Friday, January 21, 2011 'Local musicians aim to raise awareness about African-American composers with a benefit concert'

[LaDoris Cordell]
by Rebecca Wallace
Palo Alto Online Staff
(Excerpt from article)
“There's a special kind of harmony that comes from sharing a piano bench. As LaDoris Cordell and Josephine 'Jodi' Gandolfi play a duet arrangement of Betty Jackson King's 'Spring Intermezzo' four hands, one piano they often breathe in time. The piece is gentle, with some delicate dissonance sprinkled in, and Cordell's hands chase Gandolfi's down the keyboard. Their shoulders lean together amiably. At the end, they look at each other and smile. 'I can hear her breathing,' Cordell says.

“While the piece, part of King's 'Four Seasonal Sketches,' was written for one person, Gandolfi has arranged it for a pair. This way, the longtime Menlo Park piano teacher gets to team up with her student and friend. It's been a fruitful musical partnership. Cordell, a former Palo Alto City Council member and retired judge, has been studying piano with Gandolfi for six years. A few years ago, Gandolfi, Cordell and other students including Deanne Tucker began exploring music by African-American composers. They knew some spirituals and jazz, but were shocked to realize how few black composers they knew, especially of classical music.

“Sitting in the theater at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, Cordell and King list examples. William Grant Still, a pioneering symphony composer. Betty Jackson King, who wrote and arranged spirituals and other vocal and instrumental music. Valerie Capers, a New York composer of cantatas, song cycles and pop and jazz songs. And these are just for starters.

“'I had never heard of these composers as a black person growing up with a black piano teacher,' Cordell says. On Jan. 30, Cordell, Gandolfi and Tucker will present their third concert of music by African-American composers, together with several other musicians: soprano and East Palo Alto native Yolanda Rhodes, clarinetist Carol Somersille, violinist Susan C. Brown, and cellist Victoria Ehrlich. The 3 p.m. performance will be at the Eastside Prep theater, with all proceeds benefitting the school's music department.

"'We're on a mission: to bring these talented composers to the world,' Cordell says. The program encompasses 11 composers and one world premiere. Composer Joshua McGhee, 24, who recently earned a bachelor's degree in music with a composition emphasis at California State University, East Bay, will premiere his work 'Where Freedom Rings.' It's a setting of his own text for soprano, piano, violin and cello.” [William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features his complete Works List compiled by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory]

No comments: