Thursday, January 14, 2010

Irene Britton Smith's 'Sonata for Violin and Piano' is available from Vivace Press

[Irene Britton Smith (Courtesy Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College Chicago)]

Irene Britton Smith (1907-1999) was an African American Composer who taught in the Chicago Public Schools for more than 40 years. Because of her remarkable success as an elementary school teacher, she became a specialist in the teaching of Reading. The principal source for the page on Irene Britton Smith is the book From Spirituals to Symphonies: African-American Women Composers and Their Music, written by Prof. Helen Walker-Hill and published by the University of Illinois Press (2007).

Dr. Walker-Hill describes the indirect manner in which she learned that Irene had done her own composing: “Only in passing did it emerge that she herself composed. As she brought out her meticulously copied compositions, it became evident that hers was a highly trained and sensitive talent. She had learned her craft in relative obscurity during years of dedicated study with some of the leading musicians and teachers of the twentieth century. Although music and composing may have been the love of her life, most of her energy was required in her profession of teaching in the public schools.”

One of Irene's works, her Sonata for Violin and Piano (15:07) was published by Vivace Press in 1996 and is included on the CD Kaleidoscope: Music by African-American Women; Leonarda LE 339 (1995). The performers are Helen Walker-Hill, piano, and Gregory Walker, violin. Notes, the Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association called the CD: “...good music that has been overlooked and underrepresented in the traditional repertory...” Today AfriClassical received a request for the name of the publisher of the work.

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