Friday, December 31, 2021

The Syncopated Times: "Treemonisha’s Premiere, 50 Years On"

 Photo from the 1972 Atlanta Treemonisha pre-performance. (Sedalia Ragtime Archive)

I surprised myself when I placed the phone back on its port and just sat to let the inspiring emotion of the previous conversation mellow. I had just been visiting with T.J. Anderson, about the first concert performance of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha in Atlanta, in 1972. The venue was Symphony Hall, with the Atlanta Symphony directed by Robert Shaw. Morehouse University had produced the modern premiere under the leadership of Dr. Wendell Whalen. The call brought back a flood of memories and a great deal for me to ponder. Dr. Anderson had orchestrated Joplin’s score that William Bolcom edited with “slight assistance,” from Dr. Anderson.

It had not been an easy undertaking for the men due to a disagreement with a belated copyright owner, but Bolcom and Anderson accomplished their roles with great professional dignity, awesome talent, and friendship. Both composers have produced a prodigiously important body of work in their long careers.

Now fifty years later I am astonished that these two eminent American composers had been involved in staging Joplin’s then 60-year-old opera and that I have had recent communication with these two legends. In this era of divisiveness and racial conflict, these men had been part of bringing the work of the son of a slave to public attention. It had been my privilege to attend that premiere and meet these great American composers. (see TST April 2019, p. 18 for my account of the early performances.)

I first met Dr. T.J. Anderson, Jr. and William Bolcom on that occasion, January 28, 1972, at 2:45 PM. I can be sure of the date and time because they were on an African American Music Workshop panel the afternoon prior to the premiere. We had driven all night from Sedalia to be there and it was well worth the effort. By 1972, Anderson and Bolcom were well known composers and Dr. Anderson was a recognized authority on African American music. He had been the Composer in Residence for the Atlanta Symphony for the previous three years and had been selected by Dr. Whalen to orchestrate Treemonisha, from Joplin’s printed piano score.

The 50th anniversary of that event comes this month, and once again a spotlight will shine on Scott Joplin and his seminal role in the advent of America’s popular/classical music. He was also one of the first to compose a truly American opera in the classical tradition.

I had inquired how Dr. Anderson had located Joplin’s score and he replied that William Bolcom gave it to him. Bill’s story is now a legendary part of Joplin lore. He and Rudy Blesh were teaching at Queen’s College in New York City. Blesh, along with researcher Harriett Janis had written They All Played Ragtime, published in 1950. When he inquired if Rudy knew of a copy of the Treemonisha piano score, Rudy responded by showing him a copy of Joplin’s own score Blesh had acquired from Lottie Joplin while he and Harriett Janis were working on their book.

The tragic story of Joplin trying to get Treemonisha published and produced after its composition in 1911 is well documented. It became the composer’s obsession but only a single read-through stage performance took place in Harlem in 1915 and it was produced at Joplin’s own expense. The original orchestrations Joplin had created with his friend Sam Patterson have been lost, along with his entire first opera A Guest of Honor.

Joplin spent the last years of his life trying to get Treemonisha properly staged but he was unsuccessful. Scott Joplin died a long-suffering death in the Manhattan State Hospital on April 1, 1917, and was buried in a pauper’s grave in St. Michael’s Cemetery on Long Island.


Happy New Year


Thursday, December 30, 2021 Chevalier de Saint-Georges Symphonies concertantes recorded by Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, Pardubice, M. Halasz

Naxos 8.574306

SAINT-GEORGES, J.B.C. de: Symphonies Concertantes, Opp. 9,10, Op. 11, No. 1 (Revich, Ježek, Honsová, Czech Chamber Philharmonic, Pardubice, M. Halász)

Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges was a brilliant swordsman, athlete, violin virtuoso and gifted composer, with a claim to being the most talented figure in an age of remarkable individuals. He was an early and important exponent of the hybrid symphonie concertante—a genre that draws on both the symphony and concerto traditions. This novel format was the ideal platform for expressive inventiveness, providing new textural possibilities through the addition of a second solo violin or viola. The Symphony in G major, which has all of the effervescence typical of Haydn, is an excellent example of the cosmopolitan French symphonic style.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Thomas Wilkins conducts Los Angeles Philharmonic in "Symphonic Ellington" Saturday, January 22, 2022 - 8:00 PM

Thomas Wilkins

Saturday, January 22, 2022 - 8:00 PM

Thomas Wilkins explores the unmatched legacy of Duke Ellington in a program of his music for orchestra.


Rick Robinson: Don't Miss This CutTime® 2021 Year-in-Review!

Rick Robinson writes:

Hey Friend!

I hope you’re having a safe and happy holiday season. As another challenging year comes to a close, I have to review 2021 with you, a year that saw huge artistic growth for CutTime Productions, even though our ensembles barely performed. Instead we created valuable, new artistic products (assets), increased our publication sales, benefited from federal stimulus and a labor shortage in local orchestras. In some ways it was our best year since 2015.

It began with a request from Orpheus Chamber Orchestra for a string orchestra “arrangement” of Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross. (I believe this video is only available until New Year’s.) They accepted my suggestion to include oboe and horn parts to keep the Sephardic character. Obviously, it was a strong performance, yet surprising with theologian Dr. Keri L. Day interpreting each phrase in the wake of martyr George Floyd.

Next, CutTime Simfonica® played a Facebook streamed set to accompany Detroit artist Timothy Orikri (pictured above). This was the perfect warm-up to tape six video tracks for ProMusica of Detroit, creating our best hi-def videos so far. They can be watched without interview here (30-minutes), and with the interspersed interview here (76).

Last summer we had several more publication sales and orchestra rentals. A few orchestras are taking advantage of my CutTime Players reductions of famous symphonic works during socially-distanced concerts. And my funky orchestration of Pork ‘n Beans (played by National Repertory Orchestra in July) helped to grow new audiences, showing that classical music is not always erudite.

I received vaccinations in April and began subbing a few small orchestras last summer. There has been such a worker shortage that by August I was able to leave the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. What a lifesaver PUA was. I finally have a new suit! Good thing I kept my weight down.

In mid-September I began subbing back into the Detroit Symphony. Naturally, it’s refreshing now to return to where CutTime was born, and play relevant repertoire like the William Dawson “Negro Folk” Symphony led by beloved former DSO Assistant Conductor Thomas Wilkins. He premiered my first Essay, so I shared with him the score for Essay No. 2, finished this year.

CutTime shows are still stuck, given the limitations of the smaller presenters that tend to hire us. We are waiting, but we keep Zooming to meetings, conferences, emailing introductions, thinking about new methods and hooks for audience engagement that have not really been tried. And we have been literally dreaming up sticky new music to express both the strange times we are living in and a romance in the past!

More great news is that CutTime Productions won a Creators of Culture grant of $3,125 from CultureSource! This funding is for a rehearsed new program on our Classical Revolution Detroit series, experimenting specifically for new visuals to make classical music immediate, knowable and essential for people who avoid formal classical concerts, but in a club setting. The grant will specifically let us develop several styles of visual enhancements via digital projectors. At least one performance will be scheduled for spring 2022: more with donations, sponsorship and invitations.

Artistically, CutTime improved its craft and library fourfold, to promote healthy grieving and adjustment thru new music. As usual, I found my best musical ideas surfaced early into, or coming out of a nap! (There was so much time to kill). I could consciously pick up from there, but these key initial phrases were truly gifts to us all! They were the seeds from which blossomed some "sticky phrases." This has been my best period of composing since the Gitcha Groove On! album (08-09). I’m very excited about each one, esp. to see if the newly-named New American Elegy (NAE) series can have the healing effect I’m hoping for. Below are links for you to listen (mostly MIDI) and hopefully agree. Epic classical is much like the blues that help us feel some empathy.

Two weeks ago was the 9th anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting, a preventable tragedy that crossed a red line. It sparked a strong composition, Let The Children Play, Part I, that the quartet recorded remotely last year to test reactions. Improvements are now ready for a big premiere with the string sextet. And I have a dream to perform it in Newtown itself. Since it was begging for a sequel, I finished Part II last month, which is even better! (This is how I make lemonade.)

The Romance Indeed I composed for my beloved Bass Mom, Barbara Van Dusen is a charming work about flirting in college after a chance meeting in the library. We gave it a soft premiere at Barbara’s residence in May. Now she wants a recording badly and so do I.

But there will be six other pieces to record with strings too. The Funeral March, in particular, is a very American elegy, with ancient spirits called by drum and drone in commemoration. We then escape the intense grief mentally for pleasant and fun memories of the deceased. This alternates, like scenes in a movie, to bring forth our strange mix of feelings in the wake of shared tragedies such as the pandemic, extreme weather, mass shootings, global warming and Covid economic disruptions.

Percy’s Farewell fulfilled my promise to a man who passed in 2018. Dr. Percy Moore was a beloved department head of ecumenical studies at Wayne State University. He befriended me at a church concert in his last years to ask me for “a little piece someday with my name on it.” Starting as a dirge, the 2nd theme introduces significant mystical, theological and existential phrases. There’s even some sass and humor he would’ve loved.

The largest work of this period, Essay No. 2 Never Forget, I composed directly to full orchestra. Having consulted on some technical issues, I only recently started sending out scores to orchestras with this MIDI recording. I have half a mind to start a new orchestra with this composition, and have the greatest aspiration for this work to take the layperson suffering from personal or collective grief to their own depths and heights; again, in the wake of such great tragedies worldwide.

Best of all, last week another flash of music hit me, and I couldn’t stop until I finished the Chaconne for Interesting Times. Since it doesn’t change key, I had a rough draft within a day. A chaconne is a Baroque form very much like the blues; a repeated chord progression with infinite possibilities for personal, emotional variations. Here I include some gospel phrasing and harmonizations. This must be the first work we perform and record as a sextet with a ceremonial drum.

You can hear all 90-minutes of my new music in MIDI here. In all of my compositions, the collective wisdom of our shared musical legacies, both classical and otherwise, are woven in. Imitation is not only flattery, but it's where learning starts. This deep and broad well of shared and hidden meaning works without words, and yet is surely central to our senses of self, purpose, pleasure and community. People are grieving the loss of family, friends, homes, businesses and lifestyles. In a time of need, may music be a healing balm when we make recordings and concerts safely available after Omicron.

I know this has been a long read. There was so much exciting news I wanted to share with you, my biggest fans. It was the best of times during the worst, because music that might last for generations has been squeezed out of their hiding places by psychological pressure! I will leave these behind for the world thru CutTime, and history can judge it.

I will also have much to share with you about 2022, including two orchestral performances coming up and a shift in strategy for CutTime®. So be sure to check out the next newsletter in January/February, and maybe you can help push us over the hump to guarantee CutTime grows into the future, even after me.

Until then, please get your immunities up against Omicron with vitamins D3, C, K2, Zinc and vaccines. And please, tell me your hopes and suggestions for CutTime, be they positive or negative.

Happy New Year!

- Rick Robinson
Artistic Director, CutTime Productions

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

Tuesday, December 28, 2021 The Sphinx Organization Celebrates 25 Years of Diversity in Classical Music

HOUR Detroit Magazine 

Detroit is lucky to have the Sphinx Organization. The classical music nonprofit has helped build pipelines for young Black and Latinx musicians to find their way into careers in classical music (both on stage and behind the scenes). It’s an important mission, as it’s one of the many arts and culture sectors lacking diversity. This month, the Sphinx will host its 25th annual competition, in which emerging musicians between the ages of 18 and 30 perform on stage, for nearly $100,000 in cash prizes — including the Robert Frederick Smith Prize. This $50,000 first-place award also comes with a host of solo appearances, accompanied by major orchestras.

Ryan Patrick Hooper is the host of CultureShift, on 101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR station (weekdays, from noon to 2 p.m.).

Monday, December 27, 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute concert: "Ethiopia's Shadow in America" of Florence Price & "Soul Force" of Jessie Montgomery Jan. 16 & 17


Will Liverman is " of the most versatile singing artists performing today, being equally skilled in classical repertoire and less mainstream works..." – Bachtrack

Community and celebration are at the forefront of Chicago Sinfonietta’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute concert. Opening the concert are three Florence Price works - Ethiopia’s Shadow in America, Song of the Dark Virgin, and Night, sung by renowned baritone Will Liverman. Selections from Felix Mendelssohn’s ELIJAH are next, followed by two Chicago premieres: Jessie Montgomery’s Soul Force, and Emmy-nominated Artist-in-Residence Kathryn Bostic’s work The Great Migration, with baritone Will Liverman returning as narrator.

Mei-Ann Chen


Florence PRICE  Ethiopia's Shadow in America

I. The Arrival of the Negro in America when first brought here as a slave – (Introduction and Allegretto)
II. His Resignation and Faith – (Andante)
III. His Adaptation – (Allegro) – A fusion of his native and acquired impulses.

Song of the Dark Virgin* (orchestral version)
Night* (orchestral version)
Will Liverman, baritone

Felix MENDELSSOHN Selections from ELIJAH
I. No. 14 "Draw, near all ye people - Lord God of Abraham"
II. No. 17 "Is not His Word Like a Fire"
III. No. 37 "For the Mountains Shall Depart"

Jessie MONTGOMERY Soul Force (The Dream Unfinished)* Assistant Conductor Kyle Dickson

Kathryn BOSTIC The Great Migration: A Symphony in Celebration of August Wilson*
The Great Migration
The Hill Illumined
Wylie Avenue
The Oracle of Aunt Ester
Exalted Roads of Truth and Triumph

Will Liverman, narrator



*Chicago Premiere

Approximately 70 mins, plus intermission

New York Public Library: A message from the Schomburg Center’s budget team

Every year, when we put together the budget for the Schomburg Center, I like to take a moment to consider how revolutionary the Schomburg Center really is. For nearly a century, we’ve made access to research materials, exhibitions, and scholarly resources on Black culture entirely free. Thank you for making this remarkable project of liberation possible.

What the Schomburg Center is able to do in 2022 is entirely up to what you and our generous community of supporters do right now.

Give now to ensure that the Schomburg Center can continue to preserve and share our record of Black cultural history. 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Dallas Symphony performs "Epitaph for a Man who Dreamed" by Adolphus Hailstork, a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., Thursday & Friday, Jan. 13 & 14, 7 PM

Adolphus Hailstork

Jan. 13 & 14, 2022 at 7 PM

FABIO LUISI conducts

ELGAR Violin Concerto
ADOLPHUS HAILSTORK Epitaph for a Man who Dreamed
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 1, “Spring”

In 1905, the famed Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler told the Hereford Times “If you want to know whom I consider to be the greatest living composer, I say without hesitation, Elgar. I wish Elgar would write something for the violin. He could do so, and it would certainly be something effective.” Five years later Elgar delivered Kreisler a concerto by turns grand, brooding and heroic.

American composer Adolphus Hailstork’s Epitaph for a Man Who Dreamed is a solemn orchestral homage to the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Inspired by the pastoral poetry of Adolf Böttger, Schumann’s First Symphony brims with spirited melodies and fanfares to depict “Spring’s Awakening”.


Janise White: Celebrate Les Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ 276th Birthday by purchasing the newly released CD: “The Collection of Pieces for Madame Vauban”

Professor Janise White writes:

Dear AACMSO Friends,

Celebrate Les Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ 276th Birthday by purchasing the newly released CD: “The Collection of Pieces for Madame Vauban” recorded by Professor Janise White, Harpsichordist and Fortepianist; Founder and Director of the Afro-American Chamber Music Society Orchestra.

Click on the AACMSO Store Link below to purchase your CD today!

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Association for the Study of African American Life & History: Season's greetings to you and yours!

Season's greetings to you and yours!


The Officers, Executive Council, and Staff of the

Association for the Study of African American Life & History

Donate today

Friday, December 24, 2021

Sphinx Organization: Important Update regarding 2022 SphinxConnect & Sphinx Competition


To our Sphinx Familia and Friends,

Sphinx Organization has made the difficult decision to hold the 25th Annual Sphinx Competition (January 26-29, 2022) and SphinxConnect: Forging Alliances (January 27-29, 2022) virtually with no in-person participation. 

The decision was made in light of the uncertainty over the COVID-19 variant development and ultimately to ensure the well-being of our community. 

For the most up-to-date information and to register for SphinxConnect, please visit

Wishing you a safe and happy new year!

Sphinx Team

Sphinx Organization

Eric Conway: Morgan Choir to sing in WBAL-TV special: "Season to Celebrate"

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

Happy Holidays all!

Last Saturday, WBAL-TV aired their special Christmas telecast: “Season to Celebrate”. The station has alerted me to three other airings of the same telecast on this afternoon, Christmas Eve at 12:30PM; on Christmas Day at 1:00 AM; and Christmas Day again at 7:30 PM - all on WBAL-TV. The special features several local artists including the Morgan State University Choir. Hopefully you can tune in if you have not already seen this eclectic Christmas special! Merry Christmas to all!

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.  Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.  -  Rumi. 

Eric Conway, D.M.A.
Fine and Performing Arts Department, Chair

Morgan State University
1700 East Cold Spring Lane
Carl Murphy Fine Arts Center, Room 329C
Baltimore, MD 21251

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Janise White, Harpsichordist and Fortepianist Performs Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), The Collection of Pieces for the Countess of Vachon

 Janise White
Harpsichordist & Fortepianist
The Collection of Pieces
for the Countess of Vachon, 1782
and more


Wednesday, December 22, 2021 The San Francisco Symphony plans to honor the late Michael Morgan of the Oakland Symphony with a program that Morgan himself created

L to R: Akiko Fujimoto, Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, mezzo-soprano Melody Wilson and Earl Lee will take part in a SF Symphony program that will honor the late Michael Morgan. Courtesy.

The San Francisco Symphony plans to honor the late Michael Morgan of the Oakland Symphony with a program that Morgan himself created and planned to conduct before his passing.

Three conductors will make their San Francisco orchestral series debuts for the program, which will run from Feb. 17 to 19. Morgan, who passed away in August following an illness, was a passionate advocate for young conductors and artists of color. The program, which he planned, will instead be shared by three conductors in their orchestral series debuts: the San Francisco Symphony’s new Resident Conductor of Engagement and Education, Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, and conductors Akiko Fujimoto and Earl Lee.

The program includes five San Francisco Symphony premieres. Lee will conduct Carlos Simon’s “Amen!” and César Franck’s “Le Chasseur maudit.” Fujimoto will lead the orchestra in Florence Price’s “Symphony No. 3.” Bartholomew-Poyser will conduct Johannes Brahms’ “Alto Rhapsody” featuring mezzo-soprano Melody Wilson, also in her SF Symphony orchestral series debut, as well as three traditional American hymns arranged by Jack Perla: “Give Me Jesus,” “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord.”

Marlon Daniel: It is with great pleasure that I announce that I have accepted the position of Associate Conductor of the Florida Grand Opera (FGO)