Wednesday, August 31, 2011 Michael Morgan says OEBS 'reflects the East Bay in the diversity of its programming'

[Michael Morgan, Conductor]

Maestro Michael Morgan has been featured on AfriClassical many times for his imaginative projects. For example, on Oct. 31, 2010 AfriClassical posted: “'Street Scene: music by Kurt Weill; lyrics by Langston Hughes; book by Elmer Rice' Oakland East Bay Symphony, 5/13/11.” Today Maestro Morgan's comprehensive approach to diversity is examined in a detailed article in the East bay Express. Here is an excerpt:

East Bay Express
August 31, 2011
Special Sections » Fall Arts
The Oakland organization reaches out to diverse audiences with its programming and education. By Jason Victor Serinus
In an era in which symphony orchestras speak of community outreach as frequently as mice chase cheese, the Oakland East Bay Symphony (OEBS) puts its money where its mouth is. Fully one third of its annual budget is devoted to education and community outreach. The symphony's orientation has shifted radically in the 21 years that Michael Morgan has served as music director. The second gay African American at the organization's helm — the first, the gifted Calvin Simmons, died in a freak boating accident at an early age — Morgan has guided the organization from its more traditional role as the Oakland Symphony to its current orientation as an Oakland East Bay Symphony that speaks to the entire population of the East Bay.

When Morgan states, "The Oakland East Bay Symphony reflects the East Bay in the diversity of its programming, and by serving the community where it needs to be served," he is not reading from a press release. You need only look at OEBS' unique audience demographic to recognize that its intensive community-building and outreach efforts have helped build a trend-bucking, multi-faceted audience.

According to OEBS Marketing Director Debbi Hersh, in 1998, when symphony attendees responded to an audience survey, 90 percent identified as Caucasian. In a 2003 online survey distributed to OEBS' mailing list, 78 percent identified as Caucasian. By 2008, the Caucasian percentage of online respondees had dropped to 73 percent. A full 18 percent identified as members of other ethnic groups, and 9 percent chose not to answer the question.

While no one is claiming scientific accuracy here — not all people on the OEBS mailing list actually attend concerts — any way you look at it, OEBS is far ahead of other American orchestras, whose average audience is 95 percent white. In a city such as Oakland, which vies with Long Beach as the most ethnically diverse in the United States, the presence of so many ethnic minorities in the OEBS audience indicates that the entire community values its gifts.
But audience numbers are only part of the story. OEBS' annual concert season, which is exceptionally diverse and exciting, and its many educational efforts, also set it apart from the pack. In the last few years, the orchestra has intensified its efforts to reach out to specific segments of the community. While most OEBS programs mix traditional orchestral and choral offerings with unusual music, the pieces chosen increasingly reflect the East Bay's rainbow ethnicity.

After past concerts honoring the area's Persian and Armenian populations, this season's "Notes from the Philippines" (April 20) puts Filipinos in the spotlight. Even the evening's "traditional" offering, Antonin Dvorák's great, heart-tugging Cello Concerto, honors the Filipino community with the choice of Filipino/Jewish American and Oakland native David Requiro as soloist. A graduate of the Crowden School, alum of the San Francisco Youth Orchestra, and recipient of the OEBS junior division Young Artists Competition some years back, Requiro has used his first prizes in the prestigious 2008 Naumburg International Violincello Competition (when he was 23) and three other major competitions to launch an international career.

After the Dvorák comes the first composition for classical orchestra from Filipino-North American jazz pianist Victor Noriega. Morgan learned of Noriega from Carlos Ziálcita, producer of San Francisco's annual Filipino-American Jazz Festival. Noriega was still formulating his ideas for the piece at press time, but was pretty certain that it would reflect both his cultural background and jazz roots. He points to his 2006 CD, Alay, whose jazz interpretation of Filipino folk songs won a jazz award in Seattle, as possibly indicative of his direction.

Commissioning new works from artists immersed in other musical disciplines is nothing new for OEBS. Over the past few years, their New Vistas/New Visions initiative, sponsored by the Irvine Foundation, premiered commissions from four California artists: Scott Amendola, Benedikt Brydern, Rebeca Mauleón, and Narada Michael Walden (with no less a personage than Carlos Santana on guitar). Jazz, rock, Afro-Cuban, and electronica have already danced together on the stage of the Paramount Theatre.

Other concerts this year include "New World A-Comin'" (November 4), which mixes works by Gershwin, Bernstein, and Ginastera with one by Duke Ellington that foresees the end of oppression and racism; and the annual "Let Us Break Bread Together" holiday celebration, whose melting pot of artists includes the Oakland Symphony Chorus, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Mt. Eden High School Choir, the klezmer band Kugelplex, and the great Joan Baez. [The jazz and classical composer Duke Ellington (1899-1974) is featured at]

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 'Patrick D. McCoy conducts choral group in star-studded Alpha MLK Gala at Constitution Hall'

[Patrick D. McCoy (Dana Morgan)]

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. General President "Skip" Mason selected Patrick D. McCoy to conduct a select choral ensemble at Constitution Hall in the star-studded gala, MLK: A Monumental Life in tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Aug 30, 2011
Patrick D. McCoy was recently honored to conduct a special choral ensemble composed of choir members from Takoma Park Baptist Church, where he has served as Minister of Music since 2006 and talented friends from within the Washington, D. C. community. The white tie formal gala was the official MLK Kick-off presented by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., of which McCoy is a proud brother. ”Words can not express the gratitude that I have to ”Skip” for this national performance platform for such a historic occasion." said McCoy. The production was performed at Historic Constitution Hall and was a large scale theatrical and musical presentation conceived by General President "Skip" Mason on a recent trip to South Africa.

It was a magnificent event, celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and rejoicing in the erection of the Memorial to King on the National Mall. The choir rehearsed for three weeks and was excited about the opportunity. Many of the singers joined McCoy at the National Press Club in 2009, performing for a special inaugural reception hosted by Mason. That event was his first official event as President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and was in celebration of the election of Barack Obama as the nation's first African-American President.

The choir performed with Sunday Best winner Y'anna Crawley during the church reenactment scene with celebrated actor Clifton Davis. Celebrity performers included Kenny Lattimore, Denyce Graves, Ann Nesby, Tramaine Hawkins, Phylicia Rashad, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jasmine Guy, Lalah Hathaway, Dawnn Lewis, Avery Brooks, Joseph Joubert, Della Reese, Tim Reid, Daphne Maxwell Reid, The Morehouse Glee Club, Keisha Knight Pulliam, Victoria Rowell, Hill Harper, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Derek ”Fonsworth Bentley" Watkins and Marvin Winans among others. ”This was a major milestone and I am indebted to producer and director Kenneth Green for his artistic insight and genius. McCoy concluded.

Times-Picayune Story on OperaCréole asks: 'Could Satchmo Have Sung Opera?'

[ABOVE: New Orleans Times-Picayune, Aug. 16, 2011 BELOW: OperaCréole]

Givonna Joseph, Founder of OperaCréole, tells AfriClassical of an Aug. 16 article by Chris Waddington in The New Orleans Times-Picayune on the group: “Creole composers celebrated by New Orleans vocal group.”

Givonna Joseph writes:
I am sending this just to share, thought you might like that our local newspaper gave us/me such attention. So many people have stopped on the streets who read the article, to tell me that they did not know any of our historical information.

I am attaching the page from the printed paper, so you can see the interesting title they gave it. "Could Satchmo Have Sung Opera?" Thomas Wilkins 'was eloquent with praise for the Salk and the San Diego Symphony.'

[Guest Conductor Thomas Wilkins with the San Diego Symphony (COURTESY Margo Schwab /]

"Salk Institute Synthesizes Science, Symphony and Singer Idina Menze"l
August 29, 2011
Margo Schwab
“The 16th Annual Symphony at Salk was held last night at the Salk Institute's courtyard in La Jolla.”
“After dinner, the sun set and the San Diego Symphony took the stage once again led by special guest conductor Thomas Wilkins. Wilkins, a favorite as the Principal Guest Conductor at the Hollywood Bowl, is not only eloquent with his conductor’s baton, but he was eloquent with praise for the Salk and the San Diego Symphony.

“Wilkins was joined on stage by Broadway singer Idina Menzel who is known for her starring role as the green faced witch in Wicked, the musical version of The Wizard of Oz, and for her guest role on the television hit series Glee.”

“Since 1960 the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has been a national leader for disease research primarily in AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, cancer, diabetes, gene therapy, plant biology and vision.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Audiophile Audition: 'The Havana Quartet, founded by Brouwer in 1980, has this music in their fingers and soul.'

[The Havana String Quartet Leo Brouwer - The String Quartets - String Trio; Zoho Classix ZM 201108 (2011)]

Audiophile Audition
Published on August 28, 2011
“LEO BROUWER: The String Quartets; String Trio – The Havana String Quartet – Zoho Classix ZM 201108, 74:21 ****:
Afro-Cuban guitarist, composer and conductor Leo Brouwer was known primarily as a guitarist until the early 1980s when an injury to one of his fingers cut short his concertizing career. He turned to conducting and composition, and his numerous works include eleven concertos for guitar and orchestra, chamber and choral works, modern ballet and over 60 film scores, including the 1993 film, 'Like Water for Chocolate.' He has received over 200 international awards, including the Latin Grammy for Best Classical Music Album (2010) for this recording.”

“There is much to savor and study in the multiplicity of styles that Brouwer has used in these compositions. The Havana Quartet, founded by Brouwer in 1980, has this music in their fingers and soul. The recording is close and present.”
— Robert Moon

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Los Angeles Times: Nokuthula Ngwenyama 'has lately begun to attract the right kind of attention'

[Violist: Nokuthula Ngwenyama (Darla Furlani)]

The acclaimed Violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama, whose website is, is also profiled at She became the President of the American Viola Society in June.

Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times included her in:
“Nokuthula Ngwenyama has been a face to watch for a while: She brought her opulent tone to the viola solos in Berlioz's 'Harold in Italy' with the Los Angeles Philharmonic back in 2004. But maybe this Californian (of Zimbabwean and Japanese heritage), who also holds an advanced degree in theology from Harvard, has other priorities besides rushing her career. Her versatility in various kinds of music -- be it Bach, jazz or 'Che: A Musical Biography' for viola and guitar by Spanish composer Miguel Corella -- adds to the difficulty in finding a pigeonhole for her.

“No matter, Ngwenyama has lately begun to attract the right kind of attention. She's already an attraction in Japan. Last year she released an outstanding recording of viola sonatas by neglected 19th century Russian composer Anton Rubinstein. 'Marlissa Hudson's portrayal was warm, loving and slightly sassy, with a soaring high voice that didn't quit.'

[Marlissa Hudson]

“I just finished a run performing 'Dead Man Walking', and I have to tell you it was one of the most intense, thought-provoking operas in which I've ever sung (or heard). A link to the review is below; the quote referring to me was as follows:

'Sister Rose is the voice of caution and comfort in Sister Helen's life; soprano Marlissa Hudson's portrayal was warm, loving and slightly sassy, with a soaring high voice that didn't quit.'

“I'm so grateful for your excellent work, and hope you don't mind me keeping you in the loop of my various projects!


Marlissa Hudson| lyric coloratura soprano

Richmond Chamber Players in William Grant Still's 'Miniatures for flute, oboe & piano' Aug. 28, 3 PM

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

Classical music critic Eric Dobbs writes at

Aug. 28 – Still: “Miniatures” for flute, oboe and piano; Farr: “Kembang Suling, three musical snapshots of Asia;” Schulhoff: “Five Pieces for String Quartet;” Françaix: “L’Heure du Berger.”

"Richmond Chamber Players' Interlude concerts: Series finale; William Grant Still, Gareth Farr and others at 3 p.m. today at Bon Air Presbyterian, 9201 W. Huguenot Road. $16-$18. 272-7514, ext. 312."
William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,, including this entry on Still's Miniatures:

Miniatures, for flute, oboe & piano (1948). London: Oxford University Press, 1963. 19p. & parts. 1. I ride old paint (USA); 2. Adolorido (Mexico); 3. Jesus is rock in the weary land (USA); 4. Yaravi (Peru); 5. A frog went a-courtin' (USA). Dedication: Sir John and Lady Barbirolli. “This suite is based on folk songs of the Americas, and is a souvenir of the visit to America of Sir John and Lady Barbirolli, and of the many friends made by them during their stay.” Duration: 12:14. Library: Library of Congress (64-33197/M; holograph, 48-22855).

Friday, August 26, 2011

III Leo Brouwer Chamber Music Festival: 'From Barcelona to Havana' 6 PM Sept. 30 in Havana

[Maestro Leo Brouwer (Photo: Leo Brouwer Festival Website)]

The Afro-Cuban composer, guitarist and conductor

Leo Brouwer (b. 1939)

is featured at

The Third Leo Brouwer Chamber Music Festival
opens in Havana, Cuba on Friday, September 30, 2011
at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Friday September 30 18:00

From Barcelona to Havana

Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Havana

José Ardévol (1911-1981)
Josep Soler (1935)
Leonardo Balada (1933)
Federico Mompou (1893-1987)
Joan Manuel Serrat (1943)
Leo Brouwer (1939)

Dedicated to Joseph Ardévol on the Centennial of his Birth (1911-2011)
Tribute for 60th Birthday of Maria Felicia Perez
Josep Soler, XI Tomás Luis de Victoria Ibero-American Music Award

Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Visuals added to 'Scraps From The Operas Arranged For Two Guitars By Justin Holland.'

[Scraps From The Operas Arranged For Two Guitars By Justin Holland © 2009 Donald Sauter] features classical guitarist, composer and teacher Justin Holland (1819-1887), who was born July 26, 1819. As a music teacher in Cleveland, he was considered the city's first African American professional. On August 10, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “Visuals added to 'Scraps From The Operas Arranged For Two Guitars By Justin Holland.'” Donald Sauter has sent the second group of opera scraps to which he has added visuals:

Hi Bill,

Here's the next batch of Justin Holland's "Scraps From The Operas For
Two Guitars" with vintage images added for presentation on YouTube:

That's the halfway point - ten of the twenty are now up on YouTube.
Donald Sauter

Fanfare: 'This is a wonderful recording by an ensemble of superb players, one that I can strongly recommend.'

[Leo Brouwer: The String Quartets and String Trio; The Havana String Quartet; ZOHO Classix ZM 201108 (2011)]

Leo Brouwer (b. 1939) is an Afro-Cuban composer, guitarist and conductor who is featured at On August 11, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “Havana String Quartet CD of Leo Brouwer's 'String Quartets & String Trio' is Latin Grammy Winner.” Today we post brief excerpts from a fascinating article which appears today in Fanfare Magazine:

“A Conversation with Havana String Quartet Cellist Deborah Yamak on Leo Brouwer and ZOHO Music
Departments - Feature Articles
Written by Jerry Dubins
Thursday, 25 August 2011
ZOHO Music, a New York area indie record label heretofore devoted to Latin American ethnic popular music, jazz, blues, and classic rock, has established a new imprint called ZOHO Classix. To launch it, company owner and executive producer Joachim “Jochen” Becker has released a CD of string quartets by Cuban composer Leo Brouwer.

“This first classical release on ZOHO came about, one might say, as the result of a kind of ménage à trois between Brouwer, the Havana String Quartet, and Zoho. The ZOHO label had initially come across the guitar music of Leo Brouwer through ZOHO artist and internationally renowned Brazilian acoustic guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima. Carlos had been a friend and musical collaborator of Leo Brouwer since 1975, meeting frequently at international guitar festivals. Barbosa-Lima championed several of Brouwer’s compositions and arrangements in concerts and recordings since that time, and most recently on three of his ZOHO releases: Frenesi (ZM 200408) and Siboney (ZM 200414) from 2004, and Merengue (ZM 200911) from 2009.

“Fast forward to November 2010 in Las Vegas, where the Havana String Quartet won the Latin Grammy for Best Classical Performance with its recording of the Leo Brouwer string quartets. ZOHO label head Becker was in attendance, and he learned that the recording had not yet been released internationally. The label’s association with Brouwer through Barbosa-Lima made it eminently desirable to continue the association by releasing the quartet project on its newly formed ZOHO Classix imprint. Contracts to that end were signed in December 2010, thus completing the ménage à trois. So when the opportunity arose to interview Deborah Yamak, the Havana String Quartet’s cellist, the timing seemed right to chat with her about the ensemble’s relationship with Brouwer and how the ZOHO release of the composer’s string quartets came about.”

Q: So how exactly did the project to record Brouwer’s string quartets come about and eventually materialize?

A: The Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, the Spanish equivalent of ASCAP, in Madrid got in contact with Jorge Hernández and began conversations about the possibility of recording all of his quartets as homage to his 70th birthday and his legacy as the most relevant Cuban composer of classical music today. Brouwer has a very strong relationship with this organization as he is one of the composers on its roster whose works are most performed. Another member of the orchestra, Amado del Rosario, is also an excellent sound engineer and immediately signed on to the project. Curiously, not long before this, the orchestra in which we all play inaugurated a new theater in the province and I remarked on the wonderful acoustics that it offered. The management of the theater was thrilled at the idea of having us record on its stage. We split the production costs between SGAE and the HSQ and away we go … green light. Initially, the album was to include the first, second, and third quartets plus the String Trio. When Brouwer heard the work we had done so far he immediately sent the parts for the Fourth Quartet (dedicated to the Roldán Quartet in Cuba) and three or four months later we recorded it, this time in the Gran Teatro in Córdoba.”

“Brouwer, whose love child you might say the Havana String Quartet is, has said of the ensemble, 'For 30 years, the Havana String Quartet has been performing and celebrating the musical culture of the Americas and Spain with a remarkable repertoire. I am very proud to have initiated the creation of such a significant chamber group. The maturity of the HSQ as interpreters is evident in this recording of my complete quartets, and in their many diverse and important awards and reviews … I congratulate them! The professional quality and enthusiasm of this ensemble has only one source: an infinite love of music. Listen!'

“I second that. This is a wonderful recording by an ensemble of superb players, one that I can strongly recommend.” Jerry Dubins Thomas Wilkins conducts 'benefit show with the San Diego Symphony at the Salk Institute.'

[Thomas Wilkins]
Stage and screen star Menzel headlines Saturday's benefit for Salk
James Hebert
Written Aug. 24, 2011
“When he picked up the phone at his Omaha home on a recent weekday, conductor Thomas Wilkins was just going over the score for Saturday’s annual benefit show with the San Diego Symphony at the Salk Institute.

“But to learn more about the event’s special guest, Idina Menzel, Wilkins already had consulted a different in-house source: his twin teenage daughters. '(They) knew more about her than I did,' said Wilkins of the Idina-idolizing sisters, fans of 'Wicked' and 'Rent” and other highlights from the musical-theater superstar’s career. 'They’re “Gleeks,” too, for that matter,' he added, invoking the nickname for fans of the hugely popular, musical-mad Fox television series 'Glee.'

“The returning Wilkins is musical director of the Omaha Symphony, and also guest-conducts from Hollywood to Boston. He’ll preside over some 50 to 60 San Diego Symphony musicians, as Menzel — a Broadway icon for her turn as the green-hued witch Elphaba in 'Wicked' — performs a career-spanning selection of songs.

"To Wilkins, the purpose of the event — to boost the Salk’s research and educational programs — earns it a little extra fanfare (even if not all of Menzel’s fans can quite afford the fare). 'This is the 100th year of the San Diego Symphony,' he notes, '(and) the fact this great orchestra can have such a relationship with an institution that’s also involved with healing is pretty profound.'"

“Symphony at Salk: A Concert Under the Stars With Idina Menzel”
When: Champagne reception, 5:30 p.m. Saturday; dinner by Pamplemousse executive chef Jeffrey Strauss, 6:30 p.m.; followed by concert at 8 p.m.
Where: Salk Institute, 10010 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla
Tickets: $250 (sponsorships also available)
Phone: (858) 453-4100, ext. 1491

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

'Flutronix Back at The Gershwin Hotel' Aug. 30 with Members of 'New Juilliard Ensemble'


The latest Flutronix Newsletter includes a link to a performance at the National Flute Association Convention:

August 23, 2011
“Nathalie Joachim and Allison Loggins-Hull are Flutronix, a pair of fresh and eclectic flutists who are paving the way from their classical roots to the future of music. Performing the works of notable pioneers of new music along side their own creations, Flutronix displays an innovative combination of flute and mixed media elements. Their original compositions comfortably navigate daring forms of popular, experimental, and contemporary classical music while implementing electronics and digital effects.”

"Like a Storm" (a tribute to Carol Wincenc) LIVE at NFA Convention 2011 (6:57)

Flutronix Back at The Gershwin Hotel
This second concert in a series focusing on new works for pairs of like instruments will include duos for violins, cellos, and flutes with works by Ray Lustig, Michael Gilbertson, Conrad Winslow, Michael Ippolito, Peter Flint, and yours truly! This performance will feature members of the New Juilliard Ensemble.

"Tuesday, August 30th at 8pm
Tickets $10 at the door ($5 for students with ID)
The Gershwin Hotel
7 E. 27th St.
(N, R or 6 trains to 28th St.)

Sept. 18 at 3 PM 'Music At St. Mary's With The Harlem Chamber Players: Season Opening Concert'

[Season Opening Concert Sunday, September 18, 2011 at 3:00 PM; Eric K. Washington, Host]

On Aug. 6, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “'Music At St. Mary's With The Harlem Chamber Players: Season Opening Concert' Sept. 18 at 3 PM.” Carl Jackson is in Media Relations at The Harlem Chamber Players, and sends this release:

The Harlem Chamber Players present the opening concert of the 2011-2012 season of their "Music at St. Mary's" chamber music series in Harlem.

Eric K. Washington, author of Manhattanville: Old Heart of West Harlem will host the event.

The program will feature mezzo-Soprano Carolyn Sebron and violist Richard Brice in the Brahms Songs Opus 91.

Founder and Artistic Director Liz Player will be featured in Brahms' Clarinet Quintet Opus 115.

Violist Amadi Azikiwe will also join the group in a performance of Mozart's String Quintet in Bb, K.174.

The concert takes place Sunday September 18th at 3pm in the historic St. Mary's Episcopal Church located at 521 West 126th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam.

Please join us for an afternoon of beautiful music followed by a wine and cheese reception in the courtyard after the concert. Tickets are $15, $10 for Seniors and students and may be purchased at the door or online at

'Vanessa Williams cordially invites you to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Sphinx Organization and experience'

The Sphinx Virtuosi at Carnegie Hall

Co-presented by Bloomberg
and the
Sander and Norma K. Buchman Fund

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall

6:00 PM Performance

Afterglow to Follow
For general admission and group
ticket reservations, please contact

Margaret Cassetto|
or 646-429-1987 x714

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chicago Sun-Times: 'New director Mei-Ann Chen a perfect fit for Sinfonietta'

[Mei-Ann Chen]

Chicago Sun-Times

By Andrew Patner August 15, 2011

Mei-Ann Chen

In taking the reins of any group, it’s rarely easy to follow a founder. You might think things would be even more difficult for a young Asian woman in becoming only the second music director in the 25-year history of the Chicago Sinfonietta, a group started in part to advance African Americans in classical music. But Sunday evening at the Pritzker Pavilion, Taiwanese-born Mei-Ann Chen made the transition seem as natural as a beautiful summer day in Millennium Park.

Chen, 38, has led the Sinfonietta before to strong positive responses, two years ago as a part of her audition, and last season as a part of the baton passing from founder Paul Freeman, whom Chen calls 'my wonderful musical hero.' But this was the her first real chance to say hello to Chicago from the podium.

After seeing and hearing her talk to an audience, vamp, crack wise and move about the stage to greet soloists with genuine enthusiasm, it’s clear that, along with her strong musical abilities, Chen has real people skills, non-threatening self-confidence and a serious understanding of the Sinfonietta’s mission as 'a national model for inclusiveness and innovation.'”

Awadagin Pratt's 'Beethoven Piano Sonatas': 'the way he probes its innermost recesses is exciting'

[TOP: Awadagin Pratt: Beethoven Piano Sonatas; EMI Classics 55290 (1996) CENTER & BOTTOM: Awadagin Pratt: Beethoven Piano Sonatas; EMI Classics 0 26977 2 (2011) (73:45)]

Awadagin Pratt has released two new CDs this year, Johannes Brahms, Works for Cello and Piano on Telarc; and Eternal Evolution, four works of Judith Lang Zaimont on the Navona label. Awadagin Pratt's previous EMI Classics recordings are also being reissued. The pianist's first recording A Long Way From Normal, was EMI Classics 55025 (1994). It has been reissued by Arkiv Music for $16.99.

Awadagin Pratt's second recording is Awadagin Pratt: Beethoven Piano Sonatas; EMI Classics 55290 (1996). Piano Sonatas Nos. 7, 9, 30 and 31 make up the program. As familiar as these pieces are, Pratt gives them a distinctly fresh interpretation which we find quite enjoyable. This disc is out of print, but has recently been reissued as an Arkiv CD for $16.99. The same program is also available on a reissued EMI Classics release, catalog number 0 26977 2 (2011). CDUniverse offers the disc for $11.49. sells the CD for $9.42, while the price at Amazon Marketplace for a new copy can be as little as $6.62.

Awadagin Pratt not only has a huge dynamic range but he has an original vision of the music, and the way he probes its innermost recesses is exciting and moving.
Awadagin Pratt is a young American pianist still in his twenties. Here he makes a strong impression in the two early sonatas, marking off musical ideas and sections very decisively. He sounds as if he has worked out his interpretations in every detail, rather than playing spontaneously. Although Beethoven’s Op. 109 is the simplest of his late sonatas, it needs the most mature pianist, one who can fill out its unfussy forms with the generous, unselfconscious feeling that usually comes only with long experience. Pratt is much more arresting in Op. 110, which gives him the chance to inflect more. He not only has a huge dynamic range but he has an original vision of the music, and the way he probes its innermost recesses is exciting and moving. The slow sections prefacing the two fugues are inspired and, towards the end, a mood of elation takes off as never before.
“Performance: 5 (out of 5), Sound: 4 (out of 5) -- Adrian Jack, BBC Music Magazine”

“Beethoven's piano sonatas chart the course of a famously rule-breaking career. With nothing more than hammers and strings these works sound out the full symphonic scope of his almost perverse musical thinking; they reveal his eccentricity and brilliance in 32 vast miniatures.”

“Born in Pittsburgh, Awadagin moved to Normal Illinois at the age of 3 and began studying piano at the age of 6 and violin at the age of 9. At 16, he entered the University of Illinois, where he studied piano, violin, and conducting. At Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory of Music, he became the first student in the school’s history to receive diplomas in three performance areas.

“When the 26-year-old pianist won the prestigious Naumburg Competition in New York in 1992, Awadagin Pratt became the first African-American classical instrumentalist to win first prize in this international competition. In 1994, Pratt was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant for career development. He has played with most of the major symphony orchestras in the United States and appeared in many summer festivals, including Ravinia and Wolf Trap. He has performed internationally in Japan, Germany, South Africa, Israel, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, and throughout the Caribbean.” Ignatius Sancho's 'book Letters (published in 1782) was a bestselling work'

[Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780)] "The portrait of Ignatius Sancho was painted at Bath on 29 November 1768 by Thomas Gainsborough..."

The Voice
Millionaires, new banks, profitable companies and wealthy cities were created by the eighteenth century Transatlantic slave trade”
Written by S I Martin
“Black Londoners and the slave trade
A number of Black abolitionists came to prominence in late 18th century London.
The best known was Ignatius Sancho. Though born on a slave ship, he became a playwright, composer, writer and grocer. His grocery shop was just off Whitehall. His book Letters (published in 1782) was a bestselling work and gave an insight into the life of a black family in 18th century London.” [Ignatius Sancho is featured at]

Monday, August 22, 2011

Suzanne Flandreau: Florence B. Price's Orchestral Works 'don’t deserve the obscurity they have suffered'

[Florence B. Price]

On August 20, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “Florence B. Price's 'Symphony in E Minor' & 'Concerto in One Movement' on CBMR/Albany Records in Fall 2011.” The news was also added to the Florence B. Price page at, which features a complete Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, Today we received a response from Suzanne Flandreau, Head Librarian and Archivist, Center for Black Music Research (CBMR), Columbia College Chicago:

“Bill: Thanks for posting the CBMR’s CD announcement. Those of us who had the absolute joy of hearing the Price symphony and the concerto performed live last spring can hardly wait for the CD. They are amazing works and don’t deserve the obscurity they have suffered up to now.” Suzanne 'KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra is in fine fettle' in 'Mandela Trilogy'

[Aubrey Poo and Gloria Bosman]
Christina Kennedy
Published: 2011/08/18
“TACKLING a political subject on stage can translate into pure gold — or sheer suicide. But in the case of the Mandela Trilogy, the gamble has paid off richly, resulting in an impressive entertainment product of export quality. A triptych of musical vignettes highlighting defining periods in Madiba’s life, this Lottery-funded Cape Town Opera production is on at the Montecasino Teatro in Johannesburg until tomorrow (Friday August 19), having also completed a run in Durban.

“Michael Williams’s stirring libretto traces the journey of a person who seems so familiar to us, yet who may in fact be an enigma: we tend to allow our image of the icon to eclipse our view of the man, the husband, the father, the flawed human being. Williams has written a well-rounded — yet, thankfully, not too comprehensive — musical biography, spicing up the familiar episodes with lesser-known nuggets, such as the time Mandela was taken on a drive through the Cape by his wardens and briefly contemplated escaping.”
“It was a stroke of genius to commission three different composers to musically illustrate three different chapters in Mandela’s life, keeping the audience’s interest piqued as the styles segue from jazz to opera to choral to township jive. Allan Stephenson expertly arranged traditional Xhosa songs for the Qunu Oratorio segment, Mike Campbell scored the Sophiatown Rising scenes (including tracks by the Manhattan Brothers, Miriam Makeba, Todd Matshikiza and Strike Vilakazi), and Péter Louis van Dijk wraps up matters in rousing fashion with the operatic Prison Years act.”

“It is a sensitive and evocative re-imagining of the Mandela legend, performed by an amazing company (who dance really well, too). The KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra is in fine fettle under the baton of Albert Horne, and the show is further enhanced by film projections and Michael Mitchell’s inventive sets and costumes.” “This large-scale production may be an odd hybrid of styles, but it succeeds handsomely. Tenderly written and performed, and completely immersive, the Mandela Trilogy is a commendable tribute to the man behind the statesman.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Nathaniel Dett Chorale: 'Connecting Through Afrocentric Music' 1-hour Live Concert on Vimeo

[Nathaniel Dett Chorale]

The concerts and recordings of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale of Toronto have been featured on AfriClassical throughout the blog's existence. This week the Chorale's February, 2011 concert in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories was posted online via

The concert is under the direction of Brainerd Blyden-Taylor. The Chorale is named for R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943), the African American composer, pianist and choral director who was born in Canada. His legendary tenure as Choral Director at Hampton Institute extended from 1913-1932. Dett died in Battle Creek, Michigan while touring with a USO Choir in support of the U.S. effort in World War II. A complete Works List for R. Nathaniel Dett is featured at, as compiled by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,

Do Grants and Competitions Exist for Black Composers of Classical Music?

[Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Violin Concertos, Op. 5, Nos. 1 & 2; Op. 3, No. 1; Op. 8, No. 9; Bernard Thomas Chamber Orchestra; Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Violin; Arion 68093 (1990)]

A reader has asked if grants and competitions exist for Black Composers of Classical Music. We have made an initial reply, and we hope others will provide further suggestions:

A number of opportunities for composers of African descent are provided by individual performance organizations. Here are some examples:

The Sphinx Commissioning Consortium involves the Sphinx Organization and 12 U.S. orchestras:

The Imani Winds Quintet,, has commissioned a number of works as part of its efffort to expand the Wind Quintet repertoire of works by composers of color.

The Ritz Chamber Players have had a number of composers-in-residence

The pianist Terrence Wilson took an entrepreneurial approach to the commissioning process. He solicited 6 orchestras to form a consortium to commission Grammy-winning composer Michael Daugherty to write a piano concerto. The resulting work is Deus Ex Machina for piano and orchestra (2007). Naxos paired the work with Daugherty's Metropolis Symphony on its release Naxos 8.559635 (2009), performed by the Nashville Symphony under the direction of Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor.

This reply is copied to my principal associates, who may contact you if they have additional suggestions. I hope you will keep the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) at Columbia College Chicago informed of your compositions and recordings. Its web address is: The CBMR has a unique and enduring research collection of scores, recordings and other materials related to Black composers.


Comment by email:
Your information was especially thorough. Precisely what I needed. Thank you very much. Steve Burks

Saturday, August 20, 2011

'My Life, My Words: The Autobiography of William Grant Still' on Leaving Wilberforce University

[My Life, My Words: The Autobiography of William Grant Still, American Master Composer; With additional material by Judith Anne Still; The Master-Player Library, Flagstaff, Arizona (2011)]

William Grant Still Music sells the hardcover book, My Life, My Words: The Autobiography of William Grant Still for $19.95. The composer writes on p. 61:

“When I went back to Wilberforce for my fourth year, matters stood exactly as they had stood after that first summer vacation. I was the same person with the same conviction, being forced into the same pattern which, I felt, was foreign to me. Music was my sole love.”

“At this point, the frustrated young man suffered a terrible blow: on April 11, 1915, his grandmother, Anne Fambro, his most-adored confidant and protector, died. His grandmotheer had been his primary caretaker when school was in session, since his mother provided the financial support for the family by serving as a teacher. The suffering of her grandson on hearing of her passing was long and deep; how he wished he might be with her again, reading to her, hearing her sing, and telling her of his secret dreams for the future. And, to make it worse, after her death nothing in his life seemed to be moving in the right direction, even where his college career was concerned. There were rumors about him that sprang up, which would lead to an unexpected turn of events. He wrote,

“Some of the people who also came to Wilberforce from Little Rock spread the news that my family was comfortably fixed. Added to that, there seemed to be a feeling that I had a future before me. As a result of these rumors, I walked unsuspectingly into a neat little scheme and never did graduate from the University, although I had completed almost all of the necessary work.

“It was just six weeks before graduation, when Still's cap and gown had already been purchased, that the 'neat little scheme' unfolded. A group of girls invited Still and some other boys to take a walk in the woods, even though the college expressly forbade such an outing. When the young people started to leave campus, Still found himself paired off with a female whom he knew only slightly, whose name was Grace Dorothy Bundy (born February 1897). Grace was one of the girls in the high school program at Wilberforce – she was not a college student.

“As it happened, the entourage had not yet reached the woods when faculty members rose up from behind the bushes and trees and took the boys and girls into custody. When it was suggested that all of them would be expelled, even though they had not succeeded in reaching the woods, Still determined that he ought not to give them the...

“chance to expel me. The next day, I packed up my things and left. I don't recall now just what happened to the others who walked into the woods. Later, when I returned to visit my friends, I was requested by the Dean not to do so, after what had happened. I got the unmistakable impression that they were glad this little mishap had occurred so that they could have a breathing spell at the college. [William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,] Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Florence B. Price's 'Symphony in E Minor' & 'Concerto in One Movement' on CBMR/Albany Records in Fall

Columbia College Chicago
The third issue in the series Recorded Music of the African Diaspora, due for release in Fall 2011, features premiere recordings of two works by Florence B. Price (1887–1953): her first symphony, Symphony in E Minor (1932), and her Concerto in One Movement for piano (1934). The score and parts for the concerto, which were lost, have been reconstructed for this project by composer Trevor Weston based on existing two- and three-piano versions prepared by Price. The works have been recorded by the Center's New Black Music Repertory Ensemble conducted by Leslie Dunner and featuring pianist Karen Walwyn. [Florence Beatrice Smith Price (1887-1953) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,]

Friday, August 19, 2011

Awadagin Pratt's First CD, 'A Long Way From Normal,' is Reissued by

[A Long Way From Normal; Awadagin Pratt, piano; EMI Classics 55025 (1994)]

AfriClassical has written frequently of Awadagin Pratt's new CDs this year. The pianist joined cellist Zuill Bailey on a highly-charged Telarc release, Johannes Brahms, Works for Cello and Piano. Eternal Evolution came next, with four works of contemporary composer Judith Lang Zaimont performed by Awadagin Pratt and the Harlem Quartet on the Navona label.

Previous recordings are also being reissued. They include his first recording, A Long Way From Normal, whose title is a sly reference to Normal, Illinois, where he was raised. This release is EMI Classics 55025 (1994), now reissued by Arkiv for $16.99. The composers represented on the disc are Franz Liszt, César Franck, Johannes Brahms and Bach/Busoni. For those who enjoy the economy of used CDs, Amazon Marketplace offers 25 used copies of the original CD for as little as 99 cents.

“Awadagin Pratt Bio
Awadagin Pratt is a musical triple-threat performer, being the Peabody Conservatory's first student awarded simultaneous performance degrees in three areas: piano, violin, and conducting. However, he spends the majority of his professional career as a pianist performing as soloist, as collaborator in chamber music projects, and as educator at a variety of programs, whether at schools or festivals.

“Pratt's father's family in Sierra Leone valued education and everyone was taught to play piano or organ, as well as play sports. The same ideals were passed on to Pratt, who learned both piano and violin as a child, and despite being a ranked tennis player and offered sports scholarships, entered the University of Illinois at the young age of 16 to study music. After graduating from Peabody, Pratt was awarded first prize at the prestigious Naumberg Competition in 1992. He was the first African-American artist to win that honor, and it was the first time he felt financially secure as a performer. Pratt received a lot of favorable and deserved attention following this, including being signed to an exclusive contract with EMI and then receiving an Avery Fischer Career Grant in 1994. A low piano bench, dreadlocks, and dress casual performance attire are his signature, with the last intended to make classical music less intimidating to the general public. Admirers note that when he performs, the music and his interpretation take precedence over any other aspect. His first recording was titled A Long Way from Normal, referencing his childhood in Normal, IL. Other recordings include Live from South Africa, a disc of Beethoven sonatas, and 2002's Play Bach with the St. Lawrence String Quartet.