Thursday, December 31, 2020

Lara Downes: New Year wishes from Lara with love

2020 was a roller coaster! I'm stepping off this ride feeling shaken and dizzy, but very grateful for the highs along the way.

It was a year of invention born of necessity, of learning, stretching and growing. I'm thankful to have accomplished some meaningful things in this critical time, like rallying my musical community in support of the ACLU Voting Rights Project with our reminder via Leonard Bernstein to Take Care Of This House. So much love to all the artists who joined me: Yo-Yo Ma, Rhiannon Giddens, Judy Collins, Ailyn Perez, Anthony McGill, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus... a gorgeous group of artist/citizens.

Thank you to my new family at NPR Music who have worked so hard to launch the first season of Amplify with Lara Downes. We'll be back with Season 2 in a little while! The last episode of 2020 features a deep dive conversation with phenomenal human Jon Batiste.

I'm stepping into 2021 full-speed ahead with my new recording series RISING SUN MUSIC <>, releasing new recordings of almost 200 years of music by Black composers, in monthly drops beginning in February. I'm overjoyed to be collaborating with artists including Regina Carter, Nicole Cabell, Rachel Barton Pine, Davóne Tines, Anat Cohen, Helga Davis, Bridget Kibbey and many more, to bring this magnificent music to light for the first time. The project is made possible by the generous support of the Sphinx Venture Fund, and I could not be more thankful. Change is gonna come...

I hope 2021 brings brighter days for all of us! I'm sending you my love, with the wish that we find joy, that we hold on to our purpose, and that we'll soon be together again.


CutTime Productions LLC: How was 2020 for YOU friend?

 Rick Robinson writes:

As 2020 comes to a dramatic close, may this email find you and your family in good health and spirits, and that you can enjoy good holidays.

This year has taught us that change sometimes comes WAY hard. Constant Contact is thus forcing me to drop my long, rambling letters for pix, tweets and mobile phones. Likewise, I'll have to tighten up in 2021 to effectively reach people with like, no time, and use similar exaggerations.

Meanwhile, let me share with you eight good points from CutTime® since April. Please donate to service orgs that feed and shelter: we're doing fine! And Happy New Year Every One!

- Rick Robinson
Artistic Director, CutTime Productions

No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Tuesday, December 29, 2020 Opera Theatre Selects First Fellows To Recruit And Train Administrators Of Color

 Chandler Johnson, Quentin Beverly and Lyanne Alvarado will work with Opera Theatre of St. Louis until the end of July. 

Published December 29, 2020

Opera Theatre of St. Louis is launching a fellowship program to recruit and train arts administrators of color.

Three fellows will begin work there on Jan. 4 and stay through the end of July. Two are Black and one is Latina.

Chandler Johnson will work in artistic administration, Quentin Beverly in fundraising and Lyanne Alvarado in general administration.

The theater has recruited more artists of color in recent years, but has no Black employees among its 36-person year-round office staff. Its department heads include three women of color.

“For years we’ve had really good intentions for becoming a more diverse company, and we’ve done so by telling diverse stories and having diverse casts on our stage,” Director of Administration Michelle Myers said. “But over the last year, over the last six months, we’ve really begun to understand that good intention isn’t enough.”

In September, Opera Theatre announced its Voices Fund to support the work of young artists, particularly Black, Indigenous, Asian American and Latino artists. The organization reallocated $725,000 from donors to its annual gala, canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The fellowship program is funded for three years by gifts from Bob and Jane Clark and the construction firm Clayco Inc. The second round of fellows will begin work in January 2022. The length of the fellowship will extend to 10 or 11 months in its second and third years.

Johnson, who pursued a career as a singer before shifting his focus to arts administration, said he’s shared the stage with other Black artists, but the decision-makers typically are white.

“I never saw anyone that looked like me behind the table, behind the scenes," Johnson said. "Anyone that was doing the casting, doing the conducting, doing the stage management, the directing.”

A relative lack of opportunities for Black artists and other artists of color is widespread in the opera field, though Opera Theatre is among the organizations that have begun diversifying their stages.

Metropolitan Opera in New York recently announced it will open its 2021 season with “Fire Shut Up In My Bones” by jazz artist Terence Blanchard. It will be the first opera by a Black composer to appear at the Met. Opera Theatre St. Louis presented the show’s world premiere in 2019. Roderick Cox conducts Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier in France in George Walker's "Lyric for Strings" Friday, February 5, 2021

Roderick Cox

Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier

  • 11 Boulevard Victor Hugo Montpellier, Occitanie, 34000 France (map)

Benjamin Beilman, violin


Samuel Barber (1910 – 1981)
Second Essay for Orchestra opus 17

Jennifer Higdon (1962 – )
Concerto pour violon et orchestre

George Walker (1922 – 2018)
Lyric for strings

John Adams (1947 – )
Doctor Atomic Symphony Angel Blue interview: I don’t want to get hired because I’m black. I want someone to say, ‘She was fantastic’; Met Opera: Met Stars Live in Concert

Soprano Angel Blue

Monday, December 28, 2020

Grammy®-Nominated Quintet Imani Winds Releases "BRUITS," On Bright Shiny Things Records

The album features three world-premiere recordings of works by composers Vijay Iyer, Reena Esmail, and Frederic Rzewski

On February 5, 2020, Bright Shiny Things Records releases BRUITS [BTSC-0138], by the acclaimed, Grammy®-nominated quintet, IMANI WINDS (Brandon Patrick George, flute; Toyin Spellman-Diaz, oboe; Mark Dover, clarinet; Jeff Scott, French horn; and Monica Ellis, bassoon). The album’s title, “Bruits,” ([/bro͞ots/] both a homonym and homophone) is a medical term for a vascular murmur, an abnormal sound heard through a stethoscope that is generated by the turbulent flow of blood in an artery that has been obstructed. Imani Winds write: “We are bruited. Our passages are raw, blocked. And we cannot continue this way.” The album features three world-premiere recordings: Vijay Iyer's Bruits; Reena Esmail’s The Light is the Same; and Frederic Rzewski’s Sometimes—all of which speak directly to current social and political issues, and tell stories about people whose lives have made a difference in our world. Additional featured performers on the album include Grammy®-winning pianist Cory Smythe (Bruits), Metropolitan Opera National Council & Operalia award-winning soprano Janai Brugger (Sometimes), and scholar & narrator John Whittington Franklin (Sometimes). 

Pianist, educator and composer Vijay Iyer’s eponymous work uses that clinical image “as a metaphor for the blocked system of justice in today’s society.” Bruits was written during the trial of Trayvon Martin (February 26, 2012), a young black man, and refers to the blockage of justice inherent in the “Stand Your Ground” law, which—though not used by the defense lawyers—was nevertheless included in the instructions to the jury. Bruits was commissioned by the Hermitage Artist Retreat in Sarasota, and composed for Imani Winds while Iyer was in residence there in 2014.
Bruits is powerful. It is provocative. It is timely. It is heart-wrenching,” writes Monica Ellis. “It makes both the listener and the performer—especially me, as a performer and the mother of a Black boy—feel a way that few pieces of music allow.”
Composed in five movements, Bruits opens with “Gulf,” a movement which “has a pulse to it that is reminiscent of the free-flowing, fast-moving pace of a bustling city seen with a drone’s-eye view,” writes oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz. The second movement, “Force,” includes a reading of the “Stand Your Ground” law. Spellman-Diaz compares the third movement, “Wake,” to “jumping on a moving train” with a groove that never stops. “Flocks,” the fourth movement, ends with the words of mother, gun control activist, and Georgia congresswoman, Lucy McBath, whose son Jordan Davis was shot and killed ten months after Trayvon Martin while he sat in a car at a gas station with a friend. “The movement is tricky to perform, Spellman-Diaz writes, “and you have to listen carefully to catch the notes that everyone else is playing.” The final movement, “Mass, “begins with individual expression, and builds to a collective scream at the end.”
Commissioned by Imani Winds and written in 2016, Reena Esmail’s The Light Is The Same uses two contrasting Hindustani raags—Vachaspati (dark and brooding) and Yaman (light and innocent), which have almost identical notes, but when they are played sound very different. Esmail uses these two raags to symbolize “how we are so close to each other and are separated by so little, like people from different cultures looking at the same stars and imagining totally different meanings, but the light is the same,” writes Spellman-Diaz. “If we are to live in the Light, which we should all aspire to do, we must recognize our sameness,” adds Ellis.
Conceived as a companion piece for a new quintet arrangement of Gustav Holst’s The Planets (which celebrated its centennial in 2016) Esmail composed The Light Is The Same while “trying to make sense of what was happening in our country and in our world” at the end of that year. The title comes from a poem by the Sufi poet Rumi:
Religions are many
But God is one
The lamps may be different
But the Light is the same
Dr. John Hope Franklin (1915-2009), the subject of Frederic Rzewski’s Sometimes, was a historian who wrote about the Reconstruction era of American history, the time right after the Civil War, “when people of color (particularly African-Americans) were first allowed to hold political offices, become judges, and had hitherto unknown economic and social freedom,” Spellman-Diaz explains. “Dr. Franklin used his knowledge to advise American presidents, social activists, and people around the world on how to build equitable businesses, governments, and communities that worked for all people.” Among his numerous honors, Dr. Franklin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995. Sometimes was commissioned by Duke University in 2015 as part of its centennial celebration of Dr. Franklin’s life.
Sometimes juxtaposes Franklin’s words of hope (read by the historian’s son, John Whittington Franklin) and Langston Hughes’ heartbreaking poem, “God to the Hungry Child” (sung by Janai Brugger). These texts serve as foils for each other, addressing how we can and how we should not interact as a society. The spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” (which Rzewski remembers he loved to hear sung on the radio in his childhood by his hero Paul Robeson) is deconstructed (the opposite of reconstruction!) into a theme and variations. With the deconstruction of an ideal, the piece “falls in and on itself just to come out on the other side with the painful words of poet Langston Hughes,” writes Monica Ellis. “How exciting it is to hear the bookends of a piece of music [in which] words and music are juxtaposed to tell a snippet of the expansive, complex and gorgeous story of my people.” 


Tammy McCann, Victor Goines, 
Rachel Barton Pine,
Brotherhood Chorale 
Among Performers

The Music Institute of Chicago celebrates the legacy
of Martin Luther King, Jr. through music and
discussion via livestream
January 16 and 17.
Stephanie Shonekan will explore issues of race and
identity in American music culture in a keynote
lecture on Saturday, January 16 at 3 p.m. Shonekan
is associate dean of the College of Arts & Science
and professor of music at the University of Missouri,
and she earned a PhD in ethnomusicology and
folklore with a minor in African American Studies
from Indiana University. A panel discussion follows
the lecture.

On Sunday, January 17 at 3 p.m., the Music Institute
 presents a concert live-streamed from Nichols 
Concert Hall featuring Music Institute alumni, 
students, faculty, and special guests, along with 
students from the Chicago Musical Pathways 
Initiative (CMPI), which offers talented student 
musicians from traditionally underrepresented 
backgrounds a pathway to musical training (the 
Music Institute is an affiliate partner of CMPI). 

Programming to date includes:
  • Alumna violinist Rachel Barton Pine, performing 
  • Louisiana Blues by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson 
  • and Hip-Hop Prayer No. 3 by Daniel Bernard 
  • Roumain
  • Artist in residence and vocalist Tammy McCann
  • the Chicago Tribune's 2020 Chicagoan of the 
  • Year in jazz, performing “How I Got Over,” which 
  • Mahalia Jackson sang prior to Dr. King’s “I Have 
  • a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on 
  • Washington
  • Alumna violinist Hannah White, performing 
  • “Between Worlds” by Carlos Simon
  • Faculty duo pianists Sung Hoon Mo and Inah 
  • Chiu, performing Symphony No. 1 in A Flat “Afro-
  • American” by William Grant Still
  • Clarinetist, saxophonist, and educator Victor 
  • Goines, joined by a rhythm section, performing 
  • his original work "MLK Suite"
  • The Brotherhood Chorale of the Apostolic Church 
  • of God, directed by Brother Brian Rice

Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty will introduce the
concert, and Reverend Dr. Raymond Hylton, senior
pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Evanston, will
offer reflections.
Music Institute President and CEO Mark George said,
“The Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration weekend is an
opportunity for us to acknowledge the achievements of
Dr. King, as well as affirm our resolve to make
progress on issues of racial justice, especially as they
relate to the teaching of music.”
The Music Institute of Chicago’s Martin Luther King, Jr.
Celebration weekend is made possible by The Chicago
Community Trust. Technology sponsorship provided by
Martin Luther King, Jr. 
Celebration events,
Including the lecture with 
Professor Stephanie Shonekan
Saturday, January 16 at 3 p.m.
and the concert with Music 
Institute alumni, students, 
faculty, and special guests,
Sunday, January 17 at 3 p.m.,
are available free at
All programming 
is subject to change.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Dr. Artina McCain, Coordinator of Piano Studies at Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music at University of Memphis Releases "Heritage: An American Musical Legacy"

Dr. Artina McCain is Coordinator of Piano Studies at The Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music at The University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee.

Described as a pianist with “power and finesse” (Dallas Arts Society), “beautiful and fiery” (KMFA Austin) and having a “sense of color, balance and texture” (Austin Chamber Music Center) Artina McCain, has a built a three-fold career as a performer, educator and speaker. Recent performance highlights include guest appearances with the Oregon East Symphony, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the Austin Civic Orchestra. As a recitalist, her credits include performances at the Mahidol University in Bangkok, Hatch Recital Hall in Rochester, Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, FL and the Desoto Arts Commission in Desoto,TX. 

McCain's performances have been heard on radio CKWR Toronto, KMFA Classical Austin, and Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). Television appearances include features on CSPAN for the MLK 50 Commemoration. Artina is a three-time Global Music Awards winner for the album “I, Too” (Naxos), a collaboration with soprano Icy Monroe, focused on African American Spirituals and Art Songs. Currently, McCain is touring a program of Black Female Composers with award-winning artists Gwendolyn Alfred, soprano and James Rodriguez, baritone.


Dedicated to promoting the works of Black and other underrepresented composers, McCain curates Black Composers Concerts for multiple arts organizations and is an American Prize winner for her solo piano recordings of these works. She has also won performance awards for curating the Austin Chamber Music Centers’ Black Composers Concert from the Austin Critics Table. In 2021, Hal Leonard will publish her transcriptions of African American Folk Songs. 

John Malveaux: "Symphony of Brotherhood" Concert April 25, 2014 with Piano Trio of Kristen Yeon-Ji Yun, Alejandro Gomez Guillen and Arthur Houle is on YouTube

Kristen Yeon-Ji Yun

John Malveaux of writes:

January 18,2021 is Martin Luther King Jr day. MusicUNTOLD has produced multiple concerts honoring the legacy of Dr. King including "Symphony of Brotherhood Concert" (classical music commemorating the Anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots on April 25, 2014 at Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles featuring performance by the Colorado Mesa University Piano Trio consisting of Cellist Kristen Yeon-Ji Yun, Violinist Alejandro Gómez Guillén, and Pianist Arthur Houle. See and pic of Cellist Kristen Yeon-Ji Yun.

Friday, December 25, 2020 WE Project "inaugural online concert features chamber music by Black women composers and benefits the Foundation for Black Women's Wellness"

Wisconsin Ensemble Project

Katrin Talbot

The Wisconsin Ensemble Project (aka WE Project) is a new group formed by professional musicians during the dark times of COVID-19 to bring songs and light to worthy organizations. The group's inaugural online concert features chamber music by Black women composers and benefits the Foundation for Black Women's Wellness. The program includes "Strum" and "Voodoo Dolls," by Jessie Montgomery; "Modes," by Dorothy Rudd Moore; and String Quartet in G Major, by Florence Price. Performers are Christopher Dozoryst, Karl Lavine, Leanne League and Mary Theodore. The concert will be available through Jan. 3 at, and donations will be accepted.

Chicago Sinfonietta: Cellist Ifetayo Ali-Landing, guest soloist in world premiere of "breathe/burn: an elegy," commissioned by Joel Thompson

Ifetayo Ali-Landing, cellist 
Photo Credit: Earl E. Gibson Ill.

Chicago native Ifetayo Ali-Landing began studying music as soon as she could walk. Her mother Lucinda may have helped in that department - she is a professional violinist who also happens to be a member of Chicago Sinfonietta's orchestra). Ali-Landing has been featured with such orchestras as the Wilmington (NC) Symphony, New World Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, South Bend Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Elgin Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta, Southwest Michigan Symphony,  and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia.

John Malveaux: Michael Cooper discovered Margaret Bonds' Christmas song BRIGHT STAR (SABT) was adapted for solo voice and piano by Jacqueline Hairston

Jacqueline Hairston

John Malveaux of writes:

Dr. Michael Cooper recently discovered Margaret Bonds' Christmas song BRIGHT STAR (SABT) was adapted  for solo voice and piano by Jacqueline Hairston. Please listen to Baritone Robert Sims' world premiere of BRIGHT STAR See pic Jacqueline Hairston.  


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Empire Opera: Enjoy Holiday Music All Day! Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Visit our YouTube channel ( to listen to the beautiful sounds of Christmas all day! 

With your families, at parties, or relaxing alone, Christmas music brings in the spirit of the holidays.   

John Malveaux: Presents 50th Anniversary MLK Jr. 'SYMPHONY of BROTHERHOOD' Concert

Classical/Opera/Jazz tribute to "I HAVE A DREAM" speech 1963 March on Washington for JOBS & FREEDOM

John Malveaux of writes:

January 18,2021 is Martin Luther King Jr day. MusicUNTOLD has produced multiple concerts honoring the legacy of Dr. King including "Symphony of Brotherhood Concert" (classical music commemorating 50th Anniversary of 1963 MARCH on WASHINGTON for JOBS & FREEDOM), Sunday August 18, 2013, Zipper Hall-Colburn School, Los Angeles.  Please see complete concert (2 hrs 34 mins with 30 second delay to start and 15 min intermission in video) and picture/flyer

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Adolphus Hailstork WORLD PREMIERE "TULSA 1921"


Adolphus Hailstork

There is significant breaking news for composer Adolphus Hailstork.
In addition to the European premiere of his moving Martin Luther King tribute, Epitaph For A Man Who Dreamed on December 14th by Chineke! Orchestra, Europe's first majority Black and Asian Orchestra and the December 18th Feature by Classic FM, the leading Classical Music Radio and Performing Arts resource for England and The United Kingdom, December 22nd marked the announcement for the world premiere of Dr. Hailstork's Tulsa 1921.

Tulsa 1921 is a Centennial Tribute commissioned by The Harlem Chamber Players to commemorate the horrific 1921 Race Riots/Massacre in Tulsa Oklahoma.
A work scored for Mezzo Soprano and Chamber Strings Ensemble, it will premiere virtually on February 5th 2021 performed by the world renowned  Mezzo Soprano, J'nai Bridges and The Harlem Chamber Players of New York City.  The virtual performance will be livestreamed on the YouTube channel of The Harlem Chamber Players.

John Malveaux: Legislation to honor Jewish philanthropist who changed the course of African American education in the United States.

One of the first Rosenwald schools in Chehaw, Alabama. Jackson Davis Collection, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library

John Malveaux of writes:

Legislation to honor Jewish philanthropist who changed the course of African American education in the United States.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

John Malveaux: "PostClassical" featuring PostClassical Ensemble in a special 2019 edition honoring Black History Month. Bass-baritone Kevin Deas is the soloist

Kevin Deas

John Malveaux of writes:

PostClassical featuring PostClassical Ensemble in a special 2019 edition honoring Black History Month. Bass-baritone Kevin Deas is the soloist for this program, called Deep River: The Art of the Spiritual, featuring the music of Harry Burleigh, Nathanial Dett, William Dawson and others. This webcast contains 20+ minutes of material not heard in the broadcast! Classical Music was always the path for Isata Kanneh-Mason

Isata Kanneh-Mason
(Credit: Robin Clewly)

By Lily O'Brien

December 21, 2020

At just 24, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason has already led a pretty incredible life. The oldest in a family of seven siblings from Nottingham, England, all instrumentalists seriously devoted to classical music, she began playing the piano at age 6, was a finalist in the 2014 BBC Young Musician competition, and held an Elton John scholarship while studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Before completing her undergraduate degree there, she met Sir Elton himself, who invited her to perform with him at a concert in Los Angeles in 2013. She was only 17 at the time.

Kanneh-Mason has performed extensively worldwide and tours frequently with her brother Sheku, the 21-year-old cellist who garnered international attention when he performed at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Her 2019 debut album, Romance: The Piano Music of Clara Schumann, celebrating the anniversary of the composer’s 200th birthday, hit the UK classical charts at No 1.

The Kanneh-Mason family is a sensation in the U.K. Called “the most famous family in classical music” by Simon Cowell when they performed on Britain’s Got Talent in 2015, they were recently the subject of a documentary on BBC One’s Imagine, titled This House is Full of Music, filmed by remote cameras while the family was in lockdown together at their home in Nottingham, and aired on July 12, 2020. Their father, Stuart Mason, is a business manager originally from Antigua and their mother, Dr. Kadiatu Kanneh, is a former university lecturer originally from Sierra Leone.

Since they were not able to tour the U.S. as planned this year, on Sunday, Dec. 20, Isata and Sheku performed the final concert of their virtual residency at the Philharmonic Society of Orange County.

I chatted with Isata (pronounced Ice-ih-ta, which means source of life in the Mende language of Sierra Leone) from her home in London about her charmed life, her wonderful relationship with her family, and how things are going for her during the Covid lockdown.

What is it about classical music that attracted you? Was that the only way you saw a career path in music?

I just always loved classical music — there’s so much variety. There’s over 400 years of different styles and contrasts and the music I find has so much complexity that I never get bored and there’s always more to discover. I love listening to all kinds of music, but classical music was the only one that I was interested in performing professionally.

Your family was so devastated by the death of George Floyd that everyone participated in a tribute performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on YouTube that was watched by millions. Did it ever feel like race was a barrier in your career?

It’s quite a difficult question to answer because I grew up in a very lucky position. The classical music world is very inclusive and I always had wonderful friends and family. It can be very expensive to pursue classical music, and unfortunately for many people of color, they just don’t have the income. There’s definitely a gap — a lack of opportunity. That’s something that ultimately needs to change.

Have you ever felt that being a woman was a barrier for you?

Not so far. There’s been woman pianists around for a lot longer than there have been Black pianists around, so that’s not so much of an issue.

Have you ever thought about experimenting with other genres professionally?

No, I don’t think so. There are so many years of classical music to discover, I think that would take me more than a lifetime already. I played a couple of Bob Marley pieces with my siblings for fun, but I would never seriously get into another genre.