Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Violinist Samuel Thompson Performs Bach, Brahms & Still at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Austin, Texas June 12 in BAM Festival

[Samuel Thompson]

AfriClassical is delighted to find an article in The Statesman, about the Black Arts Movement Festival in Austin, which gives voice to Samuel Thompson's philosophy about the value of studying and performing works of Composers of African Descent:
By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
American Statesman Arts writer
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Samuel Thompson, violin. The Baltimore-based musician plays, among other works, Bach's Sonata in A minor for Unaccompanied Violin and three short works by William Grant Still. 3 p.m. June 12. Ebenezer Baptist Church, 1010 E. 10th St.” (Tickets for individual events of the Festival cost $22.)

“Musician Samuel Thompson also will participate in the Black Arts Movement Festival. He unexpectedly captured the world's attention during the darkest hours of Hurricane Katrina. He had been staying in New Orleans, using the break from his home in Baltimore to rehearse for a major international violin competition, when he got caught in the storm. Along with thousands of others, he was evacuated to the New Orleans Superdome. And after hours of living through the squalor and chaos, he pulled out his violin and played. The moment later caught the attention of international media.

"I don't remember thinking, this is crazy here and if I play, it will make people feel calmer," said Thompson by phone from his home in Baltimore. Instead, he remembers someone nearby casually suggesting he play. And he remembers that he played a piece by Bach for solo violin, but he doesn't recall which one. And he also recalls that he didn't play for very long because he put down his violin to help move elderly evacuees so they could be airlifted to safety. Still, he says, 'It's interesting how a little moment like that got so much attention.' For his concert at BAM, Thompson, who earned his master's degree from Rice University in Houston and concertizes regularly as both a soloist and ensemble player, will play a Bach solo violin piece, the Sonata in A Minor. Thompson will also play Brahms' Sonata No. 3, a work he's been wanting to 'dig in and tackle for a while now.'

“Thompson also did some archival digging recently and found music for solo violin by African American composer William Grant Still. Though recognized by musicologists for his significant contribution to 20th-century American classical music (Still was the first black composer to write a major orchestral work that was performed by a major American orchestra), Still's works aren't performed often.

"'Musically, Still was what I would call “multilingual,”\u2009' Thompson says. 'He was so well-versed in so many musical styles, and as I've been rehearsing these pieces, I'm struck by how much there is to discover in them.' By including Still's music on his program, Thompson hopes that it will encourage the audience to dig into often under-recognized repertoire of African American classical composers. 'We're all a part of this huge continuum,' he says. 'Maybe it would be better to pay attention to that, and that it has existed for a while, as we look at it and really study connections, we wouldn't pay attention to what we see on the surface.'" [William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory]

Comment by email:
THANK YOU, William! It's been a real joy playing the Still pieces and there's actually a second performance of them "in the works"! Sam

1 comment:

Deniz said...

Congrats Sam! Wish I could be there. Never knew this stuff about you- glad I got to read about it here. Hope you're having a great summer, can't wait to see you again and hopefully play some chamber music!