Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Regina Harris Baiocchi on Randye Jones at Symposium: 'This is a great tribute to Hale Smith, Burleigh and other composers'

[Regina Harris Baiocchi]

Yesterday AfriClassical posted: “Randye Jones: 'Interpreting Spiritual Art Songs' at Singing Symposium, St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador, July 10-13.” We sent the link to Regina Harris Baiocchi, a composer to whom Hale Smith was a friend and mentor for many years. She is also founder of Haiku Fest, a poetry program for children in Chicago. Regina has replied:

“Dear Bill:
This is a great tribute to Hale Smith, Burleigh and other composers whose music Ms. Jones will sing. Thanks for keeping me in your circle. Kudos to Ms. Jones for keeping Hale's music alive!

John Malveaux: 'Statement by the President on the Observance of Juneteenth'

[Official portrait of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 13, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)]

In preparation for Juneteenth 2011, John Malveaux calls our attention to the Statement which was made in connection with last year's observance:

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 19, 2010

On this day 145 years ago, the people of Galveston, Texas, received word from members of the Union Army that those slaves who remained captive were now indeed free. More than two years after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the order read by Major General Gordon Granger made plain that the relationship between “former masters and slaves” would now be one of “employer and free laborer.”

General Granger’s pronouncement was one step in our continuing effort to perfect our union and live out the ideals of our Founders. While we know it would be many years before African descendants in America achieved the full rights offered through Lincoln’s proclamation, that day in Texas, former slaves were offered the hope of embracing the American Dream as their own.

This occasion, which became known as Juneteenth, is now celebrated here in America and around the world and is a time not only to celebrate the rich heritage and many accomplishments of African Americans in our country, but also a time to reflect on the common values and ideals that we share as Americans.

Our nation is stronger because of the generations of struggles for equal rights and social justice, and our culture is richer because of the contributions of African Americans throughout our history. This is why Juneteenth, while rooted in the history of a people, can be celebrated by all Americans.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Randye Jones: 'Interpreting Spiritual Art Songs' at Singing Symposium, St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador, July 10-13

[Randye Jones]

Our longtime acquaintance Randye Jones sends AfriClassical this information:

“Soprano Randye Jones has been selected to present a lecture-recital at The Phenomenon of Singing International Symposium VIII in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Her topic, 'Interpreting Spiritual Art Songs'--featuring works by H. T. Burleigh, Hale Smith and John Carter, was one of approximately 80 proposals from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, Finland, Spain, Ireland, Indonesia, United States, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Argentina and Germany selected for the July 10-13, 2011, symposium program. Jones is a doctoral student in Vocal Literature at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and serves on the library staff at Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa. More information about the symposium is available at http://www.festival500.com. [H.T. Burleigh (1866-1949) and Hale Smith (1925-2009) are profiled at AfriClassical.com, which features a comprehensive Works List for each composer, compiled by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory]

New Yorker: 'Treemonisha' is 'a vibrant work mixing classical, ragtime, and folk-music influences that is as affecting as it is unique'

[Joplin Piano Rags; Roy Eaton, piano; Sony SBK 833 (1995)]
New Yorker
“The company, in collaboration with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, celebrates the hundredth anniversary of Scott Joplin’s 1911 opera, a vibrant work mixing classical, ragtime, and folk-music influences that is as affecting as it is unique; set in a community of former slaves, it champions education as the pathway to a brighter future. The evening features substantial selections from the opera, along with dance performances and readings from African-American poetry; Roy Eaton hosts. (Schomburg Center, Malcolm X Blvd. at 135th St. 212-721-6500. June 6 at 7.)

William Warfield recorded 'Old Man River' for 'Showboat' 'in a single take that was flawless!”

[William Warfield (1920-2002)]

On May 28, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “Byron Hanson, Interlochen Archivist: William Warfield 'made outstanding recordings of German repertoire as well.'” We thanked Byron Hanson for his contribution, and he replied:

“You're most welcome - Warfield was a student of a friend of mine. WW wrote memoirs that were published near the end of his life that would be good reading for today's students. I believe the book was in print for only a short time, however. Of particular merit was his account of singing Old Man River for the early 50's movie of Showboat. To the amazement of the film technicians he recorded it in a single take that was flawless! They listened to the playback several times and could find no reason to 'try it again'!
Best regards,

Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma made this comment on the same post:
“Within the cassette collection of Ben Holt, given me by his mother (and not at all yet inventoried, much less digitized) is a recital given by Bill Warfield in Oslo, back when he was in excellent voice. Therein is a performance of Danse macabre (the vocal version) of Saint-Saëns, with beautifully articulated French. Doubtless that cassette also includes Lieder. I hope to present a complete discography of his work in my present project (contributed data woud be welcomed!). When he visited me here in Wisconsin, he informally sang Ol' man river for our chorus auf Deutsch as he had done so times in Vienna -- that's where I was when I heard of his death. While here, he enjoyed chatting with his classmate from Eastman days, Mari Tanaguchi, an emerita voice professor at Lawrence University. The autographed copy of his autobiography, which he gave me, is now within the holdings of the Center for Black Music Research.”

John Malveaux of MusicUntold.com added a comment which could apply to both Byron Hanson, the Interlochen archivist, and Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma:
“I am reminded of a comment made by Malcolm X's daughter about the importance of history. She said every time an elder dies 'it's like a library burning down'. I hope you live many more years.
John Malveaux

Sunday, May 29, 2011

New York City Opera: 'Treemonisha' in Concert with Pianist Roy F. Eaton at Schomburg Center June 6 at 7 PM

[ABOVE: Scott Joplin's Treemonisha, Original Cast Recording; Polygram 435709 (1992) BELOW: Roy Eaton]

The pianist Roy F. Eaton, whose website is http://www.royeaton.net/, has been featured frequently at AfriClassical. Today he sends news of his concert version of Scott Joplin's opera Treemonisha:

Treemonisha in Concert
Monday, June 6 at 7:00 pm
515 Malcolm X Boulevard (at 135th Street)

“Exactly 100 years since Scott Joplin unsuccessfully tried to get his opera 'Treemonisha' performed in New York, Roy Eaton will host a concert performance of this unjustly neglected work. Not only will we hear major musical selections from the Opera, but also poetry by African American poets that mirror the same philosophy that inspired Joplin....Knowledge is the key to the future of African-Americans. In keeping with Joplin's 'call to action' we will also hear from the children of our community--the voices of the future--who will respond to the opera's main themes: Dreams for a People, the Tree of Life/Knowledge, and Leaders for Tomorrow. For Tickets and Info:
[Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was a Ragtime and Classical composer who is profiled at AfriClassical.com]

Raymond Harvey, Alexandra Mascolo-David & Kalamazoo S.O. in 'Francisco Mignone: Fantasias Brasileiras' White Pine Music

[TOP: Francisco Mignone: Fantasias Brasileiras; Alexandra Mascolo-David, pianist; Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra; Raymond Harvey, Conductor; White Pine Music WPM223 (2010) BOTTOM: Raymond Harvey, Music Director and Conductor, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra]

We have long had an interest in the classical music of Brazil and other countries in South America. For several years we have been listening to Allison Brewster Franzetti's piano CD South American Landscapes; Premier Recordings (1994), which briefly samples the piano works of Francisco Mignone. It was a delight to find a complete recording devoted exclusively to Mignone's Fantasias Brasileiras (Brazilian Fantasies). Full-bodied brass and great rhythmic variety characterize this distinctive recording of Brazilian classical music. The CD is available online for $15 plus shipping. It may be ordered from White Pine Music at: http://music.cmich.edu/resources/white_pine_music/

Raymond Harvey is Music Director and Conductor of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. He received B.A. and M.A. degrees from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and graduated from the Yale School of Music with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree. AfriClassical has followed Dr. Harvey with interest for years. The Bio at RaymondHarvey.net tells us: “With an immediately noticeable style that has been described as 'elegant, but suffused with energy,' Raymond Harvey has garnered critical acclaim on symphonic podiums throughout the United States. Now in his eleventh season as Music Director of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Harvey was previously Music Director of the Springfield Symphony in Massachusetts and the Fresno Philharmonic in California.”

Francisco Mignone is considered one of Brazil's three principal composers of classical music in the 20th century, along with Heitor Villa-Lobos and Camargo Guarnieri. The piano soloist is Alexandra Mascolo-David, a Professor at Central Michigan University. She writes in the liner notes:

“For the past 20 years I have centered my research efforts on the piano music of Brazilian composer Francisco Mignone (1897-1986).” “In 2001, after years of surmounting obstacles, I released the compact disc of Mignone's 24 Valsas Brasileiras (Volume 1), and subsequently, in 2007, volume two. Soon after completing the Valsas Brasileiras, I chose to embark on a project of even greater proportions: the recording of Mignone's 4 Fanstasias Brasileiras for piano and orchestra. To do this, in 2007 I applied for and received a Research Excellence Fund Grant from Central Michigan University to record the Fantasias with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Raymond Harvey for the White Pine Music label.”

“In writing the Fantasias, Mignone drew inspiration from the Afro-Brazilian folk tradition and succeeded in combining beautiful African, indigenous, popular, folk, and original melodic formulas with the rhythmic complexity and intensity of drumming.” The recording caught the attention of the classical music staff at WGBH Radio in Boston. The CD features Fantasias Brasileiras Nos. 1-4 (49:01). “Keith's Classical Corner” on WGBH has produced a program which can be heard online on demand: “Alexandra Mascolo-David Plays Mignone's Fantasia No. 4.” Fantasia No. 4 (13:04) is performed in its entirety after a brief introduction.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Byron Hanson, Interlochen Archivist: William Warfield 'made outstanding recordings of German repertoire as well.'

[William Warfield (1920-2002)]

On May 27, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “John Malveaux: 'Aaron Copland also accompanied legendary Baritone William Warfield on the 1953 Columbia Records recording.'” Today we were pleased to receive additional details on William Warfield's performances from Byron Hanson, Archivist of the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Michigan. The website Interlochen.org says:

“Byron Hanson has served Interlochen since 1965 as conductor of band or orchestra; as coach-accompanist for individual students in lessons, competitions, auditions and recitals; and in administrative roles. In 2009 he began his new position as Interlochen's archivist.”

Byron Hanson tells us:
“I have enjoyed keeping up with AfriClassical postings and getting news about a number of our former students thereby. In response to John Malveaux's appreciation for the Copland/Warfield collaboration in the 1953 recording of the second set of Old American Songs, I would add that they also recorded the first set together exactly two years earlier, in August of 1951. Mr. Warfield is justifiably identified with his fine performances of these American songs, but he made outstanding recordings of German repertoire as well. Five of Carl Loewe's ballads and the Vier ernste gesange of Brahms with pianist Otto Herz are wonderful to hear. Toward the end of Mr. Warfield's life I was privileged to conduct a program at Interlochen that included his stirring narrration of Copland's A Lincoln Portrait, a work he also narrated in French and German in the post-war years.
Byron Hanson
Interlochen Center for the Arts"

Nigerian Composer Fela Sowande, Born May 29, 1905; 'The Music of Fela Sowande' by Prof. Bode Omojola

[The Music of Fela Sowande: Encounters, African Identity and Creative Ethnomusicology;
Bode Omojola; MRI Press (2009)]

The Nigerian composer, organist and Professor Olufela Sowande was born in Oyo, Nigeria on May 29, 1905 and is profiled at AfriClassical.com. Bode Omojola, Ph.D., chronicled his life and career in the 1995 book, Nigerian Art Music, in which he observed: “Fela Sowande is undoubtedly the father of modern Nigerian Art Music and perhaps the most distinguished and internationally known African composer. The most significant pioneer-composer of works in the European classical idiom, his works mark the beginning of an era of modern Nigerian Art Music.” Bode Omojola has since devoted an entire book to the life and music of Fela Sowande: The Music of Fela Sowande: Encounters, African Identity and Creative Ethnomusicology. It was published in 2009 by MRI Press.

Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma has posted an excerpt on Fela Sowande from a manuscript on Black composers: http://www.africanchorus.org/Artists/Sowande.htm

The African Suite (24:52) was recorded on CD in 1994 on CBC Records SMCD 5135. The CBC Vancouver Orchestra is led by Mario Bernardi, Conductor. The liner notes outline the history and composition of the work: “The African Suite, written in 1944, combines well-known West African musics with European forces and methods. For the opening movement, Joyful Day, Sowande uses a melody written by Ghanaian composer Ephrain Amu, as he does in the fourth movement, Onipe. In Nostalgia, Sowande composes a traditional slow movement to express his nostalgia for the homeland (in itself a rather European idea). At the centre of the work is a restive Lullaby, based on a folk original. The finale of the Suite, Akinla, traces a very singular musical history. It began as a popular Highlife tune - Highlife being a pungent, 20th-century style, combining colonial Western military and popular music with West African elements and a history of its own.”

Prof. De Lerma writes: “After 1960 Sowande worked mainly as a professor - he was Visiting Scholar at Northwestern University in the US, worked at Princeton University, and in 1968 he accepted a position at Howard University in Washington DC - a post he held until 1972 when he became professor of Black Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. His last position was in the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University, which he held until his retirement in 1982. Olufela Obafunmilayo Sowande died in Ohio on March 13, 1987; he was 82 years old.

CBMR Newsletter: 'Early Registration Deadline is May 31' for 2011 Annual Meeting of NANM

The CBMR Newsletter is distributed by email to members of the Center for Black Music Research. AfriClassical presents an excerpt from the May, 2011 Newsletter:

“NANM Annual Meeting
The 2011 Annual Meeting of the National Association of Negro Musicians is being held in Phildelphia during July 22–29, 2011. The early registration deadline is May 31, so register now:

'Palacio' Cover Story on Denyce Graves at JUNETEENTH Worldwide Concert, 2:30 PM, June 19

[Palacio de Long Beach, Diversity Issue; Cover Photo: Denyce Graves]

John Malveaux of MusicUntold.com sends this link to the June-July “Diversity Issue” of Palacio de Long Beach, a bilingual community magazine in English and Spanish:

Andrea Sulsona is Editor and Publisher of Palacio. In a Letter From the Editor, Ms. Sulsona identifies the cover photo as that of the African American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, and discusses the issue's focus on diversity. The cover article is entitled:

“JUNETEENTH with Denyce Graves
Denyce Graves, who has thrilled audiences world-wide with the wonder and beauty of her mezzo-soprano voice and stunning stage presence will perform in recital Sunday, June 19 at JUNETEENTH WorldWide Concert, Long Beach Terrace Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., at 2:30 p.m. Raised with two siblings by a single mother in Southwest Washington, D.C., Ms. Graves attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and went on to vocal studies at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio, and the New England Conservatory in Boston,with further study at the Wolf Trap Opera Company in Washington.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

John Malveaux: 'Aaron Copland also accompanied legendary Baritone William Warfield on the 1953 Columbia Records recording'

[William Warfield (1920-2002)]

John Malveaux tells AfriClassical:
“Thanks to Classical KUSC FM 91.5 host Jim Svejda on May 24, 2011, I heard for the first time Old American Songs Set No. 2 arranged by Aaron Copland. Aaron Copland also accompanied legendary Baritone William Warfield on the 1953 Columbia Records recording of the five song set for voice and piano. Wow!!!
John Malveaux

Judith Lang Zaimont: 'Awadagin, Ilmar, Melissa, Miguel and Paul are fantastic, emotive players'

[Eternal Evolution: Music of Judith Lang Zaimont; Harlem Quartet; Awadagin Pratt, pianist; Navona Records NV5846 (2011)]

On May 25, 2009 AfriClassical posted: “'Eternal Evolution: Music of Judith Lang Zaimont'; Harlem Quartet & Pianist Awadagin Pratt; Navona Records.” Today we received this gracious and eloquent response from the composer, Judith Lang Zaimont:

“Dear Mr. Zick:
Thanks for your spotlight on the new 'Eternal Evolution' CD ...Awadagin, Ilmar, Melissa, Miguel and Paul are fantastic, emotive players -- they play 'in 3-D' and really bring my music to life!
Judith Lang Zaimont

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ticket Giveaway on Classical KUSC Radio for Denyce Graves at Juneteenth Worldwide Concert, 2:30 PM, June 19

[Denyce Graves]

John Malveaux sends this link to a ticket giveaway on Classical KUSC Radio for:

The Juneteenth Worldwide Concert
Sunday, June 19th at 2:30PM

“The Juneteenth Worldwide Concert with mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves takes place Sunday, June 19th at 2:30PM at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach. Recognized as one of today’s most exciting vocal stars, Denyce Graves continues to gather unparalleled popular and critical acclaim. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution exclaims, 'if the human voice has the power to move you, you will be touched by Denyce Graves.' Tickets and information online at MusicUntold.com.

“Classical KUSC has a limited number of complimentary tickets to give away for Denyce Graves at the Terrace Theatre on Sunday, June 19th at 2:30 PM. Please email KUSC [tickets@kusc.org] to be entered into the sweepstakes to win a pair of tickets. Include your name, address and phone number. Only current listeners who have not won tickets in the last 90 days are eligible. Only winners will be contacted.”

ArtsLink.co.za: Catalyst Quartet Includes Music of Ugandan Composer Justinian Tamusuza on South African Program

[Catalyst Quartet; Justinian Tamusuza]

WSOA - Wits School of Arts
“The Catalyst Quartet is comprised of top laureates and alumni of the acclaimed Sphinx Competition for young black and Latino string players. Presented by Wits School of Arts / WitsMusic, The Catalyst Quartet will performing at Wits early in June. The mission of the ensemble is to advance diversity in classical music and inspire new and young audiences with dynamic performances of cutting-edge repertoire by a wide range of composers. Founded by the Sphinx Organization, members of the Catalyst Quartet combine a serious commitment to diversity, excellence and education with a passion for accessible modern works.

“Graduates of top music schools in the United States, including the Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory of Music and Cleveland Institute of Music, the Catalyst Quartet serves as principal faculty at the Sphinx Performance Academy at Oberlin College and Roosevelt College in Chicago, Illinois, and as visiting teaching artists at the Sphinx Preparatory Music Institute hosted by the Detroit Symphony." "Members of the ensemble have performed as part of the annual national Sphinx Chamber Orchestra Tour, which has met with critical acclaim since its inception in 2008."

“The performance will present works of contemporary masters, including string quartets by Philip Glass and Michael Nyman, as well as works by Terry Riley, Astor Piazzolla, Anton von Webern and Justinian Tamusuza. Glass, now the elder statesman amongst American composers, has achieved international recognition as a 20th century master, through a wide range of compositions, and is especially famous for his operas Akhnaten, and Einstein on the Beach, while Nyman is known not only for his orchestral and instrumental works but also for his contributions to the art of film music with scores for such features as The piano and Prospero’s Books.

OperaCréole: “We did three scenes from Lucien Lambert's 'La Flamenca' to a standing ovation!”

[Aria Mason (Left) and Givonna Joseph (Right)]

On April 30, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “OperaCréole Debuts May 21 With Music of Edmond Dédé, Lucien Lambert, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges & William Grant Still.” Here are excerpts from a message of thanks received from Givonna Joseph of OperaCréole:

“Dear Mr. Zick,
Thank you again for posting OperaCreole's debut concert on your blog. It was a -standing room only- OperaCréole debut concert on Saturday!!!! So many supporters were there, especially La Creole members, B-Sharp Music Club members, opera community representatives, and a descendant of 19th Century Creole composer Eugene MaCarty and more....

“We did three scenes from Lucien Lambert's 'La Flamenca' to a standing ovation! And we will be adding more for future performances. We have a private event in June, and the next public-and free- concert is Sat. August 20 at the New Orleans Jazz National Park, for a general Creole history in music event. And we have been invited to do a concert at our St. Louis Cathedral next season.

“Our State Senator, Cynthia Willard-Lewis wrote a commendation on the group's debut! I don't think it has been entered into legislation yet, but we will officially be part of Louisiana history when it is!” “Attached is a picture of my daughter, Aria Mason, and me singing 'Belle Nuit' from 'Tales of Hoffmann'. The church, 'St Mary's' has a rich connection to free people of color. Three composers were organists there: Snaer, Lambert, and Bares.” “Thank you again, and many blessings on your and Mr. DeLerma's work!”
Givonna Joseph
Founder, Director, OperaCréole

Patrick D. McCoy: 'Kevin Deas was recently bass soloist in the Verdi Requiem at the Music Center at Strathmore'

[Kevin Deas]

Patrick D. McCoy tells AfriClassical:
“Kevin Deas was recently bass soloist in the Verdi Requiem at the Music Center at Strathmore with the National Philharmonic and Chorale conducted by Stan Engebretson."

New York Amsterdam News: 'SUITE SOUNDS: Maestro Warren George Rock Wilson passes'

[Maestro Warren George Rock Wilson]

AfriClassical is pleased to add SUITE SOUNDS of the New York Amsterdam News to its Favorite Websites, at the suggestion of Alicia Hall Moran.

Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011
“Maestro Warren George Rock Wilson was born on Oct. 21, 1934, to Anita Medora and Vincent G. Wilson. "My mother told me I could do anything I wanted to do-and I believed her," Wilson was fond of saying. Citing his mother's staunch conviction of his musical genius-he's been a prizewinning pianist since early youth-and his father's rigid authority, Wilson credited a dogged insistence on musical excellence to his upbringing. On May 9, at the age of 76, he passed on at Mount Sinai Hospital after a long illness.

“Warren Wilson was, by anyone's standards, a genius. At the Boys Choir of Harlem (Choir Academy of Harlem), where Wilson taught, conducted and chaired the voice department, he was known as 'Maestro.' Gila Goldstein, concert pianist and a beloved accompanist with the choir, marveled at her former colleague. 'Every single one of his bones breathed music...He cared about, knew and felt every note and every word of every song. He was a perfectionist and a true artist with a large soul. Numerous students were blessed by that knowledge and by his passion.'

“Wilson attended the Juilliard School on scholarship, studying with Adele Marcus. Further study took him to Paris with Pierre Bernac and Aspen with Darius Milhaud. His performance resumé sparkles with recitals at the White House, opera conducting abroad and opera directorship at Boston University (nine years and 27 operas), and considerable work in chamber music with the David Ensemble, in addition to accompanying singers of the highest order.

“In a favorite anecdote of late opera singer Shirley Verrett, whom Wilson accompanied, sumptuously, on piano for 45 years on the world's most grand stages, Wilson drank from a supposed 'White Only' drinking fountain while on recital tour through the Jim Crow South. Upon query, Wilson quipped, 'I just wanted to know what white water tastes like.'

“He got down to brass tacks. With wit, level-headedness, danger and self-determination, Wilson talked to us about Johannes Brahms and Hale Smith, W.A. Mozart and Adolphus Hailstork. To learn Schubert's 'Die Junge Nonne' ('The Young Nun') at his piano and see electricity exude from each cell of his body was as spectacular a lesson in music and life as you were bound to have.” [Hale Smith (1925-2009) and Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941) are profiled at AfriClassical.com]

Naxos.com: Virginia Symphony records works of Adolphus Hailstork on CD 'An American Port of Call'

[Behind Tim Handley (L to R) JoAnn Falletta, Robert Shoup, Adolphus Hailstork (Photo by Dave Norman)]

May 26, 2011
“May 18, 2011 was an historic day for the Virginia Symphony. The orchestra recorded its first CD for the Naxos label with a collection of five pieces by composer Adolphus Hailstork under the direction of its music director JoAnn Falletta. The music of Hailstork was a natural choice for the VSO. Dr Hailstork has lived in Virginia for 34 years, and many of his pieces were written for and premièred by his 'hometown' orchestra.

“Dr Hailstork was present for the sessions, which were recorded and produced by Tim Handley for Naxos. Music Director JoAnn Falletta conducted the Virginia Symphony in pieces that loosely shared a theme—the area’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and Dr Hailstork’s love of the sea. The CD, entitled An American Port of Call, contains two world première recordings—Launch Out On Endless Seas and Three Spirituals. Launch Out features the Virginia Symphony Chorus (Robert Shoup, director) and baritone Kevin Deas. The piece, set to youthful poems from Walt Whitman’s 'Leaves of Grass' is the poet’s paean to the extraordinary journey of life. Three Spirituals is a beautiful setting of 'Everytime I Feel the Spirit', 'Kumbayah' and 'Oh Freedom', and was written for the Virginia Symphony.

"Other works on the CD include Symphony No 1 and two other works written for the VSO: An American Port of Call (a musical portrait of the bustling port of Norfolk Virginia) and Fanfare On Amazing Grace (the folk song had its roots in a voyage of a slave ship from Africa and a courageous captain who turned the ship around and freed his captives).

"Composer Adolphus Hailstork has been highly praised for the vibrancy, color and communicative power of his music. His pieces combine influences of African traditional music, jazz, and European style and form, and have been played internationally. He is one of the most respected and beloved composers and educators in the United States, and is the recipient of many awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship, and has been named a Cultural Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

"Dr Hailstork expressed his particular joy at having his music recorded by Naxos, and with the orchestra he considers the quintessential interpreters of his work—his own Virginia Symphony.” [Adolphus C. Hailstork is an African American composer and professor who was born on April 17, 1941 and is profiled at AfriClassical.com]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins, Enslaved Pianist & Composer Born May 25, 1849

[The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist: America's Lost Musical Genius; Deirdre O’Connell; Overlook Press (2009)]

Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins (1849-1908) is featured at AfriClassical.com, which presents a complete Works List compiled by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory. The most recent biography of the enslaved pianist is The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist: America's Lost Musical Genius, written by Deirdre O’Connell and published by Overlook Press (2009). The book's website is http://www.blindtom.org/ Two compositions of Thomas Wiggins which are discussed in the following article are also found on the recording John Davis Plays Blind Tom; Newport Classic 85660 (1999). They are: Cyclone Gallop and The Battle of Manassas.

New York Times
Music Review
By Allan Kozinn
Published: November 29, 2010
"With so many pianists commemorating the bicentenaries of Chopin and Schumann this year, it is refreshing to find a player whose fascinations lie elsewhere. John Davis has been spending the year celebrating Mark Twain on the 175th anniversary of his birth and the centenary of his death.”
“Twain was also enthralled by Thomas Wiggins, a blind, possibly autistic former slave with a prodigious repertory and technique, who toured under the name Blind Tom. By Mr. Davis’s reckoning, Blind Tom, at the height of his career, earned the equivalent of $1.5 million a year in today’s dollars and was probably the first black musical superstar. Two works by Blind Tom, along with readings from Twain's magnificently detailed account of his performances and other musical feats (he could apparently play, perfectly, any piece of music after a single hearing) proved the program’s highlights.

“The first, 'Cyclone Gallop,' begins with a Chopinesque introduction and becomes a lighthearted dance piece, rich in the spirit and charms of the late-19th-century drawing room. Its companion, 'The Battle of Manassas,' is a bravura concert work of Lisztian pretensions and spectacular wildness. Though it begins with a sober evocation of the battlefield — a suggestion of a snare drum and a lively top line that quotes battle songs of the North and South — it becomes a freewheeling set of virtuosic variations on 'Dixie,' 'Yankee Doodle,' 'The Star-Spangled Banner' and, oddly, 'La Marseillaise.' Mr. Davis played these pieces powerfully and with a rich palette."

'McMahan's performance combined virtuosity with fine musicianship and he is an advocate of the accordion!'

[William Grant Still]

Yesterday's posts on accordion works of William Grant Still generated some email exchanges among our associates and Robert Young McMahan:

Dominique René S. de Lerma
“Robert is a very serious musician. He formerly taught at Peabody (not accordion, however). I saw him last at the Still gala in Flagstaff too many years ago. WGS would almost certainly have appreciated Robert's work. The AT reference is to a recording he made for me in Baltimore.”

I vividly recall that performance by Robert McMahan at Northern Arizona University in 1998 - you were there! In fact by playing 'Aria' an arrangement of Still's 'Aria' and Quit Dat Fool'nish' he woke me up to the fact that it IS possible to produce real music from an accordion!” “McMahan's performance combined virtuosity with fine musicianship and he is an advocate of the accordion! More please, Mr McMahan!
Kind Regards

Greetings, Dominique, and thanks for your kind words.
What a nice reunion this is! As I recall we first met at Morgan State University in 1976 during the first semester of my college career anywhere. I believe that was your first year there as well in the midst of an already long and distinguished career. A small correction: I was teaching music theory in the Peabody Preparatory Dept. (not the Conservatory) where accordion was offered as well. We did graduate one Prep. accordion major around 1979 who went on to graduate as an accordion major from the forward looking Music Department of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Sadly, Peabody Conservatory, as with the other major conservatories in America, has yet to offer it as a major, unlike its Russian and Asian counterparts. So, in that sense, you were correct in saying accordion was not offered at Peabody. In any event, long live the legacy of William Grant Still!

'Eternal Evolution: Music of Judith Lang Zaimont'; Harlem Quartet & Pianist Awadagin Pratt; Navona Records

[Eternal Evolution: Music of Judith Lang Zaimont; Harlem Quartet; Awadagin Pratt, pianist; Navona Records NV5846 (2011)]

The new CD Eternal Evolution: Music of Judith Lang Zaimont is the work of an exciting and influential contemporary composer of classical music. The performers, pianist Awadagin Pratt and the Harlem Quartet of the Sphinx Organization, are inspired interpreters of music of the past and present. Awadagin Pratt has a new CD on Telarc which pairs him with cellist Zuill Bailey, Johannes Brahms, Works for Cello and Piano. An earlier EMI disc of Awadagin Pratt, being released again next month, is: Awadagin Pratt: Beethoven Piano Sonatas 7, 9, 30 & 31.

Music critics have consistently lauded the fresh and masterful interpretations given to classical repertoire by the Harlem Quartet. White Pine Music, the innovative label of Central Michigan University, says of the ensemble's first CD, Take the 'A' Train: “The recording features the works of Wynton Marsalis, Billy Strayhorn, Joaquín Turina, and Guido Lópes-Gavilán. The Harlem Quartet, comprised of First Place Laureates of the Sphinx Competition, seeks to advance diversity in classical music while engaging young and new audiences through the discovery and presentation of varied repertoire, highlighting works by minority composers. The project was created through the partnership of White Pine Music with the Sphinx Organization.”

The recording opens with STRING QUARTET, The Figure, whose two movements are: I. In Shadow, II. In Bright Light. Next on the program is ZONES – Piano Trio No. 2. Its movements are: I. Cold II. Warm, III. Temperate. The third work is ASTRAL ... a mirror life on the astral plane... The program concludes with SERENADE.

Dr. Chris Foley of the Royal Conservatory in Toronto writes the blog Collaborative Piano. He has posted this enthusiastic comment on Serenade (5:16):

Monday, May 23, 2011
“Judith Lang Zaimont Plays Her Serenade for Piano
What a truly lovely work. You can find the score here, and it is worth noting that Awadagin Pratt and members of the Harlem Quartet have just recorded a piano trio version on their Eternal Evolution CD.

Sequenza21.com writes of the composer:
"Judith Lang Zaimont is an internationally-recognized composer with an impressive catalogue of some 100 works, many of which are prize-winning compositions. Her many composition awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship (1983-84); Maryland State Arts Council creative fellowship (1986-87); and commission grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1982) and Minnesota Composers Forum (1993).

"Her orchestral music has been repeatedly recognized through prizes and her works are frequently played in the United States (Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center) and abroad; they are published (Galaxy/ ECS, Peters, Broude, Sounds Alive!, Vivace, Walton) and recorded (Arabesque, Leonarda, Northeastern). Her music is the subject of nine doctoral dissertations, and several of her works serve as repertoire for performance competitions."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Accordionist Robert Young McMahan Tells of William Grant Still's 'Lilt' & Ronald Roxbury's 'Four Preludes'

[William Grant Still (Photo is the sole property of William Grant Still Music, and is used with permission]

“Dear Mr. Zick,
Excited to hear of your picking up my most recent rendering of the Aria. Still was also commissioned by the AAA to write a second piece, Lilt, for accordion. I made an audio recording of that as well. I'll try to find a way to get that on YouTube, too, if it's possible (I'm new to uploading to YouTube). You may find these sites of interest regarding Still as well:

“Another significant work is Four Preludes by a very talented but short lived composer, Ronald Roxbury. He and I started out as classmates at Peabody Conservatory in 1964. I premiered these pieces there around 1967. I recorded that, too, and would like to get that out to the public. Roxbury was an African-American from Salisbury, MD.
Best regards,
Bob McMahan”
[William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at AfriClassical.com, where a complete Works Lists by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma is featured.]

William Grant Still's 'Aria' for Accordion (5:20) Played on YouTube by Robert Young McMahan

[Africa: Piano Music of William Grant Still; Denver Oldham, piano; Koch 3 7084 2H1 (1991)]

A May 11 performance of William Grant Still's Aria, for accordion was posted on YouTube on May 23, 2011:

"Uploaded by rymcmahan on May 23, 2011

“William Grant Still: Aria, for Accordion (1960); Commissioned by the American Accordionists' Association. Robert Young McMahan, accordion.

“Recital performance, May 11, 2011, in the Downtown Lunchtime Recital Series, First Reformed Church, New Brunswick, New Jersey.”
William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at AfriClassical.com, where a complete Works Lists by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma is featured. Here is the entry on Aria, for accordion:

“Aria, for accordion (1960). New York: Sam Fox, 1960. 7p. Commission: American Accordionists Association, 1959. Première: 1960/V/15; New York; Town Hall; Myron Floren, accordion. Duration: 5:00. AT: Robert Young McMahon, accordion.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Buffalo News: 'Let’s give Still his due. It’s overdue.'

[Sahdji (Buffalo News)]

In her concert review of “A Tribute to William Grant Still,” Mary Kunz Goldman writes that the event which Tim Kennedy organized at the University of Buffalo's Center for the Arts “generated a unique excitement.” We are in awe at the numerous accomplishments of the tribute. Kennedy guided an ensemble of talented local musicians in a convincing rendition of the Afro-American Symphony. The neglected ballet Sahdji and the other works of the tribute also remind us that William Grant Still should indeed be given “his due.”

By Mary Kunz Goldman
Published: May 23, 2011
“Sunday’s tribute to the great American composer William Grant Still, organized by Buffalo musician Tim Kennedy and held at UB’s Center for the Arts, generated a unique excitement. A performance of Still’s Symphony No. 1, 'Afro-American,' was an event all on its own. There was also an alluring selection of songs and other shorter pieces, all seldom heard.

“Plus, there was the spectacle of 'Sahdji,' a ballet that premiered in 1930 and has hardly ever been seen since. The piece was performed by a live orchestra and danced by FuturPointe, a troupe from Rochester. The vibrant photo in Saturday’s paper — by Carrie Mateosian, whom FuturPointe was adamant about crediting—gave us an idea of what to expect: painted dancers, passion, African drumbeats, sweat. It was an ambitious program. And it lived up to expectations.

“The songs had a heartfelt simplicity. Kennedy, at the piano, projected warmth, and the singers drew the audience in. 'Holy Spirit Don’t You Leave Me' had an irresistible lightness and bounce. In 'Weeping Angel,' tenor George Davis showed off his polished, controlled voice. 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' showed Still’s bright style. He knew how to orchestrate so as to let in the light. Two short pieces were lovely cameos. Soloist Inge Yanoski brought a touch of 19th century virtuosity to 'Gamin.' It had an arresting ending. In 'Romance,' saxophonist Dave Schiavone shaped his phrases beautifully and sensuously.

“Still’s 'Afro-American' Symphony followed a brief intermission. Kennedy conducted a 36-piece orchestra in a strong performance of this lyrical, engaging music. Why don’t we hear this piece more? It is a wonderful musical time machine — like Dvorak’s 'New World' Symphony, it brings the past to life. It has so much to love. The blues that begins the first movement (I kept thinking 'The St. Louis Blues'). The quote from 'I Got Rhythm.' (Gershwin, it was whispered, stole it from Still.) The slow movement is enchanting. Kennedy and his musicians lingered over it, enjoying every turn. The last movement was stirring. The orchestra had a good, strong brass section.”

“Everyone was good, really. After a tentative start the music gathered momentum and kept it. Visuals accompanied the orchestra, which played from the pit.” “Visuals also accompanied “Sahdji,” which ended the program. Here we were dealing with an embarrassment of riches. There was too much to watch. FuturPointe is a skilled group with tremendous energy and passion.” “Let’s give Still his due. It’s overdue.” [William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at AfriClassical.com, where a complete Works Lists by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma is featured.]

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Community MusicWorks of Providence, Rhode Island Hosts Boston Symphony Violists for Masterclass

[Community MusicWorks Masterclass with Boston Symphony Violists]

CommunityMusicWorks.org of Providence, Rhode Island has often been featured at AfriClassical. Its website describes the group's mission:

“What We Do
Through the permanent residency of the Providence String Quartet, Community MusicWorks provides free after-school education and performance programs that build meaningful long-term relationships between professional musicians, children, and families in urban neighborhoods of Providence, Rhode Island.”

The above photo is from the 14th Season News & Events May Update. The CMW Blog tells of the masterclass with violists of the Boston Symphony Orchestra:

“On Friday, two Boston Symphony Orchestra violists visited All-Play Day to give a masterclass. In the photo above, Ed Gazouleous and Kazuko Matsusaka worked with CMW student Alexis Nelson.