Thursday, March 18, 2010

'Music by Zenobia Powell Perry: Spirituals, Art Songs, and Chamber Music' on Cambria CD-1138

[TOP: Music by Zenobia Powell Perry; Janis-Rozena Peri, soprano; Darryl Taylor, tenor; Joyce Catafalno, flute; Berkeley Price, clarinet; John Crotty (13-31), piano; Deon Nielsen Price (1-12), piano; Cambria CD-1138 (2010) (76:59) BOTTOM: Zenobia Powell Perry]

The CD Music by Zenobia Powell Perry, Cambria CD-1138 (2010) (76:59) is the first full recording devoted to the compositions of Zenobia Powell Perry. Jeannie G. Pool, Ph.D. is author of the biography American Composer Zenobia Powell Perry: Race and Gender in the 20th Century, published in 2009 by Scarecrow Press. She writes in the liner notes: “Composer and pianist Zenobia Powell Perry was born on October 3, 1908, to a well-educated, middle-class family. Her father, Calvin Bethel Powell, was a black physician and her mother, Birdie Lee Thompson, was Creek Indian and black.”

After instruction from a teacher in her area, the liner notes continue, Zenobia studied music in Rochester, New York with R. Nathaniel Dett. While a student at Tuskegee Institute, Dr. Pool says, Zenobia Powell Perry later worked with William Levi Dawson, the legendary choral director, composer and arranger. She continues: “After completing her degree, she headed a black teacher-training program, supervised in part by Eleanor Roosevelt, who became a friend, ally, and mentor and sponsored her graduate studies in education in Colorado. She studied composition with Darius Milhaud, Allan Willman, and Charles Jones at the University of Wyoming and Aspen Conference on Contemporary Music.”

From 1947 to 1955, Zenobia Powell Perry taught at Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College. Jeannie Pool writes: “For the next 27 years, she was a faculty member and composer-in-residence at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.” Numerous orchestras have performed her works. Her opera Tawawa House was given its debut performance in 1987.

The first 5 tracks on the CD are devoted to Cycle of Songs on Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Track 6 is Sinner Man So Hard, Believe! and 7 is Hallelujah to the Lamb. A 4-movement Sonata for Clarinet and Piano makes up Tracks 8-11. Track 12 is Sonatine for Piano. Track 13 is O the Angels Done Bowed Down. On Track 14 is Homage to William Levi Dawson. The song cycle Threnody makes up Tracks 15-19 and was composed for soprano Janis-Rozena Peri, who is her daughter.

Track 20 is Rhapsody. Heritage and Life: A Cycle of Songs is the source of the songs on Tracks 21-23. The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh uses text from the founder of the Baha'i Faith on Tracks 24-29. Track 30 is Promenade. The recording ends with Flight, on Track 31, a response to the missions of U. S. astronauts. [William Levi Dawson (1899-1990) and R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) are profiled at, which features Works Lists compiled by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory]

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