Saturday, May 21, 2011

Buffalo News: “Still's dreamy 'Sahdji' set for WNY debut”

[Sahdji (Buffalo News)]

By Mary Kunz Goldman
News Classical Music Critic
Published: May 20, 2011
“The ballet 'Sahdji,' dreamed up in the late 1920s by the great American composer William Grant Still, was an adventure from the start. The story of a love triangle, it involved a chorus as well as an orchestra and dancers. It had African words that were never translated -- and may or may not be from an actual language. It premiered in May 1931. Since then, though the ballet's rich, evocative music has been performed and recorded, the 20-minute work has almost never been danced.


A Tribute to William Grant Still
3 p.m. Sunday at UB's Center for the Arts
Admission: $25; $20 students and seniors. Info: 645-ARTS

“Sunday at 3 p.m. at UB's Center for the Arts, 'Sahdji' will be performed by Futurpointe Dance, a troupe from Rochester, accompanied by an orchestra of local musicians. The ballet is the culmination of a tribute to William Grant Still organized by Tim Kennedy, the head of Buffalo Opera Unlimited. 'This is the first time the company is performing the work,' says Guy Thorne, a director of Futurpointe.

“Why have more dancers not explored 'Sahdji?' Thorne suggests that the ballet, in a way, was ahead of its time. 'The reviews of the 1931 performance, they weren't flattering about the dancing, but they spoke about the content and how great the composition was,' he says. 'But of course in 1931, you wouldn't find dancers, black dancers especially, being able to perform in this way. It was just the nature of the world back then. 'But nowadays, the world has progressed.' Thorne, who is originally from Guyana, choreographed 'Sahdji' and is giving it a contemporary twist, incorporating video and other multimedia effects.”

“The concert begins with Still's Symphony No. 1, 'Afro-American.' Rounding out the afternoon are songs, spirituals and 'Romance,' a duet featuring saxophonist Dave Schiavone. It's an unusual event. But then Still, who was born in Mississippi in 1895 and died in 1978, was a unusual figure. An African-American, he was in the front rank of American classical composers in an era when racism was rampant. Admired by influential figures including composer Howard Hanson and conductor Leopold Stokowski, he studied composition at the Oberlin Conservatory and the New England Conservatory, both on scholarship.” [William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory]

No comments: