VIVALDI Le Quattro Staggioni (The Four Seasons) Koh Gabriel Kameda, violin
In cooperation with the Enochian Foundation

Gay Anna Santerre Sings With William Chapman Nyaho, Pianist of Ghanaian Heritage, Nov. 15

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

The Courier-Herald
Bonney Lake & Sumner
Students and music inspire return to perform
Today, 11:18 AM · Updated
By Brenda Sexton
The Courier-Herald
“When Gay Anna Santerre walked away from a successful professional singing career nearly seven years ago, she didn’t leave music completely. It stayed in her heart and she shared it on a smaller stage.” “The music, it’s imagery; the way it can move, energize and influence an audience, it’s pulling her back to perform. Her comeback debut was in September at a concert at Lake Washington United Methodist Church, where her father is the retired minister of music. She joined musical forces, her voice, with pianist and friend William Chapman Nyaho.

It was there that lightning struck. 'It was magic what happened at this concert,' she said. 'It’s meant to be shared.' Nyaho, a concert pianist and adjudicator, brings a unique cultural background and extraordinarily eclectic sense of music to the stage. Nyaho’s performing experience includes recitals in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, the Caribbean and Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center.

International award-winning artist Nyaho, a Ghanaian American and resident of Seattle, studied at St. Peter’s College, Oxford University in the United Kingdom. He continued his piano studies at the Conservatoire de Musique de Geneve, Switzerland, the Eastman School of Music and at the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree. Nyaho is the recipient of prizes from international piano competitions. He performs as soloist with various orchestras, including the Moscow Chamber Orchestra and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. Chapman Nyaho has been featured on radio and television broadcasts in Ghana, Switzerland, and on Performance Today on National Public Radio.

“The two-part concert starts with a series of music by Santerre and concludes with works by contemporary composer Lee Hoiby, set to Emily Dickenson poetry. In between the pieces, Santerre and Nyaho share research and history about the composers and the music, as well as what it means to them personally.” [Dr. William Chapman Nyaho is profiled at]

Imani Winds Quintet In World Premiere of 'The Jazz Oratorio' by Valerie Coleman Oct. 30

[Imani Winds, photo credit Chris Carroll]
Join Imani Winds and Saint Peter's Church as we celebrate the installation of Rev. Kaji Rosa Spellman with the world premiere of:
THE JAZZ ORATORIO for wind quintet, jazz ensemble and choir by Valerie Coleman; text by A.B. Spellman; with special guests: Arturo O'Farrill – piano, Ike Sturm – bass, Zack O'Farrill – drums, Javier Diaz – percussion, A.B. Spellman – narrator; The Saint Peter's Church Choir
This Friday, October 30, 2009, 7PM
Saint Peter's Church, Lexington Avenue at 54th Street, New York City
Free and open to the public. Dessert Reception to follow.
For more information on Imani Winds and their upcoming events, visit:

DePauw Percussion Ensemble Performs Afro-Cuban Composer Amadeo Roldán's 'Ritmicas' Oct. 29

[TOP: DePauw Percussion Ensemble BOTTOM: Centenario Natalicio de Amadeo Roldan (Centennial of Birth of Amadeo Roldan); Cuba Stamp 2000]
DePauw University
Greencastle, Indiana
“Percussion Ensemble to Explore 'Fascinatin' Rhythm' in Thursday Concert
October 27, 2009, Greencastle, Ind. — Who does rhythm better than percussionists? "Fascinatin' Rhythm" is the theme of the DePauw Percussion Ensemble's concert this semester, which will be presented this Thursday evening, October 29, at 7:30 pm in Kresge Auditorium of the Green Center for the Performing Arts.

The program consists of works that explore the rhythmic element in percussion music. Two works are of historical importance in the development of the percussion ensemble as a major genre in the twentieth century. The Rítmicas by Amadeo Roldán were composed in 1930 and are the first composed works for percussion ensemble. Roldán, a Cuban composer, integrated traditional Afro-Cuban percussion instruments with more classical elements. Pulse, composed in 1939 by Henry Cowell, reflects this important experimental composer's exploration of rhythm and unusual sound sources -- automobile brake drums, metal pipes, rice bowls, and Asian instruments such as temple gongs.

Also on the program will be a more contemporary work by Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina, Am Anfang was der Rhythmus ("In the Beginning There Was Rhythm"), composed in 1984. Gubaidulina is one of the world's major composers, and is known for the mystical and dramatic qualities of her music, along with her use of improvisation and unusual instrumental sounds. Two junior percussion majors will be featured as soloists. Bridget Parker will invoke the gods of rhythm in a djembe piece by Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic, and Rebekah Woolverton will be the timpani soloist in the Gubaidulina piece. The performance will also include an unusual arrangement of the Gershwin favorite Fascinatin' Rhythm, and a newly-composed bucket-drumming piece by first-year percussion major Patrick Speranza.” [Full Post] [Amadeo Roldán was an Afro-Cuban composer, violinist, conductor and professor who is profiled at]

Monday, October 26, 2009 Pianist Sodi Braide is 'A cosmopolitan artist' Performing Oct. 30

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

AfriClassical has followed the career of Sodi Braide with interest for the past two years. An audio sample of his Franck CD can be accessed from the home page of the blog. Here is a reminder of his appearance as a “Ravinia Rising Star” on Friday, Oct. 30, 2009:
“A cosmopolitan artist influenced by numerous cultures, Sodi Braide likes to explore a large repertoire of different styles and periods. Prize winner in the 2003 Leeds Competition and Jury Discretionary Prize at the 2005 Van Cliburn Competition, he performs recitals and chamber concerts throughout Europe and the United States. In 1994 Braide was invited to perform in South Africa, becoming one of the first black African pianists to perform there after the end of apartheid.”

Girma Yifrashewa: 'I think my Ethiopian music is a bit unique for the listeners' in Los Angeles

AfriClassical was pleased to interview the Ethiopian pianist and composer Girma Yifrashewa (b. 1967) today, following his participation in 'Africa Meets North America', Oct. 22-25, 2009 at UCLA, and before his departure from Los Angeles.

Good morning, this is Bill Zick.
Hi Bill, how are you?
Well I'm very happy to talk to you after all these years that we've been communicating in writing!
Yes, thank you! I'm very grateful to you for following up my professional progress. So I'm thanking you for this.
Well, you're very welcome! It's been an interesting and, I would say, a unique career. There don't seem to be very many people doing the same thing that you're doing.
Yes, I felt that during my stay here, I really felt it!
How did the concert go on Friday?
The Friday concert was very well received. There were so many Ethiopians and also Americans, so it was really very nice. I didn't expect that big an audience, and of course the appreciation. So I was quite happy about that!
So the audience was enthusiastic about your music?
Yes, very much, because I find my Ethiopian music is a bit unique for the listeners around here. So they listened with very big interest really.
Well that's very good. You were scheduled to begin with the “Interludes” from Rachel Eubanks?
Yes. I started with Rachel Eubanks and then Robert Mawuena Kwami.
His work is the “January Dance”?
The “January Dance,” yes.
Could you tell us anything about that?
The “January Dance” I think is choral music which was first written for choir. It's vocal music, but written for piano, just by capturing the atmosphere and the real vocal style of that Ghanaian music. So it was kind of a challenge for me to play that Ghanaian music which I have never had that kind of chance to play. So, I think that was also an interest for the audience, hearing the Ethiopian pianist play that Ghanaian music which was really absolutely related to the theme of the Symposium.
You say that Kwami is from Ghana?
Yes. I think it was first played in 1974, in Ghana. The composer was very enthusiastic about the people, how they received it, because there was such a large choir, combined with percussion instruments. The reason it's different is you can feel the background of the percussion. He tried to put all those elements in his piano arrangement.
No wonder that was a challenge!
Well it was a kind of first approach for me but I did it with interest really, to show the exact feeling of the composer.
I see, very good! And then after that I believe you had some “Preludes”, which are very familiar to the audience, I think. from George Gershwin?
Yes, after that I played two “Preludes” of Gershwin which are very familiar to the audience I think.
And then I continued my own repertoire, the Ethiopian music.
Did you play some of the same works that are on your “Elilta” CD?
Yes. “Elilta,” “Ambassel,” “Chewata,” and “Sememen” as well, all the piano works of that CD. And of course “The Shepherd with the Flute” piano version.
And for the benefit of the readers, the original of the recording of “The Shepherd with the Flute” included orchestra, right?
Yes, the original was a piano version and then it was orchestrated. On the “Elilta” CD you find it with orchestra, played by the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra.
That was in Sofia?
Sofia, yes. The Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra. I played the piano version, and I played it last just to please the organizers and to thank all of them for creating the chance to interact with Africans and learn from American musicians also. I played it last, and it created a very happy atmosphere. I don't know, but this is what I felt. The next day, on Saturday, I played the “Strong Will,” which is a quartet. I played that with the members of the UCLA Philharmonic Orchestra.
How did that go?
Oh, that was also very well received. The musicians were very happy to play that. They were really excited to play it. You could see the happiness of the musicians playing my composition, so I have no doubt that the audience would really appreciate it. It was really nice!
Did any of the musicians say if this was the first Ethiopian music they had played, perhaps?
Yes. I think that was their first experience, and even the musicians who played; they really asked if I have more Ethiopian compositions to leave behind before I leave. So that shows their interest in playing the music.
Did you have an opportunity to play any other music while you were in Los Angeles?
Not much, actually, but yesterday as we finished the Symposium program I just had an informal communication of playing Western Classical Music for the groups who were together.
Did other people play too?
Yes, I think the American pianists were also playing, just a kind of gathering after the closing session of the Symposium. We were waiting to go to the last concert. We were just playing what we know. So that was also an experience, to give them my other part of piano interpretation which is on Western Classical Music.
I'm glad you had that opportunity!
Yes, but I think I need more of that, to create that kind of an opportunity to play for a bigger audience by showing my own stature with Western Classical Music.
You have a change to your website, so people can hear a continuous loop now of all six pieces in a sample?
I think I have to start to update my website. I think there are some samples of all my music.
Yes, all six of the piano samples.
I've been advised to add some videos of my interpretation, so this is what I'm going to do very soon.
What else did you want to say?
This is just my first experience of this very well organized concert, which I found very interesting, and interesting for the future. It shows how my appearance could be received if I have more to play in different parts of the States. So I think this is a wonderful opportunity for me. It shows the interest of people in my interpretation and in my music. I'm very grateful for what's happened now for the last four-five days, and I look forward for the future to concentrate on doing it more here in America. I think I will go back home with lots of hope and strong feelings about my profession.
Well I want to thank you very much Girma for taking the time...
Well, Bill I have to thank you for your very honest and genuine interest to share my musical activity with other people. I'm very honored that today I get this chance to talk, which has not been there for a long time! So I have to thank you for all of your interest for my music!
You're very welcome, and the music is very enjoyable. I hope you have a good trip and I hope we see you again!
[Girma Yifrashewa is profiled at]

Students, Musicians & Symphony Benefited from 'Classically Black' Concert

Classically Black by Eldred Marshall
Classically Black started in 2001, my then girlfriend was a good violinist, she was also a student at Yale. For Parents' Day at Yale in October, she wanted to have us play together. We got together with the Associate Dean of Yale College, Dean George, who also is a classical pianist. So we all decided to put on a concert, to invite our friends and the rest of the Yale school during Parents' weekend, to a concert called “Classically Black” that featured the Black students who studied Classical Music, or had studied Classical Music, at Yale. A part of that arose out of the issue that a lot of the Black Classical Music students did not really have a venue to perform at Yale. We had the concert, it was very well received, it happened again the next year and then the following year. The series has continued, even now.

So we fast forward to 2009. The San Bernardino Symphony got contacted by my Assemblywoman - I was working for her before I came to school. They
contacted her back in March. They had a grant from the James Irvine Foundation and they had to use a portion of the money to directly advertise something to the Black community. I contacted the Symphony and said “Okay, look. Why don't you sponsor a concert to which we would invite up-and-coming Black musicians as well as talented young students. I knew the Symphony could sponsor this, but to have an added community benefit, I wanted the community itself to have a real part of this. So I talked to my Assemblywoman, who I worked for, and I pitched the idea to her and I asked her “What group in the community could I really work with to support Black and Brown youth and really try to get them to learn and try to get them to do what they need to do?” She and I put our heads together and we also talked to some of our friends. And it was almost uniform for all of us when someone suggested the Boys and Girls Club of San Bernardino. “We were like, of course, that's the best group!”

What happened was, I didn't know this, but when I came to the Boys and Girls Club to say “Hey, the San
Bernardino Symphony will allow you to do this concert. Do you want this to be a fundraiser for the Club?” I had no idea that the Boys and Girls Club of San Bernardino was instituting its own Music Education program, where they would allow the group's members to pick up an instrument and to learn it on-site with professional musicians. Really it was perfect timing, “Classically Black” and the start of that new program. They pretty much gave me a free hand artistically to go ahead and recruit the musicians I wanted, to put the program the way it's supposed to be. Knowing that I already knew of several Black musicians I had either worked with or known of, I contacted them and got them on program. We rehearsed. We did one piano four-hands, and the William Grant Still “Suite for Violin and Piano”. I also worked with the students. I had a clarinetist who did the Weber “Concertino”. We also had another student pianist do some works by Pulau and some of his own arrangements. It was a beautiful program.

The Boys and Girls Club got a lot of sponsors and took in a lot of money from it. The San
Bernardino Symphony got publicity from it. When my concert in January happens, people who normally wouldn't show up for a symphony concert will actually be there. So from the Boys and Girls Club raising the money that they needed for the Club, to the Symphony getting their exposure, to me allowing the other Black musicians to perform, as well as being able to mix with young people, it was like perfection across the board! There's a lot of excitement about doing it again next year, in fact I've already been told specifically in October. So it will happen again and it will be even bigger and even better. My professor here in Dallas, at SMU, wants me to do a similar thing here in Dallas. So hopefully I can take this and make this national and take it across the country!

Comment by email
What a great story this was! Although I'm a classically trained dancer, I feel like an instrument in a symphony when I move. I wish there was a fundraiser or event like this to raise awareness more in the Black community for dance. It was a coincidence that it was with the San Bernardino Symphony, I have danced with them for 5 years in The Nutcracker. Thanks for posting. Rhythmically yours, AJ

Sunday, October 25, 2009

AfriClassical Interviews African American Pianist Eldred Marshall

The website of pianist Eldred Marshall is AfriClassical interviewed him on Oct. 21, 2009:

You must have a busy schedule?
I do have a busy schedule!
What do you do these days; are you teaching?
Actually, I am a graduate student at Southern Methodist University.
So that's how you're in the Central Time Zone?
How long have you been a graduate student at Southern Methodist University?
This is my first semester. I pretty much just started!
I gather that this concerns Music?
It does. I am getting my Master's in Piano Performance.
What city is that located in?
Dallas, Texas.
I understand from your website that you started playing the piano at age 6, is that right?
That's right.
Your first public performances were at age 7?
Where was that; at a recital?
It was a student recital at a studio in Los Angeles.
Do you have musical influence from your family?
Did it help encourage you to a career in music?
Yes, they encouraged it. In fact my pursuance of piano actually is my Dad's idea. I went along for the ride!
Does he play too?
No, he plays trombone. But his Mom had dreams of being a concert pianist. But she didn't have the funds to finish Conservatory.
So it was passed down two generations to you?
It goes even further back in that line. It goes back – I counted back about 5-6 generations.
Is that right?
What part of the country did you grow up in, Eldred?
I grew up in California in the San Bernardino area.
So that was your entire experience growing up, in that part of California?
Yes, it was in the Los Angeles and San Bernardino area.
I see that you have two CDs out now, the first one, I believe, is called “Eldred Marshall: Live and Uncut”?
Could you tell us what's on that CD?
The CD begins with Liszt. Then it goes to Haydn's Sonata in C Major, Op. 15, No. 10; Bach Chaconne..
So Liszt, Haydn and Bach so far. Are there any others?
Liszt, Haydn, Bach, Schumann Fantasy in C Major and a work that I created.
Your second CD, is that entirely works of Brahms?
Yes, it is. It's the "Piano Sonata, Op. 5, No. 3 in F Minor," "Four Piano Pieces, Op. 119."
How would people order the CDs?
They can order from my website.
As for your music education, you indicated that you graduated from Yale with a B.A. with honors?
That's right.
I believe you had a major in Political Science?
Yes, that's right.
And the Music Minor Equivalent?
Yes, because Yale doesn't award minors. Most other institutions do.
While I was at Yale I studied Piano at the School of Music with Elizabeth Parisot. I took sophomore level theory while I was a freshman, and that pretty much constituted my involvement with the Music Department.
So during your entire period at Yale you were also studying Music as well as Political Science?
And Spanish, yes.
I see the connection to Spanish with the institute in Salamanca in Spain?
That was before you had graduated from Yale, right?
Right, I had taken a semester off to go study in Spain so I could speak more fluently in Spanish and take more classes.
What was it like to study in Spain, from January until June of 2002?
It was a good experience, the other culture, another country and to speak another language.
Were you in a language immersion?
Were you with other Music students?
No, I was with other general students.
What opportunities did you have to experience the music of Spain?
Well, while I was there, Mrs. Parisot had sent a letter over to the Conservatory of Salamanca, to let them know I was a student of hers, I'm a Piano student, I needed a place to practice, and if there were any kind of arrangements that could be made for me, so be it. So then I had an interview with the Director, who allowed me to pretty much use the school's resources while I was there. So because of that I was able to go to all the recitals, go to concerts at a discounted rate; it was really good! And also, Salamanca was the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2002, so there were even more artists and more orchestras coming in than would have normally come in.
Oh, so there were many guest artists there?
Yes. I didn't get to see all of them but I knew they were there.
After you completed your program at Yale in 2003, what did you begin doing?
I started working for my local State Assemblyman, John Longville, as a Field Representative.
How long did you work for John Longville as a Field Representative?
I worked for him during his last term in office...
Was that two years?
It was almost two years. Then I worked for my County Board of Supervisors Member, then I worked for other elected officials during that six-year period before I went back to school to get my Master's in Music.
So this is quite a transition for you to go back to school after six years?
Not really. I feel like I was in school yesterday and haven't forgotten how to be a student! But before I came back to school I did teach in my own studio. I accepted advanced students as well as some beginners. I really prefer the advanced students. I also did my own series of concerts, at least from 2007 onward. I also had competitions in 2006, to try my hand at them and see what they were like, while I was in Italy for five weeks.
How did it go?
It didn't go so well! I played well but I didn't know about competition politics and other things.
Is there anything else you'd like to say about that period of competition?
I will say it was good to meet other pianists my age, to see what else they were doing and learn from them, look at their experiences and what they've done. In that sense it was more of a piano festival.
When did you take up this project of performing all 32 of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas from memory?
I first got the idea when I was a teenager. I read that Camille Saint-Saëns had done it all by the time he was 13. Barenboim did it by the time he was 18. So I figured, well, “They did it. Why don't I try it?” So I pretty much cracked open the books, started from Page 1, worked my way through. I had already performed several of the sonatas for my teachers before – the “Moonlight”; the “Appassionata”; the “Waldstein.” I already had the Beethoven thing behind me, but I just wanted to see if I could actually go ahead and complete the project. So while I was at Yale I really spent a lot of time studying Artur Schnabel, studying other editions of Beethoven Sonatas, really finally looking at the Classical era as a whole, really getting back into my Haydn, into my Mozart and really seeing, okay, “How does this really work?” After I graduated, I started reading books on the Beethoven Sonatas, like a book by Charles Rosen, or Robert Taub. I was trying to get more of a specialized point of view. Before I performed the cycle, I sought a piano teacher, so I could get an idea how the Piano Sonatas are performed on original instruments. So that was my impetus to meet up with John Khouri, who's based in the Bay area.
That's the San Francisco area?
Yes, so he and I, while I was in Sacramento, where I lived last before I came to Dallas, he and I really worked through a lot of the execution issues and interpretive issues. He pretty much guided me through both the Portland and the San Francisco Cycle Projects.
Was that the entire cycle that you did in Portland?
That was the entire cycle from September to December of 2007. Then I moved to San Francisco and did the whole thing from January to May, 2008.
So two complete performances of it?
Two complete performances. I know that Andreas Schiff and others will take parts of the cycle and do it in different locations. In that way, it is working smarter, but for me, to go through the cycle once and then go through it again really was a revelatory experience!
Could you give some examples of things that you learned?
Things that I learned? One, I actually learned how to pedal Beethoven. A lot of piano teachers and pianists take a very dry approach to Beethoven, thinking that because the original instrument didn't really have pedals they way we have them, let's just not use it. After you go through the cycle you really see how Beethoven really was big on pedals! I bring that up to accentuate the fact that I discovered – Beethoven, I could see how truly farsighted he was in terms of composition! I could see how he would create Debussy at one point, how he could imagine Schubert, how he could picture Chopin, or even, at one point in the Opus 111 second movement, I felt Schoenberg's “Six Piano Pieces” were the next logical step, just the next logical piece to play, right after that, skipping almost a century of piano music! I mean it was all there! So I really got to appreciate the man as well as the composer, that when it came to pure piano playing, Beethoven is excellent for developing one's technique! Although Haydn and Mozart are working on scales and doing them in a great way, Beethoven just takes it to a whole new level. You're not only dealing with scales, you're also dealing with thirds, because he's also influenced by Clementi. And also, from Beethoven, through the cycle I really learned how to listen to what I'm doing! Because if you just go up there and just pull the pedals down and beat the hell out of the piano, you may get a standing ovation from those that may not know much about music, but in the end, you will not get anything out of Beethoven! So in doing that, I had to come back, look back, look at the bigger picture, listen to myself almost as if it were like playing a string quartet, or if it's more of an orchestral scene here, you think orchestrally, you pretend you're a conductor. So through the cycle, all of those lessons, plus many more, I learned.
Well, that's quite a bit!
Yes. And I would love to do the cycle again because, not tomorrow or anything, but I want to give it some time to rest. If I come back to it, it's like a whole new experience. Coming to it with a new set of eyes, new set of ears, I'm not tainted by my most recent performance.
Do you have a particular relationship with children's orchestras? I see several concerts that you have scheduled in the past and also in the future, one's in January?
The children's concert that's in January, I didn't pick that, the Symphony picked that.
I see.
But the special thing about that concert is that, instead of doing the traditional two-hour concert with intermission, just so everybody can applaud and go home, and drink wine, this concert is more of an hour, and there will be a lot of discussion of the music, for the families, for the kids. For that particular concert, there are two of them. Instead of just doing one subscription concert, there are two concerts. There's one on Friday morning for the children, one on Sunday afternoon for the kids and the families. I can be given an opportunity to speak if I want to; the conductor will say his words about the pieces or try to help make sense of it, it helps to be developing an audience for the next generation.
Was that your idea to choose the particular Piano Concerto No. 9, the “Jeunhomme”?
No, I didn't choose it, although I'm glad they did. Initially they chose No. 25, which is also in my repertoire, but somehow the conductor decided No. 9 would be a better fit, better choice for the program, and I know that one too, so it worked!
I see.
Actually I think he did make a better choice in doing No. 9 because of the Mozart piano concertos, that is one of the more accessible ones, for those who aren't piano or Mozart buffs.
I see.

And, what's special about the Mozart Piano Concerto is Charles Rosen felt that the “Jeunhomme” is really Mozart's Eroica Symphony; that's his equivalent.
That's his first great work and after No. 9 we really start getting into the Mozart we really know, not so much the juvenile.
It's a hefty work. It sounds easy but it's not easy to play or to put together.
Do you have any other incidents that you'd like to relate to us from your musical experience?
One thing that I would like to talk about is that even though Beethoven does figure fairly prominently into my musical repertoire and into my musical existence thus far, I refuse to say I'm a Beethoven specialist!
You want to be a generalist?
Well, I choose my composers and repertoire selectively, and I do an analysis of them in depth. And that's how I chose to do a Brahms CD. I at one point I was considering a Brahms cycle – didn't get to do it – but I worked up a lot of the piano work for Brahms, a lot of the intermezzi, some of the sonatas, the ballades, the Variation on a Theme of Paganini as well as the Handel, so I figured, “Well let's go ahead and finish that up.” I didn't get a chance to do it, but really working through Brahms allowed me to not only get a better appreciation of Beethoven, but also get a better appreciation of Mozart, and, eventually, Bach. So it was through that channel I decided, “Let me as a mature musician, not so much as a student or a little kid, take up Bach.” So after the Beethoven cycle was done, and I kind of caught my breath, I decided to pretty much retrace my steps for the Beethoven cycle. I had done the “Goldbergs” first when I was a teenager, at 17 years old. But of course, when you're 17, you're not really playing much!
I see.
But now, when I came back to it, I get really in depth into my Bach. So feeling out the “Prelude and Fugue,” feeling out the “English Suite,” the “Partitas” and the “French Overture,” really informed my performance of the “Goldbergs,” which pretty much went well! Some performances were better than others, but it was really refreshing to do that and to go back to Bach. And now, I am working on the Schubert “B Flat Major Sonata, D960,” and I will be playing that in a recital next month, pairing that with Beethoven's Opus 111. So having the two last words by Beethoven and by Schubert in one concert – I mean the program itself looks beautiful, I just hope I can play it as beautifully as it looks on paper!
It does sound like quite a challenge!
Yes, it is!

(At the end of our interview, Eldred Marshall told us about his program, “Classically Black”. We will present his comments on the topic tomorrow as an essay.)