Sunday, January 16, 2011

Albany Records: 'Darryl Taylor and Brent McMunn have assembled a superb collection of classics'

[How Sweet the Sound: A Charm of Spirituals; Darryl Taylor, countertenor; Brent McMunn, piano; Albany Records Troy1244 (2011)]

On January 6, 2011 AfriClassical posted a news release from Albany Records on the new CD of countertenor Darryl Taylor and pianist Brent McMunn, How Sweet the Sound: A Charm of Spirituals, Troy1244 (69:03). We have since obtained the CD. Here are some excerpts from the liner notes written by Jared Sexton:

By Jared Sexton
“What are these songs and what do they mean?
I know little of music and can say nothing
in technical phrase, but I know something of
men [sic], and knowing them, I know that
these songs are the articulate message
of the slave to the world.”

“In his 1935 magnum opus, Du Bois declares the spiritual to be 'the loveliest thing born this side of the seas,' reprising his earlier treatment of the subject in the 1903 collective that provides our epigraph.” “In his magisterial two-volume Book of American Negro Spirituals, first published in 1925, the Harlem Renaissance polymath James Weldon Johnson wrote: 'Nobody thought of questioning the Negro's title as creator of this music until its beauty and value were demonstrated.'”

“Thus, the documentation and performance of Negro spirituals as African American art song has served a dual purpose for roughly one hundred and fifty years now: on the one hand, establishing the aesthetic achievements of African-derived populations in a post-emancipation society and, on the other, challenging the perennial appropriation of black expressive culture as a component of 'the tragic continuities between slavery and freedom' theorized so finely by Saidiya Hartman.”

“Darryl Taylor and Brent McMunn have assembled a superb collection of classics from the still growing corpus of spirituals, including a number of arrangements by key figures in the history of black musical composition. For instance: Margaret Bonds (trained at Northwestern University and the Juilliard School, she is remembered well for her many collaborations with poet Langston Hughes, including her 1942 The Negro Speaks of Rivers); Hall Johnson (polyglot virtuoso best known for his 1939 Broadway musical, Run, Little Chillun, and the 1951 performance of his Hall Johnson Choir for the International Festival of Fine arts in Berlin at behest of U.S. State Department); the late Moses Hogan (winner of the 28th Annual Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Piano Competition, founding conductor of the renowned Moses Hogan Singers, and editor of the milestone 2001 Oxford Book of Spirituals) and Hale Smith (accomplished jazz pianist, former University of Connecticut Professor of Music and member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences); George Walker (child prodigy, graduate of the Eastman School of Music – in my hometown – and first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his 1996 Lilacs); and Jacqueline Hairston (alumnus of the Juilliard School, Howard University and Columbia University, longtime vocal coach to the stars, and winner of a 2007 Jefferson Award for Public Service for her contributions to the University of California's Young Musicians Program). Importantly, they have also carried forward Henry Burleigh's landmark 'Deep River,' the first spiritual arranged for voice and piano, expressly for the concert stage, in 1916.” [Margaret A. Bonds (1913-1972), Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949), Hale Smith (1925-2009) and George Walker (b. 1922) are profiled at]

No comments: