Monday, June 30, 2014 "Girma Yifrashewa will celebrate the release of his new solo piano album, 'Love and Peace,' with a live performance on July 30th," Bethesda, MD

Pianist and Composer Girma Yifrashewa (b. 1967) (Tadias Magazine)

Unseen Worlds 13

Love & Peace is available in LP, CD or Digital Format:

Girma Yifrashewa 
has a website at: 
and has been featured for more than a decade at

YouTube: Girma Yifrashewa Plays 

By Tadias Staff

Published Saturday, June 28, 2014

Washington, D.C. (Tadias)  Ethiopian pianist and composer Girma Yifrashewa will celebrate the release of his new solo piano album, Love and Peace, with a live performance on July 30th at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club [] in Bethesda, Maryland.

Girma's latest album was recorded last year in Brooklyn, New York.  Released by the Unseen Worlds record label, the CD features Girma's arrangement of The Shepherd with the Flute - a short reflective and romantic piece originally composed by the late Professor Ashenafi Kebede - as well as his own compositions based on traditional Ethiopian melodies, such as Ambassel, Chewata, Sememen, and his favorite Elilta.

Following his debut New York appearance at the Issue Project Room in Brooklyn on June 8th, 2013, The New York Times described Girma as offering "a rare and fascinating example of aesthetic adaptation and convergence."
By Tadias Staff
By Tadias Staff
Published: Saturday, June 28th, 2014
Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) — Ethiopian pianist and composer Girma Yifrashewa will celebrate the release of his new solo piano album, Love and Peace, with a live performance on July 30th at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, Maryland.
Girma’s latest album was recorded last year in Brooklyn, New York.  Released by the Unseen Worlds record label, the CD features Girma’s arrangement of The Shepherd with the Flute — a short reflective and romantic piece originally composed by the late Professor Ashenafi Kebede — as well as his own compositions based on traditional Ethiopian melodies, such as Ambassel, Chewata, Sememen, and his favorite Elilta.
Following his debut New York appearance at the Issue Project Room in Brooklyn on June 8th, 2013, The New York Times described Girma as offering “a rare and fascinating example of aesthetic adaptation and convergence.”
- See more at:
Pianist and Composer Girma Yifrashewa (Courtesy photo) - See more at:

Ohio Wesleyan University Senior Recital of Candace Rembert, Violin, Accompanied on Piano by Faculty Member Mariko Kaneda

OWU [Ohio Wesleyan University] senior recital featuring Candace Rembert, violin, accompanied by faculty member Mariko Kaneda, piano, in Jemison Auditorium inside Sanborn Hall, 23 Elizabeth St., Delaware. [Ohio]

Phyllis Fleming:
Hi Bill,
Please post this good news about Candace Rembert, She grew up in Detroit. Her mother taught strings in the Detroit Public Schools and the Waldorf School (Venus Karchin).

Connie Mae Miner:
This is a picture of Venus' daughter. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan and she's headed to New York University to work on her Master's Degree. They offered her an adjunct professorship. She will be studying with the principal violinist of the New York Metropolitan Opera.  And still we rise! ~ C. Miner

Comment by email:
Hi Bill, Thank you so much for posting Candace on your blog. We are soooo proud of this young lady. I remember when she was born and have enjoyed watching her grow.

She has a brother, Isiah Rembert, who is also a violinist. I taught him for a while in Detroit, when he was a toddler! He is all grown up now, too. I seem to recall that he played with a group called the "4th Street Elevator Gypsy Band" in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They had videos on You Tube.  I hope that you are enjoying a pleasant summer.  Phyllis  [Phyllis Fleming] 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dominique-René de Lerma: HBCU Connect: TakeLessons Scholarship 2014 $5,000


Dominique-René de Lerma:

TakeLessons Scholarship 2014
At TakeLessons, we’re all about helping students find their passion, whether it’s academic, musical, artistic, or something totally off-the-wall. And for many, heading to college is a huge step toward the career of your dreams and reaching your ultimate goals. If you need a little financial assistance click here to view full scholarship details...

Dominique-René de Lerma

Saturday, June 28, 2014 was the Morgan State University Choir's last day in the City of Minsk, Capital of the Republic of Belarus

Eric Conway, D.M.A.:

Saturday, June 28, 2014 was the Morgan State University Choir's last day in Minsk, the capital city of the Republic of Belarus.  The choir and I thoroughly enjoyed this country and its people.  They generally were all very warm toward us.  Occasionally we might get a Belarusian with stoic face or grumpy disposition, but that was never taken personally but considered their less than optimistic approach to life.

Today, our check-out at Hotel Minsk went quite smoothly.  We will miss the buffet breakfasts that we enjoyed, where dessert offerings were served along with oatmeal.  We will never forget the sausage, wrapped in bacon that kept you full all day.  During this morning's breakfast, a journalist met us to connect and get more information about the choir. Many were trying to get last minute souvenirs as this might be our last opportunity.  We had a two hour drive to Mogilev, the third largest city in Belarus who happened to have city festival today celebrating the anniversary of the founding of their city.  To be honest, we were not looking forward to the day.  We had two outdoor concerts (most choirs hate to sing outdoors) planned at 3PM and 9:30 PM.  I was concerned that the day would slowly drag on ending in a long drive back to Minsk to arrive at the airport at 3AM for a 5AM flight to Montenegro. Well I couldn't be more wrong!

The drive out of the city was very comfortable.  We had a large enough coach where everyone could have their own seat if they chose.  We stopped for a rest stop, where we purchased a few snacks.   I was told that one of typical meals in Belarus was the potato pancake.  This gas station had these pancakes, which I tried which was very good.  I am told that Belarus has the best potatoes in all the world.  The potatoes products that I have tasted in Belarus have been very good.  You may have noticed in this photos that the colors of Belarus are red and green.  The gas station whose color was green happened to have the country's mascot in the front lawn, a bison (bull)s.

An hour or so later we arrived in Mogilev.  Although we have never been to Mogilev before, there was an excitement in the city that seemed unusual.  The city was overrun with people in the streets, all obviously present to celebrate the anniversary festival of the city.  We immediately went to the city square stage and heard wonderful local and international music and dance.  See photos of local musicians.  We performed our set in the square to huge crowd in the square.  After first presentation of the day in Mogilev, we all walked through the center of the city to a restaurant for our supper.  Along the way it felt very much like our Baltimore Afram festival with an European bend, but much bigger.  Local ethnic foods were displayed, arts and crafts sold, clowns in the crowds, persons on stilts, orchestras playing on the side - I can't say that I have seen a more festive community.  

The meal that we had at the Mogilev restaurant was very tasty, but all Belarusian meals have been good.  I asked to recommend another typical Belarusian dish, so I ordered Borsch soup, which must have been made from beets, but very good.  We have noticed that although not near a sea port, Belarus served some extremely tasty salmon, as we have had excellent salmon at the hotel, and the Embassy.  Many of us ordered more salmon, not to be disappointed.  Some ordered pizza, which was served like an ice cream cone.  For dessert several choir members ordered cheesecake with ice cream on the side with chocolate sauce.  

We then went to the site of our second concert in Mogilev.  A venue in front of the city's World War II Memorial off the river that dissected the city. Virtually every major city in Belarus has a WWII memorial as almost half the population lost their lives in this horrific war.  When we arrived other musical acts were performing.  We admired the beautiful views of Belarus from the war memorial.  I knew the sound would be good as the speakers were held by cranes on both sides of the stage.  Professional lights and effects were part of the show.  

Our nine-thirty showtime quickly came and it was time for the choir to present our show. There must have been as many as ten-thousand persons in the relatively close space to hear all the musical acts.  They were also in place to see the fireworks show that concluded the festival concert beyond the river. Although the choir sings many different types of music, this was not a place to sing anything that was slow or serious as the crowd just came to have a raucous good time.  We chose music that encouraged people to clap their hands and participate. The crowd was thoroughly "into" our music despite the different language.  To use an earlier analogy, we felt again like what rock stars must feel lie on a world tour!  Afterwards many in attendance were clamoring to tell how much they enjoyed our show!

If you can imagine, Belarusians do not see very many African Americans. Perhaps in the big cosmopolitan city of Minsk, they may see a "brother" or two, however, in the smaller cities, this is a very rare occurrence.  Throughout the tour, we did notice that many were staring at us.  We did not ever feel threatened>  We could tell that the stare was one of curiosity and novelty.  If felt like everyone wanted to take a photo with a Black American.  If I knew their Facebook names, I am sure that the Morgan State University Choir photos were overrunning Facebook.   My Morgan State University Choir members were only too happy to oblige them with a photo or two!  This is really what international tours are about - connecting with other cultures, and persons from other cultures, if for only a moment.  

The Fireworks show was extraordinary!  We enjoyed a spectacular ten minute fireworks display.  This city obviously planned this festival to the "T".  After the festival we quickly went to the bus for our drive back to the Minsk airport.  We stopped to several grocery stores to buy some food for the ride back, but the stores were so full that we either could not get into the store or upon entering could not walk around the store due to being filled beyond capacity - a sight that I have never seen before.  

We are on our way back for our 5:00 a.m. flight and on to Montenegro! Is is approximately 2:30.  I originally didn't think that I would have time or energy to write this report, but the day was so full on so many levels that I felt compelled to finish the report.


H. Leslie Adams: 'Piano Etudes' World Premiere (First Complete Performance) Part I Maria Corley, Nov. 1; Part II Thomas Otten, Nov. 2, 2014, UNC Chapel Hill, NC

[The H. Leslie Adams (b. 1932) Homepage is at:  H. Leslie Adams is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma,]

H. Leslie Adams:


World Premiere (First Complete Performance)

Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.
   Part One, Numbers 1-12
   Maria Corley, soloist*

Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 3:00 p.m. 
   Part Two, Numbers 13-26
   Thomas Otten, soloist**

Chapel Hill Auditorium
The University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC

The composer present.
*Maria Corley's recording of Part I is currently available on Albany Records.

**Thomas Otten's recording of Part II is released on Albany Records in early fall 2014.
H. Leslie Adams

Comments by email:

1) Thanks, Bill, for the post. hla

2) WOW!!  How fantastic Leslie!  Are you heading down for the performance?  [Cindy Friedmann]

3) Hi Cindy,  Yes, already have plane and hotel booked.  Leslie  [H. Leslie Adams]

Michael S. Wright: 'National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (NYOJ) will be collaborating with the Orchestra of the Americas (YOA)'

Orchestra of the Americas performing in Chile.

Michael S. Wright writes:

Hi Bill,

I picked this up in this weeks  Jamaica Gleaner. ‘The National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (NYOJ) will be collaborating with the Orchestra of the Americas (YOA) on the final leg of their month long Caribbean tour.’ More details see

Kind regards


The Gleaner
Jamaica, West Indies
June 22, 2014
The National Youth Orchestra of Jamaica (NYOJ) will be collaborating with the Orchestra of the Americas (YOA) on the final leg of their monthlong Caribbean tour.
The visit will mark the end of the YOA's first Caribbean tour involving participation of more than 1,000 musicians across three countries - Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica.
The visit will feature a full symphony orchestra of 90 players, performing works by Latin, Caribbean and European composers.
An international symphony orchestra of 90 musicians has not played in Jamaica in over four decades, and so the tour is of added significance.
On its visit to Jamaica, the orchestra will engage in music education workshops with youth at risk from communities across Kingston, as well as music workshops with students and music instructors attached to NYOJ.
The YOA will perform two concerts while in Jamaica - one in St Andrew at Church on The Rock on Thursday, July 24, and then on Saturday, July 26, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. 'Pianist Stephanie Woodford, 18, one of 173 worldwide chosen to attend Grammy Camp'

Stephanie Woodford and her mother at the piano 
Photo: Lance Burton, Planet Fillmore Communications

San Francisco Bay View

June 28, 2014

by Lance Burton, Planet Fillmore Communications

There’s no shortage of Black citizen profiles of personal success.
One bright profile of a San Francisco community jewel was recently brought to my attention. Stephanie Woodford is an 18-year-old who grew up in and lives on Fillmore Street with her dad. I knew of Stephanie because she would come to Marcus Book Store with her father as just a child and play on the piano. It was clear she had a talent.
She became so good under the sustaining support of her mom, dad, strength of conviction and community encouragement that one year we had her perform outside Marcus Book Store during the Fillmore Street Jazz Festival. She was a big hit. Stephanie, since, went on to the Conservatory of Music out on 19th Avenue – studying Bach and Beethoven right alongside Miles Davis and John Coltrane. She is currently a student of piano attending St. Ignatius College Preparatory and is about to graduate.

But here is the great news: The arc to Stephanie’s educational success continues. One hundred seventy-three high school students have been selected from around the globe to attend Grammy Camp Los Angeles.  This is a marvelous and outstanding chance to gain exposure in the professional music industry.
Stephanie was THE ONE San Francisco student chosen from many to participate. The Grammy Foundation selected talented high school students from 125 U.S. cities and 31 U.S. states and six international students from China, Japan and England to participate in the 10th annual Grammy Camp program.
Grammy Camp Los Angeles offers selected high school students an interactive 10-day residential summer music experience. Focusing on all aspects of commercial music, this unique opportunity provides instruction by industry professionals in an immersive, creative environment with cutting-edge technology in professional facilities.

Comment by email: 
Dear Mr. Zick,  What a nice surprise to find Stephanie as the lead story on your blog. Very much appreciate the exposure for Stephanie, The Bayview paper and Planet Fillmore.  

From the link you provided I can see this is a good place to learn about classical music culture and there's a lot of good music being created. And, it looks like the appreciation is world wide. Great story on the concert by Morgan State Choir at the Borisov Children's Music and Art School. I've always heard there is great interest and appreciation for the music of African Americans in Russia. Those are 
great photos that suggest what I've heard is true. Very good work.

Thanks very much for the connect.  
Lance Burton                                                

Hale Smith (1925-2009), composer of classical music and jazz whose influence is still felt, was born June 29

Hale Smith  (1925-2009)

On May 28, 2014 AfriClassical posted:

Hale Smith (1925-2009), an African American composer, pianist and professor, is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List and a Bibliography by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,

Marilyn Harris is a former student whose Hale Smith Tribute  is a loving and informative testimonial in a special section of her website 

Eric Dolphy's career was in jazz, but he entrusted his musical papers to Hale and Juanita Smith, as is explained in the article on Eric Dolphy in The New York Times:

His musical papers have just been acquired by the Music Division of the Library of Congress, and his music, including pieces never performed before, will be played at a two-day festival in his honor, called Eric Dolphy: Freedom of Sound, this weekend in Montclair, N.J.
The papers were long in the possession of Dolphy’s close friends the composer Hale Smith, who died in 2009, and his wife, Juanita, who later gave them to the flutist and composer James Newton. The cache, five boxes of material, is available to scholars in the Library of Congress Performing Arts Reading Room. It includes several previously unperformed works, as well as extensions or alternative arrangements of Dolphy pieces, including “Hat and Beard,” “Gazzelloni” and “The Prophet.”
It also holds a key to how he thought and what he practiced: his transcriptions of other music, including bits of Charlie Parker and Stravinsky; Bach’s Partita in A minor for flute; and a bass-clarinet arrangement for Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1. There are also many scales of Dolphy’s own devising, which he was using as the basis for improvisation; practice books and lead sheets; and a page of transcriptions of bird calls.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Eric Conway: Morgan State University Choir Performs at Borisov Children's Music and Art School in Belarus

Eric Conway, D.M.A.:

Today's big event was a concert in a town about 2 hours from Minsk - Borisov, Belarus.  This town is close to 1000 years old!  We performed at the Borisov's Children's Music and Art School.
The day was free for the choir, however, I gave a music workshop at the Belarusian State Academy of Music, where my friend Pasha was a student.  As other countries schedules often mirror the ours in the states, we often tour when other school systems are in the throes of finals or right after school has closed for the summer.  The Minsk Conservatory was in between sessions, however there was a group of about 30 students and faculty who attended the workshop.  The school reminded me a great deal of my alma mater the Peabody Conservatory in the architecture and venerable presentation of its artifacts.

Many who attended the workshop, were present at our concert at the Belarusian State Philharmonic Hall last night.  Virtually everyone at the workshop was a member of the conservatory choir.  During the workshop, I learned that one of America's favorite composers had ties to Belarus.  George Gershwin's father was from Belarus and his mother was from Ukraine.  Because of this tie, Belarus had a special connection with George Gershwin's music.  We had a lengthy discussion about George Gershwin, American choral practices, and about principals of good choral production.  The hour workshop flew by.

During the walk back, one of the students accompanied me back to the hotel. He gave me even more in-depth history lesson of Belarus.  He mentioned that virtually every building in Belarus was built since 1945, after World War II.  Because of Belarus's proximity to Poland, Belarus was one of the first targets of Nazi Germany.  Minsk, many of you may know was the site of one of the largest Nazi-run ghettos in World War II temporarily housing over 100,000 Jews.  The capital city of Minsk was virtually destroyed save a couple buildings.  Because Belarus is sounded by 5 different countries, they were frequent targets for invasion.  The city was rebuilt but not reconstructed.  The new architecture is typical of Stalinist architecture which favored grand buildings, broad avenues and wide squares. It is easy for us in the United States to be oblivious to this region, as there are so many small countries in Eastern Europe.  We all know Western European countries bordering along the Atlantic, but not Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, or Belarus.

At 2PM we left our hotel for our concert at the Children's Music School.  Borisov was a typical European town, quiet and orderly.  Before the concert we ate at a local American style diner that featured pizza and pasta.  We gave a one-hour concert in the school which was enthusiastically received by the students, all who were members of the school's choir.  Because of youth, they spoke more English than previous generations of Belarusians.  Although this concert was during the day while in school, the students were very emotional in the reception of our music.  We felt like rock stars for the moment with the students at the school cheering!  

Before we returned to our Minsk Hotel, we stopped to a local market for some food items for the evening.  Often when one travels, one learns a great deal about a foreign culture through their grocery markets, like in this culture if you want a bag for your groceries, you must pay for the bag.  

We then quickly returned to our hotel as this would be our last night in Minsk, Belarus.  Tomorrow we have a concert in a remote town called Mogilev (3 hours away from Minsk).   We will check out of our hotel at 11:00 a.m.  We will perform an open-air concert for their Mogilev city festival.  We will stay in Mogilev throughout during the day and attend the fireworks presentation in the evening. We leave Mogilev at 12 AM for the Minsk Airport to arrive at 3:00 a.m. for a 5:00 a.m. departure for Montenegro - OUCH!! 

This will be our last communication until Montenegro!


Marshay R. Williams, Former Director of Leadership Investments at Sphinx Organization, Joins Celebrities Fore Kids, Inc. as Chief Development Officer

Marshay R. Williams
[Photo Credit - Focused on Forever Studio (Palm City, FL)]

On July 14, 2011 AfriClassical posted news of the departure of Marshay R. Williams from the Sphinx Organization:

This week we learned of her latest appointment:

Non-profit expands team and services to support more children battling, and affected by, cancer and other life-threatening or life-altering illnesses throughout South Florida

STUART, FLORIDA – This month marked a new era in the history of local non-profit, Celebrities Fore Kids, Inc. (CFK).  In alignment with the new goals and objectives established and confirmed by its board of directors, CFK is pleased to name Marshay R. Williams as its Chief Development Officer.

An accomplished project management and non-profit development professional with over 20 years of marketing, fundraising and non-profit management experience, Williams’ efforts have always focused on caring, and creating opportunities, for children in need.  Williams comes to CFK after spending three years engaging donors in support of causes benefiting children throughout the Treasure Coast and North Palm Beach County.  Prior to that, she successfully led the Leadership Investments Team of The Sphinx Organization, an international non-profit organization, headquartered in Detroit, MI, benefiting young musicians.

“I am inspired and humbled by the remarkable success that CFK has already achieved, since its founding in 1997, through a core group of very dedicated board members and volunteers,” said Marlene Filer, Co‑Founder and President of Celebrities Fore Kids.  “Our mission is to support children battling cancer and other life-threatening or life-altering illnesses.  With the wholehearted support of our board of directors, I can say that the time is now for us.  The need is great and Marshay plays an integral part in getting us there,” added Filer.

“CFK has needed someone with Marshay’s experience and influence to lead our fundraising efforts for some time.  Now that Marshay has joined our organization, she will enable us to take CFK to the next level,” shared CFK board member Thomas H. Wilkinson and Treasure Coast President, Seacoast National Bank.

On any given day in the U.S., 10 – 15% of children between the ages of 0 and 18 are battling cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.  Currently, over 16,500 children are treated in only two of the rehabilitation centers within the Martin Health System for either life-threatening or life-altering illnesses.  For many of these children’s families, affording daily necessities while undergoing treatment is virtually impossible.  As such, CFK ensures their needs are met.  They support children battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.  CFK offers financial assistance for transportation to and from treatment centers; non-covered medical and prescription expenses; rent or mortgage payments; daily living expenses such as food, phone, water, gas and electricity; individual and family counseling; and other expenses that, typically, are not covered by insurance.  For example, home renovation and expansion projects resulting in greater independence and an improved quality of life for young patients.

“Considering my corporate background, I have witnessed the benefits realized when an organization puts forth a concerted effort to make innovation and creativity a part of its ‘fabric’ [core mission and business processes],” added Filer.  “She [Marshay] is interested in getting the job done and helping children,” shared David. L. Smythe, Martin County Philanthropist and Celebrities Fore Kids Donor.

Williams will use her experience in donor cultivation and fundraising, as well as her passion for helping children, to assist CFK in identifying individuals with an interest in investing in CFK’s vision and mission of serving more families as the organization expands its “footprint” throughout the Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches.  “One thing is for sure . . . Celebrities Fore Kids will thrive as a result of her involvement.  We just love her,” shared Helen Cooper, a community volunteer and longtime Sailfish Point resident.

“I have a professional obligation to present philanthropic investors with sound charitable giving options that are worthy of their consideration, harmonize with their personal vision and mission and, once selected, will be managed in a fiscally responsible manner.  Ensuring that they realize the best return on their investment is one of my goals,” said Williams.  “The sole purpose in strengthening and elevating CFK’s fundraising activities is to be able to do even more for our children and families battling cancer and other life-threatening or life-altering illnesses.  Each time we lighten the burdens they carry, we put smiles on their faces.  That is why we do what we do.  I am grateful for the opportunity.”

For more information about Celebrities Fore Kids and their two-day signature fundraiser, the “14th Annual Larry Laoretti and Jim Kaat Celebrities Fore Kids Golf Classic” presented by David L. Smythe (Venue:  The Bear’s Club) on Sunday, November 30, 2014 and Monday, December 1, 2014, please visit or

About Celebrities Fore Kids

Celebrities Fore Kids is a non-profit 501(c)(3) volunteer organization that provides financial support to South Florida families who have children battling cancer and other life-threatening or life-altering illnesses, as well as to adults fighting cancer while caring for children 18 years of age and younger.  Celebrities Fore Kids collaborates with case workers from the Robert & Carol Weissman Cancer Center at Martin Health System in Stuart, the Pediatric Oncology Support Team, Inc. in West Palm Beach and The Little Treasures Program at Treasure Coast Hospice to identify and provide support to families affected by cancer and life-threatening or life-altering illnesses.
Comments by email:

1) Dear William,  Thank you for sharing the news with your readers! Marshay shared great things about you and the Sphinx Organization.  I wish you all the best and keep up the great work!  Allison Klempert,  Executive Assistant,  Celebrities Fore Kids, Inc.

2) Good afternoon, Bill!  Hello, Afa!  I hope this message finds everyone well.
Please accept my apologies for my delayed response. As always, I appreciate your support.  I loved reading the update posted on Africlassical.  That was very nice of you!  I send my best and look forward to keeping in touch.  Sincerely,
--Marshay  [Marshay R. Williams] 

Eric Conway: Morgan State University Choir on Days 3 & 4 of Tour in Belarus

Eric Conway, D.M.A.:
Hello everyone from Belarus,
This tour is quite different than our other tours. Concerts are planned every evening, however, the early part of the day is always free. The only event planned on Wednesday (day 3) was a concert at a Baptist church in suburban Belarus - Church of Bethlehem. We had a very wonderful spiritual exchange with that Belarusian congregation who is one of the few Protestant churches in the country. The main religion in Belarus is Eastern Orthodoxy which is often called the Orthodox Catholic church. Protestantism is very young in this country which statistically has very few followers. Many Belarusians came out to hear and see how other persons in their faith worshipped and sang their music. There was a good crowd in the church, despite it being a workday evening (Wednesday). One of the highlights for the choir was hearing the congregation sing "Amazing Grace" to us in Russian. The pastor was very excited and proud to share his congregation's message in song to us. I always am amazed that "Amazing Grace" seems to be the first tune taught by missionaries to distant cultures. To hear this congregation sing, one could hear the sincerity of their spirit and conviction. They sure could sing! Please click on the link below to view a recording of this phenomenon. The Minsk Gospel choir attended this concert with their founding director Pasha. Their director asked if he could drop by our hotel the next morning to speak with the choir members and me about our Gospel music and to simply learn as much as he could from us. We gladly said join us for breakfast in the morning.
Facebook video of Bethlehem Church singing Amazing Grace:
This morning, Pasha the director of the Minsk Gospel choir was at our hotel at 9AM sharp as planned. We had a great conversation during breakfast about the challenges he had getting his choir started. Beyond not knowing the style of American Gospel music, and dealing with persons who were not musicians, they had the almighty language barrier, not knowing English. I was told by the American Embassy, that probably fewer people speak English in Belarus than all of Europe- one of the set-backs of living in a dictatorship. After breakfast, he offered to take the group for a sight-seeing stroll around the city. As this 9AM morning breakfast was still 2AM back home, everyone passed on the offer to walk around Minsk and go back to bed, however, I did not and found my time with Pasch very rewarding. I virtually had my own private guide. My guide happened to be a doctoral student in the conservatory in Minsk in Choral Conducting, who was a French horn player originally. He gave me great insight in to Belarusian culture. He first took me to the Catholic Church in Minsk where Pope John Paul from adjacent Poland visited quite frequently during his tenure. He then took me to several Orthodox churches with very beautiful sanctuaries with one conspicuous absentee item - chairs! He told me that when people come to worship in the Orthodox church, everyone stands with the exception of the elderly or disabled. He reflected as a child being an alter boy and having to stand for hours and hours during service.
We then went to a beautiful manmade island known for their wedding ceremonies which had very unique fountain - an angel whose eyes were always crying via the mechanism of a fountain - see attached movie clip. I thought that this was extraordinary and worth sharing with you, as you may never see anything like this again. Pasha then took me to his conservatory. He knew that tomorrow morning, I was going to give a lecture to his school about American Music. We then returned to our hotel, but not before giving me an opportunity to ride the Minsk subway system. What a very efficient system which is used by virtually everyone. I do not know if you can tell from the photos, but this has got to be one of the cleanest cities in the world. Or course government workers were always washing and cleaning the streets. I never saw any debris anywhere. This also may be because there is always the threat of the KGB looking over your shoulder, or I prefer to believe that perhaps because the people are very civically proud of their city. At the end of the day, Pasha and I said that we would stay connected as well as we could via Facebook.

Tonight we had our biggest concert in Minsk, and perhaps the biggest concert of the summer. We were to sing in Minsk's biggest classical music venue - the Philharmonic Hall!  The hall was small by American standards, but just right for European sensibilities of sound approximately 700 seats or so.  The seats were a beautiful emerald green, it reminded me of Oz.  The backdrop of the hall featured pipes to an enormous organ.  The hall had all the niceties of any professional hall in the states - stagehands and such.  I had my own dressing room with two grand pianos!  Chargé d'Affaires Goldrich was there to properly introduce the choir to the Minsk audience.  This was especially touching for him to be present, as this was his last day in Minsk as chief diplomatic officer.  

I was concerned that given the language obstacle, that the audience might not enjoy our music as well as others.  Well, I was wrong.  For a weeknight, the place was packed.  They were very enthusiastic in their applause throughout the night throwing out several Bravos!  This may have been a very erudite concert hall normally, but the Morgan State University choir rocked the house with everyone participating in the experience via their handclaps.  For the first time in my performing career, spontaneously, a person came up to me, not at the end of the performance, but the middle of concert to give me three long-stemmed roses.  The choir took several photos on stage as well as outside the venue to capture the moment.  Please also see the huge poster that draped the outside of the hall.  We knew that we had a big evening in Minsk.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Composer & Pianist George Walker was born June 27, 1922; Albany Records pairs his 'Sonata No. 2 for Violin & Piano' with Beethoven’s ‘Emperor Concerto’

George Walker: Composer and Performer
George Walker: Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
Albany Records Troy 1478 (2014)

The composer and pianist George Walker was born in 
Washington, D.C. June 27, 1922, is featured at 
and has a website at 
He made history in 1996 as the first African American Pulitzer Prize Winner in Music.

George Walker has recorded prolifically. The record pictured above is a historic release.  The Beethoven performance was given live in 1967 by the Smith-Amherst Orchestra, with Edwin London conducting, the liner notes tell us.  The notes continue: "The Smith-Amherst Orchestra consisted almost entirely of students from these two colleges."  
The liner notes say: "The Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano, commissioned by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, was completed in 1979." We are told of the third movement: "A fragment of the spiritual, 'Let Us Break Bread Together,' is introduced near the end of the movement.  Its normally contemplative quality is transformed into an anguished cry."  Beethoven's 'Emperor Concerto' was the only classical recording this reviewer owned as a college student, and was played hundreds of times.  That personal history makes George Walker's passionate and vivid rendition of the work all the more satisfying. 

George Walker is featured both as composer and performer on this recording of his violin sonata and Beethoven's piano concerto.
Albany Records continues its series of recordings devoted to the artistry of esteemed composer and pianist George Walker. This recording includes Walker performing Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto in a thrilling live performance from 1967. Coupled with the Beethoven is Walker’s Violin Sonata performed by the composer and his son, Gregory for this recording. Gregory Walker, a professor at the University of Colorado is artistic director of the Colorado NeXt Music Fest and a champion of contemporary music.
George Walker, composerSonata for Violin and Piano No. 2Gregory Walker, violin; George Walker, piano
Ludwig van Beethoven, composer, Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 (Emperor)
George Walker, piano; Smith-Amherst Orchestra; Edwin London, conductor

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Happy and Best Birthday to composer/musician/educator George Walker.  [John Malveaux]