Friday, November 11, 2011

Dubuque Telegraph Herald says Justin Elie's 'Tropical Fantasy' has been 'Unheard for 80 years'

[Justin Elie, Cover photo of sheet music for Nostalgie]

"Pianist's love of Haitian classical music comes to the forefront with the concerto, 'Tropical Fantasy"™

Sandye Voight is a staff writer for, the Internet presence of The Dubuque Telegraph Herald, which has kindly granted our request for access to excerpts from this story. The article is highly relevant to the mission of, where the Haitian composer Justin Elie is featured and his Works are compiled by our principal advisor, Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,

Publication Date: November 11, 2011 Page: 13 Section: C Zone: All
“When Joshua Russell, principal pianist for the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, performs 'Tropical Fantasy,' by Haitian composer Justin Elie, it will be the second time the piano concerto has been performed since 1930. It is one of two pieces he will perform with the Dubuque Symphony Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 19-20. Russell became fascinated with Haitian classical music after spending several summers teaching at Holy Trinity School of Music summer camp in Port-au-Prince. The music school was founded by an Episcopalian nun in order to provide musicians for a Haitian orchestra.

"'I fell in love with the country and the people,' Russell said, in a phone interview from his home in Peoria, Ill. He is instructional assistant professor of piano at Illinois State University, Normal, and also teaches at Bradley University in Peoria. 'There is an amazing spirit and hope in the people, especially the children,' he said. He also was struck by the beauty of Haitian music. 'Not just the indigenous music, but there's a rich classical art music tradition,' he said. 'It's not as widespread, but the few (composers) that are there have beautiful works.'

“Among them is Elie, the composer of 'Tropical Fantasy.' He was born in 1883, left Haiti and had a career in New York as a prominent composer for orchestra. NBC commissioned 'Lure of the Tropics' for a radio show. It premiered in 1930. Unfortunately, Elie died young of cerebral hemorrhage and the work was never published.” "'It's a beautiful work, with gorgeous melodies that are like Latin dance and Haitian folk music," he said. "It's like a Haitian 'Rhapsody in Blue,' a single movement concerto and a fusion of classic styles with folk elements and rhythms."

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