Friday, March 11, 2011

Organist Marvin Mills Plays 'Sonata No. 1' of Florence B. Price on 80th Anniversary of 1931 Skinner Organ at Brown Memorial Church

[Marvin Mills]

Patrick D. McCoy tells us:
“Noted Organist Marvin Mills was among the featured artists in this special concert to commemorate the 1931 Skinner Organ at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church where Virgil Fox once played. For the program, he played Sonata No. 1 by Florence Price.”

Additional information is found on the blog of Patrick D. McCoy,

“Marvin Mills briefly shared about his inclusion of the Suite by Florence Price on the recital, who is considered the first African-American female composer of classical music. 'I played the Price piece a number of times…and I was just trying to think of something close to the time frame in which the organ was built…I was wanting to find something that will not be very commonly heard. Some may know the name “Florence Price” from some of her songs and spiritual arrangements she has done, but the Suite is certainly of that period of composition, particularly of an African-American composer. It does not use spiritual themes per se or folk themes, but the themes “hearken,”… you have that sensibility. She also has a very rich harmonic palette that she uses.' Mills further discussed the unique connection between French composer of organ music, Alexandre Guilmant and Florence Price.

"'On his last tour, he made a stop in Boston while Florence Price was a student at New England Conservatory. He attended a student recital on which Price played. The piece that she played was his first organ sonata and she subsequently wrote a sonata herself, which structurally key wise and everything but theme was patterned after the Guilmant sonata…this is the first time that I have had the opportunity to pair the two on a recital.'” [Florence B. Price (1887-1953) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory]

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