Tuesday, May 23, 2017

John Malveaux: Sins of Omission

Jordan Busa

John Malveaux of 

The invaluable Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLA) under direction of founder/music director Charles Dickerson’s first performance at Getty Museum-Harold M. Williams Auditorium-is guilty of ‘Sins of Omission’.  Ron Hartwig, Getty Vice President of Communications, is a current ICYOLA board member and he appropriately invited ICYOLA to perform classical genre in conjunction with the exhibition Berlin/Los Angeles: Space for MusicCelebrating the 50th anniversary of the Berlin and Los Angeles sister-city partnership, the exhibition explores connections between Hans Scharoun’s Berlin Philharmonic and Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall.  The Getty exhibit was closed at conclusion of concert and I was unable to personally visit the exhibit.

The ICYOLA has the unparalleled distinction of being the only African American founded organization to annually (eight consecutive years) present at Disney Concert Hall. As best I know, they are the only African American founded organization to EVER present at the iconic Disney Concert Hall.

Most of the ICYOLA Getty concert program was devoted to German composers Bach, Handel and Mozart but also included Italian composer Ennio Morricone, Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, and American composer John Williams. The loquacious Charles Dickerson was picturesque in sharing incites about featured composers, but did not mention a single African American during the entire 90+ minute program.

Former ICYOLA concert master and current Long Beach City College student Jordan Busa was violin soloist for Theme from Schindler’s List. Inclusion of the contemporary film score begged the question of Jesse Owens and the Berlin Olympic Games. Jesse Owens is the subject of two movies.

African American composer William Grant Still lived in Los Angeles. His music was internationally performed by the Berlin Symphony. William Grant Still “La Guiablesse” CD was recorded by the Berlin Symphony under baton of African American conductor Isaiah Allen Jackson.

African American architect Paul Williams was born in Los Angeles and attended USC. This year, the American Institute of Architecture posthumously awarded Paul Williams the 2017 AIA Gold Medal.

The scope of contemporary classical music achievements by African Americans in Berlin will exceed your availability of time and perhaps interest, but please permit me to share a favorite story.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               During a tour of Germany in 1923, African American concert singer Roland Hayes faced a protest in Berlin. A newspaper writer criticized him as “an American Negro who has come to Berlin to defile the name of the German poets and composers. The night of the concert Roland Hayes faced an angry audience who mocked him for 10 minutes.” While standing there, “Roland Hayes signaled his accompanist to change the order of the program. He began to sing “Du bist die Ruh,” which was one of the favorite lieder of the German people at that time. He sang it so beautifully, they stopped hissing and started listening.” “The greatest sign of approval at that time was the pounding of walking sticks, which all the gentlemen carried, on the floor. So halfway through the song, the pounding of the sticks started. There was so much noise, that by the time he reached the last note, it couldn't even be heard, because the audience was up on their feet already. And after that, he quietly continued with the rest of the program.”

Comment by email:
Thank you John for such a wonderful piece on the local ensemble and history!
Nothing will change unless you BE the change. Dr. Yvette Devereaux

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