Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dominique-René de Lerma Reviews 'Libera': 'A warm welcome for a debut recording'

[From TOP: Marlissa Hudson, Peter Henderson and Fred Onovwerosuoke followed by Libera: Works by Bonds, Hayes, Mendelssohn, Onovwerosuoke and Puccini; Marlissa Hudson, soprano; Peter Henderson, pianist; AMP Records AGCD 2106 (47:45)]

Dominique-René de Lerma, whose website is, writes this review of the new CD Libera, AMP Records AGCD 2106:

A warm welcome for a debut recording.

Bonds, Margaret. 3 Dream portraits. 1. Minstrel man. (2:04).
Bonds, Margaret. He's got the whole world in his hands (2:33).
Hayes, Mark. I feel the spirit moving (2:46).
Hayes, Mark. Joshua fit the battle of Jericho (2:43).
Hayes, Mark. Give me Jesus (4:08).
Hayes, Mark. There is a balm in Gilead (4:04).
Mendelssohn, Felix. Hear ye, Israel, from Elijah (5:35).
Onovwerosuoke, Fred. 12 African songs. Duniya [Mystic universe] (2:40);
Esato [Eight] (4:15); Herero folktales (5:24); Luwah [Bitter tears] (3:47);
Ne nkansu [Healing dance] (2:17); Ngulu kamba [Lullaby] (3:00).
Puccini, Giacomo. La canzona di Doretta, from La rondine (2:25).

AGCD 2106 (2010, Libera). African Music Publishers (order by phone: 314-652-6800; by email:; online:, Credit card via PayPal.
At first glance, it will be thought this is an odd mixture of works: one Italian opera aria, one from a Mendelssohn oratorio, a few African American spirituals, and a set of African works. And it is a strange accumulation, but it works. The soprano, from St. Louis, has been visible on the web since 2006, thanks to Randye Jones' “Future Afrocentric voices” ( At that time Ms Hudson had just begun working on her B.A. degree in music and sociology at Duke University. It would be six more years before she graduated from the Peabody Conservatory with her M.M. Degree. Within two years she had begun notable engagements principally back home in St. Louis, which has since only intensified. By 2010, for example, she had been heard as soloist on either coast, with a repertoire including Bach, Rachmaninoff, Verdi, Richard Strauss and, of course, Gershwin (it seems that Roland Hayes and Marian Anderson were the only Black singers without some P&B experience, maybe only because they were born in the 19th century). Ms Hudson was also selected to sing at the ceremonies to commemorate the establishment of the Ben Holt Memorial Chapter of the National Association of Negro Musicians, in Washington D.C.

As her repertoire will suggest, she is a lyric soprano and, as this CD debut will indicate, her performances bear evidence that, fully understanding the textual nuances, she readily communicates these even to a listener not familiar with the language. This elevates the marvelous songs of Dr. Onovwerosuoke past being just beautiful tunes. She is aided toward that goal by the simply splendid work of her pianist, Dr. Peter Henderson, keyboardist of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. His work is distinguished by crisp articulation, absolute accuracy, in perfect coordination and balance. He can take on very exciting rhythmic activity or superb tranquillity as the wide range of these works requires. In this regard, special mention should be made of Mark Hayes' I feel the spirit moving, which treats That old-time religion and Every time I feel the spirit.

Fred Onovwerosuoke has been revealing himself as a musical polymath for at least two decades: an administrator, conductor, philosopher, record producer, and music publisher -- all first-rate. He has taken these melodies from Gambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroun, and Congo, where they originally served social functions, and set them as art songs, totally worthy of inclusion on programs of any singer wishing to enrich the repertoire. Acquiring the music is not a problem. The cycle of his twelve songs excerpted here is scheduled for publication this year by Oxford University Press. And those wishing to book the singer for engagements need only express their interest to

Dr. Onovwerosuoke has kindly provided the following texts, which are not available with the recording. Following these is the foreword to the song cycle, contributed by the patriarch of modern musicology, Dr. J. H. Kwabena Nketia. [AfriClassical will post the texts and the foreword separately.]

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your review. I'm honored that you took the time, and hope to meet you in the near future!