Thursday, March 28, 2013

'Folks and Fantasies: The Chamber Music of William Grant Still & Clifford Julstrom' is New CD by William Grant Still Performing Arts Society

William Grant Still (1895-1978)

(Photo is the sole property of 
William Grant Still Music, 
and is used with permission)

Folks and Fantasies: The Chamber Music of William Grant Still & Clifford Julstrom;
William Grant Still Performing Arts Society; 
Directed by Dr. Everett N. Jones III; 
William Grant Still Music WGSM CD4001 (2013)

Dr. Everett N. Jones III 

The Folk Music Revival in the U.S. built up over several decades until enjoying its greatest success in the Sixties, the decade in which William Grant Still composed his six Little Folk Suites from the Western Hemisphere.  He combined short, jaunty tunes from both the United States and other countries and cultures in the Western Hemisphere.  Those who enjoyed Folk Music during the 1960s are likely to feel a tinge of nostalgia for the music of that era, upon hearing Still's diverse and authentic tunes on this disc.  We have enjoyed the Folk Suites numerous times.  

This recording is a first in several respects. It is the first recording of The William Grant Still Performing Arts Society, which is described in the liner notes: “The William Grant Still Performing Arts Society, which is in its infancy, is dedicated to promoting the performance, recording, and dissemination of the music and history of minority composers and performers of concert music in all communities.”

The disc is the inaugural release of William Grant Still Music, WGSM CD4001. The performers are Caen Thomason-Redus, Flute; Tami C. Lee Hughes, Violin; Dorthy Okpebholo, Viola; Michael Jorgensen, Violin; Victor Sotelo, Cello; Everett N. Jones III, Piano. The recording was Produced and Directed by Everett N. Jones III.

Chamber Music of William Grant Still

William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, The liner notes by Dr. Everett N. Jones III mention some of the many firsts which mark the career of William Grant Still (1895-1978), such as having a major composition, the Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American) performed by a major orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic under the direction of Howard Hanson.

Dr. Jones observes: “Still's transcendental view of humanity is reflected in his unique American fusion of African-American, European, and of many other musical cultures, genres, and spiritual beliefs. The musical diversity of his compositions ranges from concert symphonies, tone poems, chamber works, operas and ballets, to the transcriptions of spirituals, folk songs, and blues.”

The first 12 tracks are devoted to the 6 Little Folk Suites from the Western Hemisphere. Everett Jones notes they were composed in 1968 and arranged in pairs. “The First Suite contains a Creole Folk Song and a waltz-like tune about Early California. The Second Suite has a tune called El Nido and one based on an early 19th century British Folk song popular during the Gold Rush – Sweet Betsy from Pike (USA). Pieces from Louisiana and Martinique are first in the Third Suite; this suit ends with a setting of the spiritual Wade in the Water. The Fourth Suite begins with a movement inspired by two Indian guitarists popular in the 1940s-60s. The first movement, Los Indios, is followed y a southern folk tune titled the Crawdad Song. Little Folk Suite #5 contains a lullaby about the boogie man (Tutu Marimba) and ends with a slow graceful dance in triple meter that evolved from the mazurka and waltz (La Varsoviana). The final folk suite contains Anda Buscanda de Rosa en Rosa and a cowboy song titled Whoopee Ti Yi Yo.

Dr. Everett Jones III concludes the notes on the Chamber Music of William Grant Still with these observations: “The second movement from the Suite for Violin and Piano, was suggested by Sargent Johnson's “Mother and Child.” This is one of Still's more popular works because of its long beautiful melodic lines, violin cadenza, and emotional warmth.”

Chamber Music of Clifford Julstrom

The liner notes begin: “Clifford Julstrom (1907-1991) was the son of Swedish immigrant parents who cultivated his musical interest. He received a Ph.D. in composition from the Eastman School of Music under the tutelage of Howard Hanson and Bernard Rogers. He composed over 90 compositions, founded the Western Illinois University Symphony, and served as Chair of the Music Department until 1969. His style is tonal, neoclassical, and balances dissonance with a fusion of Classical, Romantic, and 20th Century composition devices.”

This recording presents two relatively contemporary works of Clifford Julstrom, Four Moods for string quartet, on Tracks 14-17, and Fantasy for flute, string quartet, and piano, on Track 18. Everett Jones writes: “The Four Moods were written in 1970 and the first movement, Drammatico, begins with a strong assertion of hope.” Semplice, Scherzando Giocoso and Patetico complete the work. The liner notes continue: “The Fantasy for Solo Flute, String Quartet and Piano is a one-movement multi-sectional work written in 1976 that fully exploits the Romantic and 20th Century techniques of harmony, shifting meter, and tempo changes. This is the first compact disk recording of the Four Moods, the Fantasy and the complete Little Folk Suites by William Grant Still.”

Disclosure: A review copy of this recording was provided by the record label.

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