Monday, February 4, 2019 Composer of the Week - William Grant Still (1895-1978) [59 mins.]

Annamarie Ewing of BlackClassics writes:

Dear Friends

Thought you'd like to know that this week's Composer of the Week is William Grant Still. Although this comes 5 years after the public were invited to suggest composers for the show, better late than never!


BBC Sounds
Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still’s early years, including his transformative period of study with Edgard Varèse. William Grant Still never really knew his father; William Grant Snr died, in mysterious circumstances, when his son was just three months old. Still’s mother, Carrie, a high-school English teacher, seems to have responded by redoubling her efforts to be a good parent: as Still recalled later, “She constantly impressed me with the thought that I should achieve something worthwhile in life”. His school career went well, but by the time he moved on to college, his interest in music had become all-consuming. He struggled to make his grades and dropped out to become a jobbing musician, playing with and making arrangements for the man who would become known as the ‘Father of the Blues’, W C Handy. At 21, Still married, to a fellow college-student called Grace Bundy. It was evidently an explosive relationship, and after a few months she moved back in with her parents. Still used part of an inheritance from his father to enrol at Oberlin College to study music. World War I intervened, after which he gravitated to New York, where he eventually found himself working as a staff composer and arranger for the Pace Phonograph Company – which is how he came to meet Edgard Varèse, the groundbreaking modernist composer who soon become Still's mentor. 

Brown Baby (extract) Ethel Waters and The Jazz Masters 

Darker America Westchester Symphony Orchestra Siegfried Landau, conductor 

Breath of a Rose Louise Toppin, soprano Vivian Taylor, piano 

La Guiablesse (The She-Devil), ballet Berlin Symphony Orchestra Isaiah Jackson, conductor

Africa, suite for orchestra (1. Land of Peace) Fort Smith Symphony John Jeter, conductor 

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

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