Friday, July 31, 2015

Dominique-René de Lerma: Musical America Worldwide: Cincinnati Piano Competition Does a 180 [Awadagin Pratt is back as artistic director]

Awadagin Pratt

Dominique-René de Lerma:

Musical America Worldwide         

Awadagin Pratt (pictured) is back as artistic director of
the Cincinnati World Piano Competition, having been
fired earlier this month by now former CEO and
Executive Director Mark Ernster, who is out of a job.
The board members who quit upon Pratt's dismissal
are also back in the fold, including Chairman Jack

Pratt at the time reported that he had been "surprised" 
to learn in an email from Ernster that his services 
were no longer required, especially since Ernster gave 
no explanation.

The firing turned the heads of Competition partners 
the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the University 
of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (where 
Pratt is piano professor and artist-in-residence); 
Ernster did not consult with either of them--they 
learned of his dismissal after the fact. They issued a 
joint statement supporting Pratt's artistic leadership.

Ernster's move is all the more puzzling, given the 
increased attendance at this year's competition as well as 
the sold-out finals.

Dominique-René de Lerma

For Schomburg Center Members, Digital Schomburg provides access to trusted information, interpretation, and scholarship on the global black experience 24/7

Relying on the expertise of distinguished curators and scholars, Digital Schomburg provides access to trusted information, interpretation, and scholarship on the global black experience 24/7. Users worldwide can find, in this virtual Schomburg Center, exhibitions, books, articles, photographs, prints, audio and video streams, and selected external links for research in the history and cultures of the peoples of Africa and the African Diaspora.

Sergio A. Mims: For a limited time, hear an MP3 link of my WHPK-FM radio show about Maestro Paul Freeman with Renee' C. Baker

Renee' C. Baker

Sergio A. Mims:

I have sent  you the MP3 link to my WHPK-FM (Chicago) radio show Wednesday, July 29, 2015  which I dedicated to the late conductor Paul Freeman. And  I was so fortunate to have as my special guest composer and conductor Renee' C. Baker (a former member of the Chicago Sinfonietta for 24 years) who joined me in the studio to talk about Maestro Freeman and the profound influence he had not only on her but on everyone and on the field of classical music

Also I must add that the link only lasts about two weeks so I suggest to you and your readers that they should immediately save it on their desktop to listen to the program at their convenience

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dominique-René de Lerma: Music Matters: 'Rachel Elizabeth Barton Foundation: Tugging on Our Global Heartstrings' by Carolyn Desrosiers

Shortly after the Instrument Loan Program was developed, the REB Foundation’s second program followed as a complementary way to help young artists pursue their musical careers. Grants for Education and Career are given to young artists in difficult financial circumstances for expenses not covered by traditional scholarships, such as lessons, entrance fees to competitions, audition recording sessions, accompanist fees, and instrument repair and maintenance. Currently the REB Foundation supports 25 different young artists through the Instrument Loan Program and the Grants for Education and Career. “That’s a lot to keep track of for one person,” says Hannah.

The REB Foundation does have one other staff member, but his time is dedicated solely to working on the Foundation’s third program, The String Student’s Library of Music by Black Composers, a substantial endeavor to research, commission, and compile classical works by composers of African descent. Rachel first became interested in this subject in 1997, when with the help of Chicago’s Center for Black Music Research, she compiled and recorded “Violin Concertos by Black Composers from the 18th and 19th Centuries” with the Encore Chamber Orchestra. Her goal now is to publish a curriculum for both beginner and professional musicians to acquaint them with the rich heritage of Black music. “We’re hoping to publish the first couple of books within the next year starting with Violin Book One which correlates with Suzuki Books One and Two,” Hannah shared. The books will be available on the REB Foundation website as well as in commercial music stores.                       

   A playlist of Rachel's performances of music by Black composers.

The fourth major component of the REB Foundation is the more recent Global HeartStrings program, which gathers supplies to support classical musicians in the developing world. The idea to add the Global HeartStrings program to the REB Foundation’s mission actually came from Hannah in 2009. “Rachel is an international soloist so she gets e-mails from a lot of different people…but she started getting these e-mails from people in Africa saying ‘Would you be able to send us your old discarded strings? We don’t have any strings.’ These people had not changed their strings in over 20 years…and they wrote asking for the strings that she considered worn out because they would still be so much better than what they had.”

Something needed to be done. Hannah was in college at Peabody at the time and saw an opportunity to hold a donation drive in the Conservatory. Donations included a trumpet, a lot of music accessories and sheet music, and later on a number of violins. The REB Foundation started asking people to hold drives of their own and little by little, they were able to amass enough instruments and materials to begin shipping overseas. (Learn how to hold a drive on their website.) Hannah says she’s always getting random boxes of donations in the mail, whether from the music sorority Sigma Alpha Iota or from the Eagle Scouts. She calls it “the crowdfunding of music accessories.”

“Every professional musician has something sitting in their closet that they no longer want…every music student has something that they’ve outgrown that they’re never going to use again. And we want those things. We want your half used rosin, your junk strings, that edition of music you bought that your teacher said ‘oh no, that’s not the right edition.’ All of that can be used; all of that is still good. And if everyone sends us just a little bit we’ll have a lot of stuff to give to people who need it.”

In addition to supporting programs in Haiti through BLUME Haiti, Global Heartstrings supports the Ghana National Symphony, and a professional string quartet in Nigeria. Both of those groups are made up of professional musicians, but they also do a lot of teaching. “We’ve sent a number of instruments to Ghana because we found out that the concertmaster had a studio of children who were coming to his house every day to practice since the only way they could practice was on his violin.” The REB Foundation is currently evaluating programs in Kenya, the Middle East, and South America for support. 

Rachel Barton Pine, Hannah Barton, Emmanuel, Daniel, and Taina.

BLUME Haiti President Janet Anthony found out about the REB Foundation through mutual colleague Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, the world’s foremost authority on Black classical composers, who serves as the Chief Advisor for the Music by Black Composers program. Dr. de Lerma taught for many years at Lawrence University and still lives in Appleton. “After Dominique let me know about Rachel's work with musicians in Nigeria, I contacted her…we have been in touch over the years and, now that the Global Heartstrings Foundation is more established, she was able to ensure that a significant donation could be made,” said Janet.

I asked Hannah, “Why music?” She replied, “Music is important. Obviously everyone needs basic things like clothes and shelter and food, but music feeds your soul. It’s a universal need as much as food and clothing, maybe even more so for people whose lives aren’t the most wonderful thing in the world. I find that the more privileged we are, the more comfortable our lives, the less music means anything. I have students who practice once a week but then you look at the kids in Haiti and the kids in Ghana and they are making music a priority in their lives because they need it that much.”

We at BLUME Haiti agree that music is a universal need and we think that it should be a universal right. We are so grateful for the support the REB Foundation has given us through Global Heartstrings, and we applaud the work they do in all of their program areas. “The extraordinary donation we received from Global Heartstrings will impact students and teachers at most of the schools we support located all over the country. From instruments, to supplies, to sheet music and method books, this donation will keep many young musicians happily playing and learning,” said Janet.

Rachel and Hannah- thank you for making music happen across the globe! 

By Garrett Schumann (@garrt

Chicago Classical Review: Grant Park Music Festival continues to showcase American music with William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 3...“Sunday Symphony”

William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma,

Thomas Wilkins
Chicago Classical Review
Photo: Norman Timonera

Wilkins, Grant Park offer a mixed night of lighter fare

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Thu. Jul. 30, 2015

You want weighty German repertoire, come to the Harris Theater this weekend when the Grant Park Orchestra plays Bruckner and Weber.
Wednesday night at the Pritzker Pavilion was an evening for lighter fare with Thomas Wilkins leading a pair of rarely heard symphonies, lightish in style with more charm than profundity, to a crowd estimated at 11,000 by festival officials.
Jerry Goldsmith’s Fireworks: A Celebration of Los Angeles set the populist tone for the evening. Written for a concert of the composer’s music at the Hollywood Bowl, it’s an energetic curtain-raiser, albeit with a superficial slickness suggestive of the TV and film music genre for which Goldsmith is best known. Wilkins led the orchestra in a lively  performance.
The Grant Park Music Festival continues to showcase American music with William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 3. The work’s title, “Sunday Symphony,” reflects the composer’s religious commitment, amplified further in the four movements: “The Awakening,” “Prayers,” “Relaxation,” and “Day’s End and A New Beginning.”
Even with that there is no palpable religious component in the music. As with his better-known “Afro-American Symphony” (No. 1) Still’s music is tuneful, piquant and attractively scored, as with the bluesy theme of the English horn in the second movement and the ensuing perky lilt to the scherzo.
Ultimately, Still’s symphony is a rather slender and lightweight affair, with an emphatic, clunky finale. Wilkins led an amiable performance that brought out its lyric charm.

Comment by email:
Thanks, Bill--I don't know what we'd do without your friendship.  [Judith Anne Still]

Errollyn Wallen Summer Newsletter 2015: Summer Greetings, Forthcoming Premieres of 'Hawks and Horses' 30 August & 'black apostrophe' October 4th

Comment by email:
Hello Bill!  How are you doing?  Thanks so much for posting the blog.  All best wishes,  Errollyn  [Errollyn Wallen]

Sergio A. Mims: Awadagin Pratt, who was dismissed by...Mark Ernster on July 8, will continue in the role of artistic director; Ernster resigned...July 20

Janelle Gelfand

Cincinnati Enquirer

July 29, 2015

Leadership change reverses dismissal at World Piano Competition

In a stunning turnaround, the Cincinnati World Piano Competition has reversed the reported dismissal of its artistic director, saying that the action was not authorized or recognized by its board of directors.
Awadagin Pratt, who was dismissed by executive director and CEO Mark Ernster on July 8, will continue in the role of artistic director. The competition also announced on Wednesday that Ernster resigned from his position on July 20.
Board chair Jack Rouse, who had resigned on July 8, returned as chairman on July 26.
All are unpaid, volunteer positions.
Pratt, who is also a piano professor and artist-in-residence at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), said on Wednesday that he planned to “continue moving the competition forward.”
“I’m happy to continue working with the organization and the CSO and CCM,” he said.“We’ve been on a good track for the past three years, and I’m excited to continue that work, and bring the Young Art Division into the new fold.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

CBMR & the School of Music at the U. of Wisconsin–Madison announce that online early registration is open for the 13th Feminist Theory and Music conference.

The Center for Black Music Research and the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin–Madison announce that online early registration is open for the thirteenth Feminist Theory and Music conference. The conference theme Feminism and Black Critical Praxis in an Age of Scarcity is in conversation with the 2013 theme, New Voices in the New Millennium, and explores the sustainability of feminist and critical race work in a new century marked by diminishing resources. Full program information is available at
Early registration fees are $125 for regular registration and $75 for student/retired registration. Do not register online after August 2. Walk-in registration fees at the conference during August 6–9 will increase to $150 for regular registration and $95 for student/retired registration. Please note that the registration fee includes the Thursday reception, Friday evening performance, and the Saturday Banquet. Students must present a valid student ID upon check-in.
FTM 13 will take place at the UW-Madison Pyle Center, with affordable conference lodging available at the Lowell Center. The Pyle and Lowell Centers are both located just blocks from the University’s Library Mall and pedestrian thoroughfare, State Street, which offers multiple restaurant options at reasonable prices. For additional information about the Pyle Center and The Lowell Center, please visit To make lodging reservations, please visit

Online Registration

Please go to CBMR’s Active Net login page at
then select the appropriate FTM 13 registration by clicking on either the FTM Banner or “How Do I Register in Activities?”.
If you do not have a CBMR Active Net account, you will be prompted to create one. Once you have logged in, add the appropriate registration to your shopping cart. You may also choose to make a donation to FTM or to the CBMR (or to both), and/or begin a CBMR membership. Once you have completed your registration and additional options, go to your shopping cart, and then check out. You will receive an immediate registration confirmation by email from Active Net, and you may also view and/or print a receipt from the website.

We look forward to greeting you in Madison for a successful conference. New Jersey apartment fire leaves pianist Terrence Wilson stranded

Terrence Wilson

By Tim Smith

July 28, 2015

Terrence Wilson, a dynamic, affable pianist who has performed several times with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since the mid-1990s, was among tenants displaced by a three-alarm fire Saturday night at an apartment building in Montclair, NJ.
The fire broke out on the second floor and quickly spread, reaching Wilson's apartment directly above on the fourth floor, where his piano and music scores, not to mention all his other personal belongings, were housed.

Wilson left the building around 6 p.m. Saturday to walk to a restaurant for some take-away. Returning about 45 minutes later, he smelled smoke and spotted fire trucks.

"I saw the fire in the windows of my living room," he said.
The pianist has been allowed to return briefly to his apartment.
"It didn't look good at all," he said. "Where there wasn't soot and broken glass, there was water. It's pretty devastating. In the next couple of days I'll have a chance to go back and make a more accurate assessment. I did not have renter's insurance, regrettably. I discontinued it a couple years ago, when I had to cut some expenses."
Baltimore audiences got to experience Wilson's talents early in his career. He was featured on the BSO's former "Live, Gifted and Black" series when he was 18 in 1994, playing a Liszt concerto, and the next year performing Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini."

The New York-born pianist participated in some of the orchestra's Martin Luther King tribute concerts, including one in 2002 that showcased his account of Ravel's Piano Concerto.

In 2001, Wilson was soloist in Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 on a BSO subscription program led by Daniel Hege. He performed Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" with then music director Yuri Temirkanov in 2005, the  same year the pianist joined Temirkanov and the BSO for a concert tour of Spain.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sphinx President & Artistic Director, Afa S. Dworkin, has joined the faculty at Roosevelt University in its Master of Arts in Performing Arts Administration program.

Afa Dworkin
(Kevin Kennedy)

Sphinx President & Artistic Director, 

Afa S. Dworkin, has joined the faculty at Roosevelt University in its Master of Arts in Performing Arts Administration program.  

The curriculum of the program is designed to hone the skills of current and aspiring administrators and cultivate the next generation of great professionals within the field. 

Sphinx Performance Academy students. 
Photo Credit: Hector Hernandez.

The Sphinx Performance Academy took place from July 4-18 in partnership with Roosevelt University.  The program featured a masterclass with Chicago's native violinist and Sphinx Board member Rachel Barton Pine, along with an intensive chamber music and individual performance curriculum. Roosevelt University's support has been outstanding and we're so glad to partner in transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. 

 Sphinx Virtuosi.
Photo Credit: Kevin Kennedy.

The Sphinx Virtuosi is excited to return to the Harris Theater on December 7, 2015 at 7:30pm. One of the nation's most dynamic professional ensembles, the Sphinx Virtuosi will join the Chicago Children's Choir for this second annual performance, which will mark the conclusion of the ensemble's national tour.

[Paul Freeman led] at Interlochen in 1984, '85, and '88, continuing his mission to lead young people and introduce them to important works by composers of color

Maestro Paul Freeman (1936-2015)

Byron Hanson writes:

Please accept my condolences on Paul's passing. At the beginning of my career he gave me a part-time job teaching Music Appreciation at the Hochstein School in Rochester which he headed for a few years. He also rehearsed the Eastman Wind Ensemble from time to time and conducted the Rochester Civic Orchestra in a concert or two that I was involved with. We hired him to guest conduct the World Youth Symphony Orchestra at Interlochen in 1984, '85, and '88, continuing his mission to lead young people and introduce them to important works by composers of color they would not likely have known but for his determination to bring this music to the stage. He was a true pioneer.

Byron Hanson

Interlochen Center for the Arts

Comment by email:

Many thanks!  Like so many of us, I owe an awful lot to Paul! Dominique-René de Lerma

Regina Carter (@Regina_Carter

Monday, July 27, 2015

African Musical Arts: Maestro Paul Freeman was incomparably passionate about mutual intercultural appreciation and inclusion in the classical music industry.

Fred Onovwerosuoke writes:

Sadness is great in our hearts on the news of the passing of a great champion of  classical music. Maestro Paul Freeman was incomparably passionate about mutual intercultural appreciation and inclusion in the classical music industry. 

He was in a class of his own and exuded vision that will remain incomparable for years to come. We were apprised of his vision 22 years ago when our own African Musical Arts project began and were indeed honored by his magnanimity when he reached out to our founder FredO through one of his mentors, Prof Dominique-Rene de Lerma. Obviously, Maestro Freeman's vision through his seminal recordings widely reintroduced the works of Nigerian composer Fela Sowande to a much larger audience that otherwise never would have known of African composers of classical music. We know his performance of FredO's "Fanfare for Strings & Timpani" was instrumental to some of the success his works have enjoyed.  The world of classical music has lost a great mind. We mourn with our friends at the Chicago Sinfonietta. Our condolences and prayers to his widow, Cornelia and son, Douglas. Peace to all of you...

From all of us at African Musical Arts
3547 Olive Street, Suite 110
St. Louis, MO 63103

Dominique-René de Lerma: 'Ben Holt: Apostle of Musical Enlightenment,' as related from Mrs. Mayme Wilkins Holt, author, to Nevilla E. Ottley, co-author

Dominique-René de Lerma

Ben Holt, apostle of musical enlightenment, as related through personal manuscript from Mrs. Mayme Wilkins Holt, author,  to Nevilla E. Ottley, co-author.  Largo [P. O. Box 7584, Largo MD 20792]: Christian Living Books, Inc., 2015. xi, 140p.  Paperback ISBN 9781562290757; eBook ISBN 9781562290764.  $16.99.

Benjamin Edward Holt, Jr., 1955-1990.  He was 34 when he died. But he was already with the Metropolitan Opera -- not just for Porgy and Bess -- and had a major career for almost a decade -- and the male voice only begins to reach maturity at that age.  Had his life span been what one would expect, he would have soared as the principal baritone with any opera company in the world, enduring for at least three decades of world-class artistry of  exceptional fame, with shelves of best-selling recordings of definitive performances of repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to composers not yet with finished educations.  But why a book?  No matter what would have surely been in store, Ben Holt created a monument of superb musicality and defined for others what is expected of an artist, of a noble human being, a matter of noblesse oblige.  A quarter century since his death, his influence remains solid, and now with this book the potential exists for its continuation.
It does not matter that he was a musician.  Whatever career he might have selected -- including that in medicine as his father initially hoped -- he would have left an indelible imprint.  No, he was not just a musician.
An advantage of an autobiography or a life story related by a family member is having access to unique materials and memories.  The former is particularly well served in this instance: a flourish of family, school, and studio photographs from 1960 to 1989 visually demonstrate Ben's warm personality and his uncanny portrayal of his opera roles -- including perhaps his major accomplishment as Malcolm X in the opera of Anthony Davis, and that whimsical picture climbing up a Central Park lamp post with Kathleen Battle.  Other documents amplify the biography.  A disadvantage is omission, either from oversight (Battle never neglected graciously to provide Mayme Holt with a ticket to her DC performances, even including post-concert dinners) or intent (mention is barely made of Ben's father or when the separation took place).  Dr. Holt was enormously proud of his son, seemingly not fully aware of Ben's status, and wished to be provided with copies of works Ben had sung (only in English, however).  He sent me a collection of his poems, including an elegy on Ben's death, but the publication was misplaced by an over-ambitious house care-taker during my prolonged absence about 2009.  When the anthology surfaces, the poem will be made available to the public.
Those engaged in the education of youth should translate the biography's drama for young minds -- the story can place Ben Holt's life as a model, particularly when comprehensible illustrations are drawn from available recordings and videos.  The impact would be most immediately strong in the instance of Black youth, but it should not be overlooked that Ben's heritage was also visibly Choctaw.  His life was not the time for selfishness or ego, it was the time to dedicate his gift to uplift the spirits of others, not just the concert-goers but those in homes for the aged and prisons for the inmates.  In his own way he was both missionary and civil rights activist.
The manuscript was originally proposed to a major publisher, but the typically long process of evaluation had not even begun when it was decided to offer it to a local firm.  It was issued in a few weeks, and it is handsomely produced.  Marketing will be a problem, in that the publisher has no known existing audience apart from its parochial orientation (not overtly evident, however), while its some of its regular customers might be lost in the citations of repertoire.  A mainstream publisher would have caught the split infinitives, repeated phrases and anecdotes, and asked for an expanded coverage.
The back matter lacks an index, which might be superfluous what with the brief chapters bearing identification of its contents.  There is the inevitable bit of name-dropping (Luciano Pavarotti, Thomas A. Dorsey, Lawrence Winters, Eileen Cline, Mary Europe), but there are meaty data from Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Andrew Frierson, Kevin Short, Cliff Jackson, Patricia Prattis Jenkins and other musicians of renown.  Offered, however, are appendixes whose reference value would have been intensified if organized into a composite unit -- a task that is projected to be undertaken: repertoire, roles, venues, and recordings.  This will be the time to add missing video materials, including at least one interview and an "informance" before a California audience in which Ben communicated so warmly by his words and performance to a highly receptive lay audience.
The publication also makes very abbreviated mention of the Ben Holt Memorial Concert Series at Lawrence University (it was quite incorrect to indicate funding was not provided by the campus; this is built into the Conservatory's annual operational budget).  Far more satisfactory is the "History of the Ben Holt Memorial Concert Series." A 16-page document covering 13 seasons, is readily available at, yet even this needs to be updated to include, for example, the performance by Audra McDonald in 2013.  This is one of many websites on Ben whose consultation might have been thought outside the scope of the narrative, but should all have been included in the bibliography (also missing).  There is enough material now for a true biography, to be supplemented and augmented by additional research. 
Because Ben was frequently sponsored by Wendell Wright (whose concerts were presented in a high Episcopal church, located in the heart of west Baltimore's deep ghetto), a large collection of his materials is within the Wright Collection of the Archives at Chicago's Center for Black Music Research.
This publication readily belongs within the holdings of all academic and public music libraries, and might well be appropriate for many school libraries. It will also be welcome in private collections, most certainly everyone in the worlds of opera and Black studies.

Dominique-René de Lerma

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sergio A. Mims: I will pay tribute to Paul Freeman on my radio show WHPK-FM 88.5 and livestream, 12-3 PM (Central Time) Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sergio A. Mims writes:

I wanted to let all your readers know that on my radio show next Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 I  will be playing some performances conducted by the late conductor Paul Freeman as a tribute.

The works will be 

Paul Creston Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 32 (1942)

Joan Yarbrough, piano;
The Czech National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Freeman

Adolphus Hailstork: "Sonata da Chiesa" for String Orchestra (1992)
Paul Freeman conducting the Czech National Symphony Orchestra

Also on the program will be Detlev Glanert Theatrum Bestiarum,  Haydn Creation Mass and Richard Arnell Symphony No. 3

The show is broadcast on WHPK-FM Chicago 88.5 locally and livestream online at 12-3PM (U.S. Central time) 


Justin Holland, African American Classical Guitarist, Composer and Teacher, Was Born July 26, 1819; Many of His Works Are on YouTube & Douglas Back's CD

Justin Holland
(Provided by Douglas Back)

American Pioneers of the Classic Guitar: Douglas Back Plays Parlor Gems and Concert Works of William Foden (1860-1947)
Mento Music Press SMM 3023 (1994)

Scraps From The Operas Arranged For Two Guitars By Justin Holland 
© 2009 Donald Sauter

On Feb. 24, 2012 AfriClassical posted the final set of YouTube links as received from 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.
Scraps From The Operas Arranged For Two Guitars By Justin Holland was copyrighted in 2009 by Donald Sauter. He has been sending us YouTube videos of the opera scraps in groups. Here is the final group:

“Hi Bill,

With a week to go in this Black History Month, I've wrapped up my project of getting all of Justin Holland's 'Scraps From The Operas For Two Guitars' on YouTube.
Here are handy links to all twenty, with the final five completed 'scraps' labeled 'NEW'.”
1. Faust Waltz: 2. Faust March: 3. Fra Diavolo: 4. Freischutz: 5. Fille du Regiment: 6. Lucia di Lammermoor: 7. Lucrezia Borgia: 8. Maritana: 9. Martha No. 1: 10. Martha No. 2: 11. (NEW) Masaniello: 12. Oberon: 13. Norma 1: 14. Norma 2: 15. Traviata: 16. Trovatore: 17. (NEW) Sonnambula: 18. (NEW) Vespers Siciliennes: 19. (NEW) La Favorita: 20. (NEW) Crown Diamonds: Donald Sauter

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Grant Park Music Festival Presents Conductor Thomas Wilkins in “The Sunday Symphony” by William Grant Still Wednesday, July 29, 2015 in Millennium Park

Thomas Wilkins

William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma,

CHICAGO (July 24, 2015) — The 81st annual Grant Park Music Festival continues July 29 with guest conductor Thomas Wilkins – music director of the Omaha Symphony and principal guest conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra – leading the Grant Park Orchestra. The program includes Jerry Goldsmith’s eight-minute Fireworks, Dvorák’s beautiful, large-scale “Symphony No. 6,” and “The Sunday Symphony” by William Grant Still, “the Dean of all Afro-American Composers.” Performance is Wednesday, July 29, 6:30pm in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park.
One hour before the concert, CSO’s Sounds and Stories contributor Laura Sauer hosts a free Club 615 pre-concert lecture with Mr. Wilkins on Wednesday, July 29, 5:30pm in Millennium Park’s Family Fun Tent located just west of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Wednesday night’s concert will also be broadcast live on 98.7WFMT, Chicago’s classical and fine arts radio station, and also online at
Open lunchtime rehearsals of for this concert take place Tuesday and Wednesday, July 28 and 29, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Audiences are welcome to sit in the Pavilion Seating Bowl during rehearsals, and Festival docents will be on site to talk about the concert during rehearsal breaks.
For more information about the Grant Park Music Festival including membership, one-night passes and group seating, visit or call 312-742-7647.  For additional information, visit the Grant Park Music Festival Facebook page or follow the Festival on Twitter @gpmf. A complete Grant Park Music Festival schedule is accessible at

Wednesday, July 29, 6:30 PM in Millennium Park
Performers: Grant Park Orchestra; Thomas Wilkins, guest conductor
Thomas Wilkins conducts the Sunday Symphony by the prolific William Grant Still, the "Dean of all African-American composers." The evening concludes with Dvořák's beautiful large-scale work, his Sixth Symphony, which recalls the Czech folksongs of his native Bohemia.
Goldsmith      Fireworks: A Celebration of Los Angeles
Still               Symphony No. 3, Sunday Symphony
Dvořák                   Symphony No. 6
This concert is supported in part by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  The Walter E. Heller Foundation is a proud supporter of American Accents, Grant Park Music Festival’s ongoing initiative showcasing works by American composers, including Jerry Goldsmith and William Grant Still.
Thomas Wilkins is Music Director of the Omaha Symphony and Principal Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He also holds the Germeshausen Family and Youth Concert Conductor Chair with the Boston Symphony. Mr. Wilkins’ past positions have included Resident Conductor of the Detroit Symphony and Florida Orchestra and Associate Conductor of the Richmond (VA) Symphony. He has also served on the faculties of North Park University in Chicago, University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He has led major orchestras throughout the United States, including those of Cleveland, Atlanta, Rochester, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Buffalo, Baltimore, New Mexico, Utah and Washington, D.C., and continues to make frequent appearances with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, San Diego Symphony and New Jersey Symphony. Last season Mr. Wilkins returned to the National Symphony Orchestra for a two-week festival of American music and dance, as well as a collaboration with world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma at Wolf Trap, the NSO’s summer home. He has participated on several boards of directors, including the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Charles Drew Health Center (Omaha), Center Against Spouse Abuse in Tampa Bay, and Museum of Fine Arts and Academy Preparatory Center, both in St. Petersburg. Currently he serves as chairman of the board for the Raymond James Charitable Endowment Fund and as national ambassador for the non-profit World Pediatric Project headquartered in Richmond, which provides children throughout Central America and the Caribbean with critical surgical and diagnostic care. A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Thomas Wilkins is a graduate of the Shenandoah Conservatory and New England Conservatory. The Boston Globe named him among the “Best People and Ideas of 2011” and in 2014 he received the prestigious “Outstanding Artist Award” at the Nebraska Governor’s Arts Awards.
William Grant Still (1895-1978)
Still’s Symphony No. 3 is scored for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, celesta and strings. The performance time is 25 minutes. The Grant Park Orchestra first performed this Symphony on July 7, 1994, with Kay George Roberts conducting.
William Grant Still, whom Nicolas Slonimsky in his authoritative Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians called “The Dean of Afro-American Composers,” was born in Woodville, Mississippi on May 11, 1895. His father, the town bandmaster and a music teacher at Alabama A&M, died when the boy was an infant, and the family moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where his mother, a graduate of Atlanta University, taught high school. In Little Rock, she married an opera buff and he introduced young William to the great voices of the day on records and encouraged his interest in playing the violin. At the age of 16, Still matriculated as a medical student at Wilberforce University in Ohio, but he soon switched to music. He taught himself to play the reed instruments and left school to perform in dance bands in the Columbus area and work for a brief period as an arranger for the great blues writer W.C. Handy. He returned to Wilberforce, graduated in 1915, married later that year, and then resumed playing in dance and theater orchestras.
In 1917, Still entered Oberlin College, but he interrupted his studies the following year to serve in the Navy during World War I, first as a mess attendant and later as a violinist in officers’ clubs. He went back to Oberlin after his service duty and stayed there until 1921, when he moved to New York to join the orchestra of the Noble Sissle–Eubie Blake revue Shuffle Along as an oboist. While on tour in Boston with the show, Still studied with George Chadwick, then President of the New England Conservatory, who was so impressed with his talent that he provided his lessons free of charge. Back in New York, Still studied with Edgard Varèse and ran the Black Swan Recording Company for a period in the mid-1920s. He tried composing in Varèse’s modernistic idiom, but soon abandoned that dissonant style in favor of a more traditional manner.
Still’s work was recognized as early as 1928, when he received the Harmon Award for the most significant contribution to black culture in America. His Afro-American Symphony of 1930 was premiered by Howard Hanson and the Rochester Philharmonic (the first such work by a black composer played by a leading American orchestra) and heard thereafter in performances in Europe and South America. Unable to make a living from his concert compositions, however, Still worked as an arranger and orchestrator of music for radio, for Broadway shows, and for Paul Whiteman, Artie Shaw and other popular bandleaders. A 1934 Guggenheim Fellowship allowed him to cut back on his commercial activities and write his first opera, Blue Steel, which incorporated jazz and spirituals. He continued to compose large-scale orchestral, instrumental and vocal works in his distinctive idiom during the following years, and after moving to Los Angeles in 1934, he supplemented that activity by arranging music for films (including Frank Capra’s 1937 Lost Horizon) and later for television (Perry Mason, Gunsmoke). Still continued to hold an important place in American music until his death in Los Angeles in 1978.
Still received many awards for his work: seven honorary degrees; commissions from CBS, New York World’s Fair, League of Composers, Cleveland Orchestra and other important cultural organizations; the Phi Beta Sigma Award; a citation from ASCAP noting his “extraordinary contributions” to music and his “greatness, both as an artist and as a human being”; and the Freedom Foundation Award. Not only was his music performed by most of the major American orchestras, but he was also the first Black musician to conduct one of those ensembles (Los Angeles Philharmonic, at Hollywood Bowl in 1936) and a major symphony in a southern state (New Orleans Philharmonic in 1955). In 1945, Leopold Stokowski called William Grant Still “one of our great American composers. He has made a real contribution to music.”
Still’s “Sunday Symphony,” composed in 1958 as the last of his five works in the form, was numbered No. 3 to replace his original Third Symphony of 1945, which was discarded and later revised as the Symphony No. 5. The work was not performed until 1984, six years after the composer’s death, when the North Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Carlton R. Woods, gave its premiere. Still’s use of programmatic titles for the movements of his “Sunday Symphony” evokes the worship activities of a typical Sabbath — The Awakening; Prayer; Relaxation; and Day’s End and a New Beginning. The composer’s daughter, Judith Still Headlee, observed that because her father believed the communicative power of music to be a gift from God, this Symphony represents “not just one day, but a lifelong way of thinking. Every day in his career was one of prayer and self-improvement, and, for him, every day and every piece of music constituted a new beginning and a fuller opportunity to serve the creator.”
The Awakening begins with a stern unison proclamation which is followed by a playful main theme, given in bright orchestral sonorities with much dialogue between strings and winds. A contrasting folk-like melody, built from a gapped scale, occupies the center section. The main theme returns to round out the movement’s form. Prayer is based on a haunting lament for the English horn. A broad, hymnal theme is introduced by the strings and becomes more agitated as the music unfolds. An altered recapitulation of the lament theme, led by English horn doubled by piccolo, closes the movement. Relaxation is a lighthearted dance featuring the high piping woodwinds. The finale, Day’s End and a New Beginning, is more ominous and heavy in character than its title might imply. The main part of the movement is based on a spiritual-inspired string theme, and grows with a steady tread to a full but foreboding ending.

Grant Park Music Festival
Acclaimed by critics and beloved by audiences, the Grant Park Music Festival is the nation’s only free, summer-long outdoor classical music series of its kind. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, located between Michigan and Columbus Avenues at Washington Street, is the official home of the Grant Park Music Festival. 
The Grant Park Music Festival is led by Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar, along with Grant Park Chorus Director Christopher Bell, Grant Park Orchestral Association President and CEO Paul Winberg, and Board Chair Chuck Kierscht. 
The Grant Park Music Festival gratefully acknowledges the generous support from its 2015 sponsors: BMO Harris Bank, Season Sponsor; Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park, Official Hotel; Macy’s, Official Picnic Sponsor; and ComEd, Concert Sponsor. The Grant Park Music Festival is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.
The Grant Park Music Festival participates in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Night Out in the Parks series. Night Out in the Parks is an initiative featuring more than 1,000 cultural activities in Chicago Park District locations citywide, in support of the City of Chicago’s Cultural Plan.