Friday, July 27, 2012

A New Paradigm? 'But Not Forgotten' Recorded in South Africa by Clarinetist Marcus Eley, Released in U.S. by Sono Luminus

[But Not Forgotten: Music by African-American Composers for Clarinet & Piano; Marcus Eley, clarinet; Lucerne DeSa, piano; Sono Luminus DSL-92156 (U.S. release date July 31, 2012)]

On July 8, 2009, AfriClassical wrote of that year's National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa: “ 'African-Americans have proved their mettle as masters of the art form.'” Jeff Brukman wrote in CUE Online on 8 July 2009: “The consummate artistry of Marcus Eley (clarinet) and Lucerne DeSa (piano) makes the African-American Celebration an event to be included in your festival diary.”

But clarinetist Marcus Eley was determined that the carefully-chosen program of works of the African Diaspora for clarinet and piano would have a life beyond the National Arts Festival. He searched for a suitable venue in which the duo could record. The two musicians recorded their program on July 13, 2009 at Endler Concert Hall, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa.  Their acclaimed 2009 concert program is now easily accessible to people around the world through the Sono Luminus CD But Not Forgotten.  We have already enjoyed a number of hearings, and look forward to many more. 

Marcus Eley's determination to record the works of several African Americans and one Nigerian before leaving South Africa reminds us of the philosophy of the African American conductor James DePreist.  Music Critic James Reel wrote a cover article on the  career of Maestro DePreist for Fanfare Magazine, Nov.-Dec., 1995. He quoted James DePreist on the subject of recording: "Recording for me is absolutely essential.  What we do as musicians normally evaporates as soon as it's created.  That's the nature of concerts."

In a more recent example of the imperative to record live performances, trumpeter Martin McCain and pianist Artina McCain, who are husband and wife, performed works of Rachmaninoff, Lebedev and Tchrepnin live on KMFA-FM, in Austin, Texas on July 25, 2012.  Dr. McCain has announced at his website that the duo will release a CD, Russian Treasures: Live at KMFA, on September 4, 2012 on the new Kairoi Music label.

A very large number of works of Composers of African Descent are seldom performed and never recorded.  The examples of James DePreist, Martin and Artina McCain, and Marcus Eley provide at least some hope that a new paradigm
may emerge to increase the share of works composed or performed by musicians of color which are recorded.

We arranged a telephone interview with Marcus Eley for June 21, 2012. A transcript was posted June 28, 2012: “Marcus Eley Discusses CD, 'But Not Forgotten: Music by African-American Composers for Clarinet & Piano.'”
A July 13, 2012 post was titled: “Greg Kostraba: Quincy Hilliard's'Coty' on WBAA-FM.” Greg Kostraba, D.M.A. is Program Director at WBAA, Purdue University. He announced that Coty by Quincy Hilliard would be broadcast later that day.
Three composers on the disc are featured at Samuel Akpabot, William Grant Still and Scott Joplin.
Marcus Eley writes in the liner notes that Night Fantasy of Dorothy Rudd Moore (b. 1940) has a “pointillist” first movement (6:14), while the second movement (5:21) is characterized by “frenetic energy.”
Alvin Batiste (1932-2007) is represented on the CD by Episodes (2:28), which Marcus Eley writes is taken from a larger work of chamber music.
Clarence Cameron White (1880-1960) composed Basque Folk Song (2:34), a brief but attractive piece.
Undine Smith Moore (1904-1989) wrote Introduction and Allegro (2:20). Marcus Eley tells us the composer “inspired and influenced many black musicians across the United States.”
Samuel Akpabot (1932-2000) of Nigeria is the only African represented on the recording. He composed Pastorale from Scenes from Nigeria (3:32), an orchestral work according to Marcus Eley.
Quincy Hilliard (b. 1954) tells AfriClassical he had his favorite uncle in mind when he composed Coty. Its movements are Daybreak (1:36), Sunset (3:12) and Dance (1:57).
William Grant Still (1895-1978) wrote Romance, (5:13). Marcus Eley says “It is essentially a love song without words.”
Scott Joplin (c. 1867-1917) composed Weeping Willow: A Ragtime Two-Step (2:51).
Todd Cochran (b. 1951) is represented by Soul-Bird (8:26).
The recording closes with Amazing Grace (Arranged by H. Stevenson) (3:47).

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