*** Do You Shop at Amazon.com? ***
Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks!
It's AMERICAN History & Heritage!
Copyright 2002 Gerri Gribi ||| Email ||| Updated 08/07/15
Teacher Toolkit Grades K-12
*** 2016 African American Calendars! ***
Composers of African Descent To search for a specific composer on this page, use the Edit > Find menu in your browser.
Books & Sheet Music ||| CDs ||| Online Resources
Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans: A History, 3rd edition. New York: W.W. North, 1997. Amazon.com
First written in 1971 and now in it's 3rd edition, this is a wonderful, readable textbook on all aspects of African American music. An Absolute Must Have!
Walker-Hill, Helen. From Spirituals to Symphonies: African American Women Composers and the Music. Now in Paperback! University of Illinois Press, 2007. Amazon.com
This is an essential work providing a historical overview plus a closer look at the life and works of Undine Smith Moore (1904-1989) Julia Perry (1924-1979) Margaret Bonds (1913-1972) Irene Britton Smith (1907-1999) Dorothy Rudd Moore (b.1940) Valerie Capers (b.1935) Mary Watkins (b. 1939) and Regina Harris Baiocchi (b. 1956). Despite having gained national and international recognitoin during their lifetimes, the contributions of many of these women are forgotten today. Includes a selected list of composers and a selected Bibliography/Discography. While the scholarship here is top notch, the writing is compelling and fluid.
Brooks, Tim. Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry 1890-1919. Read more and Order at Amazon.com
The book documents more than 40 artists chronologically, assessing their work and skillfully placing their biographies within the context of a complex and tumultuous era. Includes popular music, ragtime, jazz, cabaret, classical, spoken word, politics, poetry, and more. Includes composers Harry T. Burleigh, Will Marion Cook and Nathaniel Dett. The Discography provides a listing of CD reissues (if available) for each chapter, plus web sites where you'll most likely find them.
Holly, Ellistine Perkins. Biographies of Black Composers and Songwriters; A Supplementary Textbook. Iowa:Wm. C.Brown Publishers, 1990. Available at Amazon.com
Floyd, Samuel A. Editor. International Dictionary of Black Composers. Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999. Read more at Amazon.com
Two-volume set offering biographical data, bibliographies, discographies, and critical essays on composers of African heritage from around the world. Nearly half of the artists included are classical composers, but the volume also covers some popular composers (in particular, those whose work engages ragtime, jazz, or gospel) and concert and theater composers who have written a substantial amount of published music.
Walker-Hill, Helen. Music by Black Women Composers: A Bibliography of Available Scores. Chicago: Center for Black Music Research, 1995.
Includes compositions which can easily be ordered through music stores, as well as works long out of print and now held in libraries and archives. Works include compositions for single instruments, duos, trios, quartets, ensembles, band, voice, choral and dramatic music. Available at Amazon.com
Pool, Jeannie Gayle. American Composer Zenobia Powell Perry: Race and Gender in the 20th Century. Scarecrow Press, 2009. Amazon.com
Compact Discs I have grouped CDs by publisher, so you can explore their catalogs.
ACA Digital Recordings
P. O. Box 450727, Atlanta, Georgia 31145 U.S.A.
A City Called Heaven. ACA Digital Recordings, 2002. Available at Amazon.com
Olly Wilson (b. 1937) "A City Called Heaven" Alvin Singleton (b. 1940) "Between Sisters" Wendell Logan (b. 1940) "Moments Tania Leon ( b. 1944) " A la Par" T. J. Anderson (b. 1928) "Intermezzi" Anthony Davis (1951) "Wayan II (Shadow Dance)" Performed by Thamyris and Guest Artists.
A City Called Heaven showcases six accomplished contemporary African-American voices: Olly Wilson, Alvin Singleton, Wendell Logan, Tania Leon, T. J. Anderson, and Anthony Davis. Though sharing the common link of the African Diaspora, this is an eclectic collection borrowing from many cultural legacies. My favorite piece is Anthony Davis' "Wayang II" (Shadow Dance.) Its multiple and contstantly changing layers of melody, metrical settings and tempi are mesmerizing, a kaleidoscope of sound.
Now I must confess I'm not generally a big fan of post modern music; I prefer to listen and enjoy with my ears first and my brain second. (In other words, I prefer melody.) But I'm sure anyone who does like this sort of music will be impressed and pleased by what they find here, and especially by the performances of Thamyris, Atlanta's internationally famous contemporary music ensemble.
Albany Records http://www.albanyrecords.com/
Swing Along: The Songs of Will Marion Cook Albany Records, 2006. Two CDs with enclosed program and biographical notes. William Brown, Tenor, Ann Sears, Piano. Available at Amazon.com
Will Marion Cook (1869-1944) was one of the first African American composers to achieve significant commercial success in musical theater. To borrow a term from the visual arts, this collection provides a long-awaited major retrospective of his work, presenting many songs recorded for the first time.
With twenty-six tracks on two CDs, SWING ALONG presents a range of genres, including lullabies, parlor songs, ethnic "coon" songs and exquisite art songs. There are two songs from "In Dahomey," the first full-length musical written and performed by blacks to be presented at a major Broadway venue (1903.) Cook's collaborators include icons of African American letters such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and James Weldon Johnson, but the lyrics sometimes caught me by surprise, such as the lovely parlor song "Returned" with its plantation nostalgia. It reminded me that even icons have to make a living, which was no easy feat for a black artist at the turn of the century.
Melodically and stylistically, the music reflects the time (one hears influences of jazz, ragtime and the blues) while simultaneously looking ahead, employing striking harmonies later explored by George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and others. Tenor William Brown magically alters his voice and intonation to suit each genre....you won't get much closer to time travel than this!
The excellent liner notes are written in a narrative style, with songs grouped and discussed in context rather than in the order of appearance on the CD. I found it helpful to program my CD player so I could listen while reading along the first time. But for sheer enjoyment, just let the songs flow. There's a reason this music was so popular in its day, and the CD is a pleasure from beginning to end.
Soulscapes: Piano Music by African American Women. Maria Corley, Piano. Albany Records, 2006. One CD with biographical and program notes enclosed. Available at Amazon.com
Soulscapes is a valuable and enjoyable contribution to the ever-growing body of recorded music of African American composers. Pianist Maria Corley presents a range of musical styles, including L. Viola Kinney's prize-winning, charmingly sentimental "Mother's Sacrifice" (her only extant composition), Valerie Capers' tribute "Portraits in Jazz," and Florence Price's wonderful "Sonata in E Minor" which won First Prize in the 1932 Rodman Wanamaker music contest.
My personal favorite is Margaret Bonds' "Troubled Water," which I feel is one of the best examples of a spirtual-inspired concert piece out there. It captures and enhances the meaning of the spiritual without gilding it beyond recognition, as too often happens. I compared Corley's subtle interpretation with Helen Walker-Hill's more dynamic performance on "Kaleidoscope: Music by African-American Women" (Leonarda Productions, 1995) and decided: I enjoy them both for different reasons. But mostly I'm delighted to know we've reached a point where works by African American composers are receiving more than one "take." Brava!
Paul Freeman Introduces...David Baker. Albany Records, 2006. Available at Amazon.com
This is #12 of an ongoing series introducing wonderful new music for orchestra. The series has previously presented works by legendary African-American composer David Nathaniel Baker, including "Paul Freeman Introduces String Concertos by William Neil and David Baker" and "Paul Freeman Introduces... David N. Baker."
This disc demonstrates the fluency with which Baker speaks a variety of musical languages, including jazz and classical. Two of the works - Concert Piece for Trombone and String Orchestra, and Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra - are quite demanding and showcase the innovative talents of trombonist J.J. Johnson and the improvisational skills of saxophonist Thomas Walsh. This is one you don't want to miss!
Poetry Prelude: The Music of Richard Thompson. Albany Records 2006. Available at Amazon.com
Darryl Taylor (Tenor), Louise Toppin (Soprano), John Gunther (tenor sax), Ken Filiano (bass), Matt Keeler (drums), Richard Thompson (piano). Program notes and artist bios enclosed.
The works here combine formal European classical structures with African-American styles, essentially jazz. Of the two song cycles, "Dream Variations" (settings of poetry by Langston Hughes) and "The Shadow of Dawn" (settings of poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar) I preferred the latter, and felt the music perfectly captured the essence of the words, as if both flowed from the same hand. But my favorite works were the Six Preludes for Piano - so much so that I hit the back button and listened to the entire set again before moving on. The CD closes with an arrangement of "Wade in the Water" for jazz quartet.
I don't usually comment on CD cover art, but the compelling "Jammin' Delight" by Ivey Hayes provides the perfect portal for the visual, lyrical, sensual music of Richard Thompson. I recommend you hold it in your mind's eye as you listen.
Amazing Grace: Organ Music of Adolphus Hailstork. Albany Records 2006. One CD with biographical and program notes enclosed. Available at Amazon.com
James Kosnik, organ; Eastern Virginia Brass Quintet; David Walker & Rob Cross, percussion; Frank Ward, bass-baritone.
Fanfare on "Amazing Grace." Spirituals Suite. Armageddon. Meditation on "Amazing Grace." Prelude on "Veni Emmanuel." Toccata on "Veni Emmanuel."
Mosaic: A Collection of African-Amerian Sprituals with Piano and Guitar. Albany Records 2004. Available at Amazon.com
Angela M. Brown (Soprano), Joseph Joubert (Piano), Tyron Cooper (Guitar)
Daniel Alexander Payne, sixth bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church worked tirelessly to purge emotionalism from African American modes of worship, and derided spirituals as "corn field ditties." Starting with the Fisk Jubilee Singers and into the current century, composers such as Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Moses Hogan and Joseph Joubert have sought new, classical interpretations of these timeless, soulful songs.
I must confess, I've never been a big fan of classicised spirituals. Spirituals ARE emotional, expressions of unbearable pain, of longing, of optimism and ultimate belief in salvation. To strip them of that by prettying them up is to deny their very reason for being. But having said all that: I absolutely loved MOSAIC! Angela Brown does not let her classical training get in the way of putting a song over with heart and soul. She obviously loves these songs, and her rich voice moved me to tears on several occasions. The instrumental accompaniments (Joseph Joubert on piano, Tyron Cooper on guitar) are gorgeously subtle and supportive. The sound quality of this disc is superb, a fitting tribute to the many African American composers represented here. Highly recommended!
Alvin Singleton: Extension of a Dream. Albany Records 2004. Brent Runnels (guest artist, piano), and Thamyris: Laura Gordy (piano) Cheryl Boyd-Waddell (soprano) Paul Brittan (alto flute) Peggy Benkeser (percussion) Michael Cebulski ( percussion). Program notes enclosed. Order or listen at Amazon.com
Alvin Singleton's (b1940) works are serious music both in terms of structure and subject. He addresses crucial matters, but through a wonderful crafting of musical elements that absorbs the listener. The title piece, a work for two percussionists, memorializes the brutal beating death of South African freedom fighter Steve Bikko, with many shades of suspense and mourning. "Between Sisters" is a musical setting of Rita Dove's poem, "The House Slave." Also includes "Argoru VI," "Argoru VII," and "Inside-Out" (dedicated to composer T.J. Anderson) "
Leslie Adams: Twelve Etudes. Albany Records 2004. Maria Corley, piano.
The composer describes these Etudes for Piano as "a personal labor of love" and they are lovely indeed. They are studies of varying styles, moods, tonalities and thematic natures...my personal favorite is B Flat Minor with its hint of jazz influence.
Jeffrey Mumford. the promise of the far horizon. Albany Records, 2004. Available at Albany Records.
Each of the chamber works on this CD was recorded by the performer(s) for whom it was composed. "wending" (Wendy Richman, viola); "the promise of the far horizon" (Corigliano Quartet); "a landscape of interior resonances" (Margaret Kampmeier, piano); "a window of resonant light" ( CORE Ensemble); "the millner's fancy" (Rhonda Taylor, alto saxophone.)
Paul Freeman Introduces...String Concertos. Albany Records, 2003. Available at Amazon.com
Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Paul Freeman Conductor. Milos Jahoda, Cello. Program notes enclosed.
I am primarily interested in works by African American composers, and there are two concertos here by the legendary David Baker. "Concert Piece for Viola and Orchestra" is unusual for Baker in that there is no hint of a conscious jazz influence...he states that his references are Bartok, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. It is rich, fluid and emotional. "Concerto for Cello and Chamber Orchestra" starts lyrically, and ends with jazz-influenced themes. Interestingly enough, there are no cellos in the orchestral accompaniment. (This work is also found on AFRICAN HERITAGE SYMPHONIC SERIES VOLUME III on Cedille Records.)
Amen!: African-American Composers of the 20th Century. Albany Records, 2001. Oral Moses (bass-baritone) George Morrison Bailey (piano). Includes works by Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949), Avery Robinson (1878-1965), R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943), Francis Hall Johnson (1888-1970), William Grant Still (1895-1978), John Wesley Work III (1901-1967), Margeret Bonds (1913-1972), Florence Price (1888-1953), Betty Jackson King (1928-1994), Robert Owens (b. 1925), Uzee Brown Jr. (b. 1950) and Jester Hairston (1901-2000). Includes texts and biographies. This is a wonderful and varied collection of work songs, spirituals and art songs. I get a lump in my throat every time I listen to Moses' rendition of "There Are Angels hoverin' round" by Uzee Brown, Jr. Order or listen at Amazon.com or at Albany Records.
Spiritual Fantasy. Albany Records, 2001. Lucius Weathersby plays the 1864 "Father" Willis organ, Great Torrington, Devon, England. Wendy Hymes, flute. Features works by William Grant Still (1895-1978), Lucius Weathersby (1968 - 2006), Fela Sowande (1905-1987), Violet George Bowers (b. 20th century), Wallace McClain Cheatham (b. 1945), Kevin A.G. George (b. 20th century), and Uzee Brown Jr. (b. 20th century).Biographies of composers and performers enclosed. The organ is probably not the instrument which springs first to mind when one thinks of African American music, but the fact is that the harmonium (being much cheaper than a piano) was the keyboard of choice for black musicians at the turn of the century; Fats Waller played jazz - and concert pieces - on the organ. This CD presents 10 concert pieces, my personal favorite being the bluesy, languid "Summerland" from William Grant Still's Three Visions for organ and flute. Listen or order at Albany Records also available at Amazon.com
Ah! Love, But a Day: Songs and Spirituals of American Women. Albany Records, 2000. Louise Toppin (soprano) Jay A. Pierson (baritone) John B. O'Brien (piano). Includes works by African American composers Margaret Bonds (1913 - 1972), Undine Smith Moore (1905 - 1988), Florence Price (1887 - 1953) and Betty Jackson King (1928 - 1994). Biographies of composers and artists enclosed. Many of the works on this CD were previously unpublished. They cover the parlor songs of Amy Beach to the jazzy accompaniments and lush tunes of Margaret Bonds, presenting exciting contributions to the art song repertoire. Order or listen at Amazon.com
Love Rejoices: Songs of H. Leslie Adams. Albany Records, 2000. Darryl Taylor (tenor) and Robin Guy (piano). Program notes and texts of songs enclosed. Best known for his opera Blake, his art songs and choral writing, Harrison Leslie Adams (b.1932) has made significant contributions to the genres of vocal and instrumental music. Currently a full time composer living in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, his music has earned him national attention. This collection of songs from H. Leslie Adams is a breathtaking showcase, and Darryl Taylor was the perfect choice for its presentation. Order or listen at Amazon.com. Visit the H. Leslie Adams Home Page at http://www.under.org/cpcc/ladams.htm
Paul Freeman Introduces... David N. Baker. Albany Records, 2000. Order or listen at Amazon.com. Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Paul Freeman Conductor. William Brown (Tenor) Zdenek Tylsar (French horn) Daniel Perantoni (Tuba.) Program notes written by the composer. "Alabama Landscape" is a single-movement setting of the poem by African-American poet Mari Evans. "Refractions: A Suite for String Orchestra" is romantic, yet jazz influenced. "Life Cycles" is a suite for tenor, French horn and strings, text by Terence Diggory. "Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra" pays homage to Baker's personal "three B's" Brahms, Bartok and Berg. In his introduction, Paul Freeman writes "I have always been impressed by the breadth and scope of his talent and the extraordinary range of his tonal palette." Having listened to this CD several times, I agree wholeheartedly, and nowhere is this tonal palette more evident than with the second movement of "Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra" which the composer describes as " a contemporary cradle song or lullaby." Tuba - lullaby? Trust me...it works beautifully!
Sence You Went Away: Contemporary African American Art Songs & Spirituals. Albany Records, 2000. Various Artists. Features works by Leslie Adams (b. 1932), Valerie Capers (b. 1937), John Carter (1937 - 1989), Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941), Eugene Hancock (1929 - 1994) and Wendell Whalum (1931 - 1987). Biographies of composers and artists enclosed. The songs in this collection of previously unrecorded works draw on a variety of influences, including Negro spirituals and gospels, jazz and blues, and modern musical materials such as abstract forms and atonalism. Order or listen at Amazon.com
Shades of Blue: Symphonic Works by African American Composers. Albany Records, 2000. Julius Penson Williams, Conductor. Richard Taylor (baritone) with the Prague Radio Symphony and the Washington Symphony. Shades of Blue by David Nathaniel Baker ( b. 1931); Ode to Life by H. Leslie Adams (b. 1932); Gospel Songs for Baritone & String Orchestra by Stephen Michael Newby (b. 1961.) This rich, imaginative collection demonstrates how contemporary African American composers draw on traditional musical forms to create accessible, contemporary orchestral works. Order at Amazon.com or listen and order at Albany Records.
Fi-yer! A Century of African-American Song. Albany Records, 1999. William Brown (tenor) and Ann Sears (piano). Extensive program notes and texts of songs enclosed. Concert music is an important tradition in African American culture, though often one that goes unrecognized and uncelebrated, certainly less well known than blues, ragtime and jazz. But the African American concert tradition is as old at the U.S. itself. William Brown and Ann Sears take us on a delightful and diverse journey through the arranged spirituals and art songs of many composers, including Thomas Greene Bethune (Blind Tom 1849-1908), John William Boone (Blind Boone 1864-1927), Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949), Will Marion Cook (1869-1944), R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943),R oland Hayes (1887-1977), ,Florence Price (1888-1953), , Hall Johnson (1888-1970), William Grant Still (1895-1978), John W. Work III (1901-1967), and Margaret Bonds (1913-1972). Order or listen at Amazon.com
New American Scene II: 5 Distinguished African American Composers. Albany Records, 1998. Available at Amazon.com.
Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Edwin London, Conductor. Howie Smith (Saxophone) Neal Creque (Piano) T. J. ANDERSON (b. 1928): "Chamber Concerto (Remembrances)"; DAVID BAKER (b. 1931): "Parallel Planes "; LEROY JENKINS (b. 1932): "Wonder Lust"; WENDELL LOGAN (b. 1940): "Roots, Branches, Shapes and Shades (of Green) Collard Series No. 2 " DOLORES WHITE: "Crystal Gazing"
George Walker, Orchestral Works. Albany Records, 1997. Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Edwin London Director. Gregory Walker, (violin.) Program notes enclosed. "Serenata for Chamber Orchestra," " Lyric for Strings," " Poeme for Violin & Orchestra," Orpheus for Chamber Orchestra," "Folk Songs for Orchestra." http://www.albanyrecords.com/
Chamber Works: Rochberg - Cordero - Palmer. Albany Records, 1995. Listen/order at Albany Records.
Roque Cordero was born in Panama in 1916 of African, Spanish and Indian ancestory. His driving "Quintet for Foute, B-Flat Clarinet, Violin, Cello & Piano" is reissued here along with works by Robert Palmer and George Rochberg.
George Walker: A Portrait. Albany Records, 1994. Featuring Videmus (Vivian Taylor, Artistic Director) and Dr. Mickey Thomas Terry (organist.) Program notes enclosed. "Five Fancies for Clarinet and Piano Four Hands," " Antifonys for Chamber Orchestra," "An Eastman Overture," "Variations for Orchestra," "Cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Boys Choir and Chamber Orchestra," " Three Pieces for Organ." Order or Listen at Amazon.com
Symphonic Brotherhood: The Music of African-American Composers. Albany Records, 1993. Order or listen at Amazon.com
Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, Julius P. Williams, conductor. Everett McCorvey, Tenor. Biographical information and program notes enclosed. Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941) " Symphony No. 1"; Henry (Harry) Thacker Burleigh (1866-1949) "The Young Warior"; Julius Penson Williams (b. 1954) "Is It True?"; Gary Powell Nash (b. 1964) "In Memoriam: Sojourner Truth"; David Nathaniel Baker (b. 1931) " Kosbro." This CD emphasizes the mainstream character of the compositions; as it says in the program notes, "The fact that these five composers...are of African descent will become clear only when viewing the photographs." And yet, some of the compositions incorporate very slight elements of jazz, gospel and spirituals. Interestingly, Burleigh's "Young Warrier" gained great popularity in Italy during WWI as a "patriot anthem."
Cala Records http://www.calarecords.com/
David Baker at Bay Chamber Concers. Cala Records, 2003. James Campbell (Clarinet) and Ensemble. Contains Heritage: A Tribute to Great Clarinetists;Homage a L'Histoire; Sonata for Clarinet and Piano; Aspects of Andy. At Amazon.com
I'm never quite sure what to expect from David Baker (b. 1931) His range is so broad (he's created more than 2000 compositions, often with specific musicians in mind) that each one is a surprise. Sometimes he's jazzy, sometimes he's romantic and classical, often a mix, but he's always lyrical, inventive and a treat to listen to.
This CD is no exception. My stand-out favorite piece is the title work, "Heritage: A Tribute to Great Clarinetists." Many of the clarinet solos are transciptions of improvisations by the likes of Buddy DeFranco, Artie Shaw, and Benny Goodman, rewoven with piano, violin and bass to create a completely new, rich fabric. It's the perfect blend of jazz and classical elements - Baker merged the best of both and the result is deep, vibrant and makes me want to dance gleefully around the room. Everything else on the CD is just icing on the cake.
Calcante Recordings Order Online
Chicago Renaissance Woman: Florence B. Price Organ Works. Calvert Johnson, organist.
Suite No. 1 For Organ; First Sonata For Organ
The Unknown Flower: Song Cycles by American Women Composers of the 20th Century. Calvin College Alumni Association, 1999. Program notes, biographies and text enclosed. Performed by Charsie Randolph Sawyer, Soprano, with Susan Keith Gray and Hyesook Kim (piano) Jacqueline Sellers (french horn) Karen Krummel (cello) and Linda Hoisington (bells). Includes works by these African American composers: Lettie Beckon Alston (b. 1953); Betty Jackson King (1928 - 1994); and Lena McLin (b. 1928) a niece of Thomas A. Dorsey. Throughout history, women composers have achieved very little recognition for their accomplishments. This CD project is part of an ongoing process of researching and bringing to the forefront artists who have contributed to the great body of classical music that is primarily dominated by European male composers due to historical prejudice. The women composers lovingly presented here by Charsie Randolph Sawyer range in compositional styles from atonality to romantic consonant harmonies, with the texts ranging from Paul Laurence Dunbar to Calamity Jane.
A Festive Sunday With William Grant Still. Cambria Master Recordings, 1996. Symphony No. 3 - The Sunday Symphony, North Arkansas Symphony Orchestra; Festive Overture, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London; romance for Saxohone and Piano - Robert Umiker, Alto Saxophone and Arthur Tollefson, Piano; Folk Suite No. 4 for Flute, Clarinet, Vionicello and Piano - Leonard Garrison, Flute, Robert Umiker, Clarinet, Samuel Magill, Violncello, Arthur Tollefson, Piano; Three Rhythmic Spirituals - The Schola Cantorum of the University of Arkansas. Available from William Grant Still Music.
Cedille Records http://www.cedillerecords.org/
Cedille Records (pronounced say-DEE), dedicated to showcasing Chicago's most noteworthy classical artists, is an arm of the nonprofit Chicago Classical Recording Foundation.
African Heritage Symphonic Series - Volume 1. Cedille Records, 2000. Program notes enclosed. Chicago Sinfonietta with Paul Freeman, Conductor. Available at Amazon.com
This is the first release in an emerging three-CD series devoted to twentieth-century composers of African descent; the works and performances on this CD are so rich and wonderful they make me eager to hear the next two! Offered are works by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), Fela Sowande (1905-1987) and William Grant Still (1895-1978). Best known for his serious choral masterpiece, Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, Afro-British composer Coleridge-Taylor is represented by two works in a lighter vein, "Danse Negre" from African Suite (1898) and the balletic Petite Suite de Concert, Op 77 (1910). Nigerian Fela Sowande's African Suite from 1930 incorporates traditional Nigerian melodies and the influence of Ghanian composer Ephiraim Amu. William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1, "Afro-American," (1930) evolved from blues-based sketches he wrote during the Harlem Renaissance while arranging for jazz ensembles. Conducter Paul Freeman, who worked directly with Still on performances of this and other works, provides a sultry, swinging interpretation several minutes faster than competing CD versions. The program notes, written in an engaging style by Dominique-Rene de Lerma, provide a thorough introduction to the work of all three composers.
African Heritage Symphonic Series - Volume II. Cedille Records, 2001. Program notes enclosed. Chicago Sinfonietta with Paul Freeman, Conductor. Read more or listen at Amazon.com
This is the second release in an outstanding three-CD series devoted to twentieth-century composers of African descent. Ulysses Kay's (1917-1995) orchestral suite"Theater Set" incorporates march-like rhythms and starts things off with a bang. "Lyric for Strings" by George Walker (b. 1922) is a tender work, a fitting memorial to his grandmother. With "Eight Miniatures for Small Orchestra" Roque Cordero (b. 1917) synthesizes the 12-tone technique with the folk music of his native Panama. Hale Smith's (b. 1925) symphonic poem "Ritual and Incantations" uses idealized African drumming to create a stunning piece full of mystery and sinister undercurrents. Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941) contributes two pieces: the exhuberant, jazz influenced "An American Port of Call " and the moving, transcendent "Epitaph for a Man Who Dreamed," a memorial for Martin Luther King Jr. The program notes, written in an engaging style by Dominique-Rene de Lerma, provide a thorough introduction to the work of all five composers.
African Heritage Symphonic Series - Volume III. Cedille Records, 2002. Program notes enclosed. Chicago Sinfonietta with Paul Freeman, Conductor. Read more or listen at Amazon.com
This is the final release in a three-CD series devoted to twentieth-century composers of African descent. It presents four works by living composers working in the mainstream of contemporary music. Michael Abels (b.1962) wrote "Global Warming" in 1990, not long after the Berlin Wall fell. It reflects both environmental and international warming, incorporating folk music from various cultures. David Baker's (b. 1931) "Cello Concerto" is lyrical and jazz influenced. (Also found on PAUL FREEMAN INTRODUCES CONCERTOS, Albany.) "Essay for Orchestra" by William Banfield (b. 1961) is from a larger work for percussion and orchestra, a blend of jazz influences and 19th Century Romanticism. The structure of "Generations: Sinfonietta No. 2 for Strings" by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (b. 1932) is "somewhat autobiograhpical" representing the composer's family relationships. It combines folk melodies, dances, and the B-A-C-H idea in what David Hurwitz called "a Bartókian synthesis." The program notes, written in an engaging style by Dominique-Rene de Lerma, provide a thorough introduction to the work of all four composers.
Violin Concertos by Black Composers of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Cedille Records, 1997. Program notes enclosed. Rachel Barton, Violin, Encore Chamber Orchestra, Daniel Hege, Conductor. Read more or listen at Amazon.com
This CD sheds light on four gifted musicians of mixed African and European descent who were famous in their day, but are all but forgotten in our time. Carribean-born Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) was the son of a noble French plantation owner and an African slave. His vibrant 1775 Violin Concerto in A Major, Op. 5, No. 2, displays an uncommon gift for melodic invention. A dramatic intensity and an almost romantic sensibility is found in the work of the Paris-born Chevalier J.J.O. de Meude-Monpas, who is represented here by the world-premier recording of his 1786 Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major. Joseph White (1839 - 1918) was born in Matanzas, Cuba, the son of a French businessman and an Afro-Cuban mother. He studied and Paris and became a concert sensation in Europe and Latin America. His 1864 Concerto in F-sharp Minor is a grandly virtuosic Romantic work. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was the son of a medical student from Sierra Leone and an Englishwoman. He was highly respected in the U.S. especially by cultured African-Americans, and was a White House guest of President Theodore Roosevelt. His sweetly nostaligic 1899 Romance in G Major is reminiscent of Dvorak, whom he idolized. As noted by the booklet essayist Mark Clague, none of these works use African-derived melodies or rhythmic signatures. Instead, they "seamlessly adopt the traditions and tropes of the Western European concert tradition. "
Art Songs of Harry T. Burleigh. Centaur Records, 1995. Program notes and texts enclosed. Regina McConnell, soprano, Michael Cordovana, Piano.
Perhaps best remembered for his numerous and highly successful arrangements of the African American spiritual, Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949) also composed more than 100 art songs, the first recognized black composer in the genre. As is evidenced in the selections on this CD, covering a range from 1904 to 1934, Burleigh's musical imagination seemed to be most often aroused by texts based on idealized romantic love. His art songs seldom show ethnic influences either in text or music, but you'll find African American poets in the pieces here: James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes, for example. If you enjoy romantic art song, you'll welcome this collection of 23 songs. Order at Centaur
Songs of Illumination: Art Songs By Contemporary African American Composers. Centaur Records, 1998. Program notes enclosed. Louise Toppin, soprano, Bill Brown, Tenor, Howard Watkins, piano, Vivian Taylor, piano. Includes works by Hale Smith (b. 1925); Camille Nickerson (1888-1982); Thomas Kerr (1915-1988); Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941); Stephen Newby (b. 1961); Howard Swanson (1907-1978); William C. Banfield (b. 1961); Evelyn Simpson-Curenton (b.1953); and T.J. Anderson (b. 1928).
This CD presents unrecorded works by Black American composers reflecting wide and varied traditions, from a Creole lullaby to a "concert rap." The project is the brainchild of Dr. Louise Toppin, and represents music from "two generations of composers whose music is both unique and individualistic, but share with the performer a common historical, artistic and social context." The musical settings are interesting and challenging, and there's something here for every taste.Order at Centaur
The Witness Collection. VocalEssence Ensemble Singers and Chorus, Philip Brunelle, Conductor. Clarion, 2004. Available at Amazon.com
For over 10 years, The VocalEssence Ensemble Singers and Chorus (conducted by Philip Brunelle) has presented an enduring series of concerts showcasing the talents of trailblazing African American composers. Now this wealth of music is available outside the concert hall through a series of recordings called WITNESS. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! The four CDs are available as single titles, or in the boxed set:
What a Mighty God: Spirituals and Gospels for Chorus. Sixteen 20th Century choral arrangements of music from the African American tradition rooted in spirituals and gospels. Presents 20th Century choral arrangements of music from the African American spiritual tradition rooted in spirituals and gospels. "Witness" Jack Halloran (1916-1997) "Hush! Somebody's Callin' My Name" arr. Brazeal W. Dennard; (b. 1929) "Death is Gonna Lay His Cold Icy Hands on Me" arranged by Andre Thomas; "Walk Together Children" William Henry Smith; "Were You There?" arranged by Robert Scholz; "Elijah Rock" Arranged by Moses Hogan (b. 1957); "This Train" arranged Sanford Moore; "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" Arr. Richard Smallwood; " "My Lord, What a Mornin'" Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949); "Go Down Moses" Arr. Robert A. Harris (b. 1938); "In Dat Great Gittin' Up Mornin'" Arr. Jester Hairston (1901-2000); "Crucifixion" Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941); "Go Where I Send Thee" Arr. Andre Thomas; " Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" Arr. Dale Adelmann; "Go Tell It on the Mountain" Arr. Sanford Moore; "What a Mighty God" arr. Michael Abels.
Dance Like the Wind: Music of Today's Black Composers. Ten works from various generations, although "they emerged after the neo-classical period of non-descrimination." Some classic idioms such as the blues are evident, along with more recent genres like rap. "Mother to Son" "We Shall Walk Through the Valley" and "Tambourines to Glory" by Undine Smith Moore (1904-1988); from "Lamentations: Black Folk Song Suite" by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (b. 1932); "An Old Black Woman, Homeless and Indistinct" by Joseph Jennings (b. 1954); "My Soul Hath Found Refuge in Thee" by Evelyn Simpson-Curenton (b. 1953); "Nocturne" by Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941); from "Piece for String Orchestra" by Gilly Childs (b. 1957); "Images, Shadows and Dreams" by David Baker (b. 1931.)
Skyward My People Rose: Music of William Grant Still. Though William Grant Still (1895-1978) was of a mixed lineage - Irish, Native American, Hispanic and African American - his country defined him as "black." Sometimes Still embraced the definition, sometimes chaffed under it; e.g.when called "the Dean of Afro-American Music" he is said to have responded "Why, then, isn't Aaron Copeland called the 'Dean of White Composers'?" He never disclaimed his African ancestry, but he also longed to fuse the many elements that were part of his national heritage, to be the truly American composer. This CD provides an excellent representation of this goal, with works ranging from a setting of "Swanee River" (which began life as a black folk song, was converted to a minstrel tune by Stephen Foster, then found it's way back into the folk tradition) to a ballet which concludes with a "cake walk," a round dance from plantation days.
"Wailing Woman" (1946); "Swanee River" (1939); "And They Lynched Him on a Tree" (1940); "Miss Sally's Party" (1940); "Reverie" (1962); "Elegy" (1963).
Got The Saint Louis Blues: Classical Music in the Jazz Age. Each of the composers here was a significant contributor to the Harlem Renaissance and by tune or text, these works document the coming jazz explosion. Many have never before been recorded.
"Saint Louis Blues" (William C. Handy 1914, arr. Hall Johnson c. 1936); "O Southland" "Ethiopia's Paean to Exaltation" (Harry T. Burleigh 1866-1949); "Song for Snow" and "Moon Bridge" (Florence B. Price 1888-1953); "Listen to the Lambs" "The Chariot Jubliee" and "Ave Maria" (R. Nathaniel Dett 1882-1943); "Poor Mourner's Got a-home at Last" (arr. Carl R Diton 1886-1962); "Yamekraw: A Negro Rhapsody " (arr. James P. Johnson 1894-1955); "Charlestonia: Folk Rhapsody for Orchestra, No. 1" (Edmund Thornton Jenkins 1894-1926.)
Composer's Recordings / Merging with New World Records. New World plans to keep this catalogue available.
The Music of Hale Smith. Composer's Recordings, 2000. Available at Amazon.com
Dialogues & Commentaries; Variations a' Due; Innerflexions; Valley Wind; Toussaint l"Ouverture, 1803; Evocation (Natalie Hinderas); In Memoriam (Beryl Rubinstein.)
Natalie Hinderas: Piano Music by African American Composers. Composer's Recordings, 1993. Available at Amazon.com
In the Bottoms (Robert Nathaniel Dett): Easter Monday Swagger, scherzino for piano (Thomas Kerr); Visions (3) for piano (William Grant Still); Scuppernong, (John W. Work); Sonata for piano, No.1 (George Walker); Engrams for Piano (Arthur Cunningham); Soung-Gone (Talib Rasul Hakim); Evocation for Piano (Hale Smith); Piece for Piano and Electronic Sound (Olly Wilson.)
"Straight outta' Chicago, Delmark is America's oldest independent jazz & blues label "
Euphonic Sounds: Nineteen Rag-Time Piano Performances. Delmark Records, 1998. Reginald R. Robinson. Program notes enclosed. Reginald Robinson has a passion for ragtime music, and it shows. This CD is sheer delight from beginning to end! He performs works by his major inspirations (Scott Joplin, Louis Chauvin) and also his own original works. I especially enjoyed "Lift Every Voice and Sing" which is performed in a very singable key, and which probably sounds much as the song would have been performed back in 1900. Available at Amazon.com
2004 Update: Congratulations to Reginald R. Robinson on being awarded a MacArthur 'Genius' Grant!
Detroit Symphony Orchestra http://www.detroitsymphony.com
Black Composers Series. Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Paul Freeman. Sony Music, 2002. Program notes enclosed. Sanford Allen, violin; Natalie Hinderas, piano. Listen to samples at Amazon.com.
In the 1970's, Resident Conductor Paul Freeman and the DSO made history by participating in the first comprehensive series of recordings featuring music by African American composers, issued on nine long-playing records. This award-winning series is now available on a 2 CD set, thanks to the Classical Roots Celebration Committee, dedicated to raising funds for all of the DSO's African American programs. Though distinctly modern and mostly atonal, the program captures a wide range of expressions and serves as tribute both to the composers represented here and to the DSO's ongoing commitment to showcase the music of African Americans.
Featured on Disc One is Roque Cordero, born in Panama in 1916 of African, Spanish and Indian ancestory. Concerto for Violin and Orchestra was completed in 1962 and is an edgy piece which employs a 12-tone system. Eight Miniatures for Small Orchestra was written in 1948 and though it approaches 12-tone composition, the spirit is distinctly Afro-Latin and the entire composition is accessible and witty.
Disc Two features Piano Concerto by Pulitzer Prizing winning composer George Walker (b.Washington D.C. 1922.) This abstract yet melodic piece was written specifically for the gifted viruoso Natalie Hinderas (1927-1987) who in 1971 became one of the first African American women to perform as a soloist with a major symphone orchestra. I especially "connected" with the slow second movement, a memorial to Duke Ellington whose death occured while the work was evolving.
Celebration! by Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941 Rochester, NY) is a brief piece commissioned for the American Bicentennial. It is tonal and energetic, capturing the spirit and optimism of that time in a fashion reminiscent of Copeland.
Ritual and Incantations by Hale Smith (b. 1925 Cleveland, OH) uses rhythmic overlays throughout, derived from West African drumming practices. The score is rich and full of mystery!
Dutton Laboratories http://www.duttonvocalion.co.uk/
Coleridge-Taylor: Music for Violin and Piano. Dutton 2003. Order or listen at Amazon.com Michael Dussek (piano) David Juritz (violin.) Background and program notes included. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in London in 1875, the illegitimate son of a Sierra Leone doctor (who returned to Africa) and an English mother, who later married. He was thus a black child of a white family, living in a lower middle class neighborhood. He studied violin while young and, quickly picked out as a talented child, was promoted by a local benefactor. At 15 he was acceped by the Royal College of Music and was composing at the age of 16.
Throughout his brief career (he died in 1912) he composed orchestral works such as Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, an early performance of which was met with a standing ovation. He also developed a career as a conductor, and made three trips to the U.S. where he was described as "the Black Mahler" and considered a leader for African American composers
The only works on this CD which reflect ethnic identity are the Four African Dances. For the most part, the selections are part of the salon tradition popular at the time...which is in no way meant as a criticism. The music here is engaging, romantic, a joy to listen to. My particular favorite is the compelling Sonata in D minor which, surprisingly, was not successful in his own time. It is richly and perfectly recreated here by Juritz and Dussek.
GIA Publications -
ATLANTA SINGS NEW WINE IN OLD WINESKINS
2011 GIA Publications Inc.
In the liner notes, Dr. James Abbington writes:
“Congregational singing is to be a purposeful act in worship...Congregations should sing the fullness of Scripture and the times...To be an authentic expression of faith, the beliefs embodied in the hymns must be...relevant to the people that sing them.”
Purposefulness, timeliness and relevance all inspired this latest collection of hymns from GIA, “New Wine in Old Wineskins.” In a twist on the familiar Scripture passage, the “wine” is a contemporary text set to an old familiar tune, such as Mary Louise Bringle’s moving “When Memory Fades” (for persons challenged by Alzheimer’s and their caregivers) set to the tune of “Finlandia.” But in addition to “new wine” from some of the world’s finest contemporary text writers such as Bringle, the printed collections and CD also include some “old wine” from pioneering Black composers like Harry T. Burleigh and Charles A. Tindley, as well as “new wineskins” by more recent Black composers including Oliver H. Owens and V. Michael McKay.
In March 2011, choir members from five Atlanta area churches came together under the direction of James Abbington and Uzee Brown in Cannon Chapel of Emory University to record 22 songs from Volumes 1 & 2 of the NEW WINE IN OLD WINESKINS Song Supplements. Selections include: I Am Kept by the Grace of God; Thank You for Hearing Our Prayer; O Lord, Fix Me; Renew in Me a Right Spirit; Christ Is for Losers; As We Enter; and Oh, Give Thanks. There is a depth and breadth and variety here that makes both the CD and the song supplements an invaluable resource for any congregation, large or small.
African American Church Music Series (Books, Hymnals, CDs, Sheet Music and more!)
In 2000, GIA Publications named Dr. James Abbington as Executive Editor of a new publishing venture, The African American Church Music Series. GIA had just published the African American Heritage Hymnal and intended to begin publishing a series of choral music by America's leading African American composers and arangers. The series now boasts over 150 titles already published or in the process. CDs have been produced to introduce music from both the Series and the Hymnal, usually featuring choirs from Morgan State University conducted by Dr. Abbington.
Stop By, Lord James Abbington, Conductor. Chicago, IL: GIA, 2004. CD and Scores. Order at GIA Music (I haven't heard this one)
"This special packet includes a copy of each of fourteen pieces from this series, plus a complete compact disc recording! Performed by a special New York City recording choir under the direction of Dr. James Abbington, with Joseph Joubert, piano, and a compliment of other fine instrumentalists."
Guide My Feet. James Abbington, Conductor. Chicago, IL: GIA, 2003. CD and Scores. Order at GIA Music
Fourteen selections from the African American Church Music Series. This diverse collection - from arranged spirituals to contemporary gospel - would make an excellent choral program. Most of the scores are for SATB and piano. The CD is invaluable because (besides being a joy to listen to ) it demonstrates descants and other improvisations which are not scored. For me, a stand-out piece in this collection is the medley arranged by Joseph Joubert, "The Precious Blood of Jesus." If this closed a choral program, there would not be a dry eye in the house!
How Excellent is Thy Name. James Abbington, Conductor. Chicago, IL: GIA, 2005. Order the CD at Amazon.com or CD and Scores GIA Music
The singers on this recording are graduates or current students of Morgan State University, conducted by Dr. James Abbington (who also serves as Executive Editor of the series.) The selections include arrangements of spirituals ("Hold On" arr. by Uzee Brown Jr.) and early gospel songs (Lucie Campbell's "Something Within" arranged by Nathan Carter) as well as contemporary works written specifically for choruses. My favorite piece - which would be perfect for commencement ceremonies - is "May the Work I've Done Speak for Me" by Sullivan Pugh, arranged by Colin Lett. This work certainly speaks for GIA's commitment to African American churches.
Beams of Heaven. James Abbington, Conductor. Chicago, IL: GIA, 2006. CD and Scores. Order at GIA Music
Every time I think this series couldn't possibly get any better, it does. The selections include psalm-based hymn arrangements, spirituals and gospels, and composers/arrangers were asked to submit pieces which could be used in worship not only by the choir but also the congregation. A wonderful discovery are the works of Bishop Charles Price Jones (1865-1949) a contemporary of Reverend Tindley who wrote over one thousand gospel songs. His hymn I Will Make the Darkness Light is presented in three distinct styles: first sung as written, then as a solo made popular by Sarah Jordan Powell, and finally as the gospel or "saints" version.
As always, variety is key. The title work, Beams of Heaven (composed by Charles A. Tindley, arranged by Robert E. Wooten Sr.) will joyously sweep you off your feet, while I Must Tell Jesus (Elisha A. Hoffman, arranged by Mattie L. Robertson) invites quiet contemplation. Though intended as an instructional resource, this CD - with the usual unparalleled performances of graduates and current Morgan State University students - makes for compelling listening. In the month since I received it, I don't think a day has passed when I haven't listened to several tracks. Highly recommended!
Use Me. James Abbington, Conductor. Chicago, IL: GIA, 2008. CD and Scores. Order at GIA Music
This is the fifth CD produced by GIA in a line of excellent recordings that contain many of the printed pieces from the African American Church Music Series. Featuring 17 pieces, the collection is diverse, compelling, and accessible to most church and community choirs. As usual, Abbington masterfully mixes the old with the new, and everything in between. You'll find settings of Negro spirituals like "I Know I Got Religion," "Done Made My Vow" and Uzee Brown's "Deep River." My favorite is Joseph Joubert's stunning arrangement of "Ride Up in the Chariot" featuring a solo soprano and a Broadway/gospel style piano. Traditional hand-clapping, foot-stomping gospel is represented in Eddie Robinson's "In The Word" and Frank Davis' " Savior, Lead Me." On the quieter side is the lovely contemporary Christmas lullaby "He Sleeps" by Charles Garner. The late Dr. Nathan Mitchell Carter Jr. (1936-2004), who led the Morgan State University Choir in performances all over the world while building it into one of the premier vocal groups in the nation, is remembered in his arrangements of "Precious Lord" and "I Know I Got Religion." Highly Recommended, whether you lead a choir or just cherish "joyful noise."
Jaygayle Music http://www.zenobiapowellperry.org/
Music of Zenobia Powell Perry, Volume I: Art Songs and Piano. Jaygayle Music, 2002. Biographical material and program notes enclosed. Janis-Rozena Peri, Soprano; John Crotty, Piano; Joyce Catalfano, Flute.
This is the first recording devoted to the works of Zenobia Perry (1908-) Having studied with Nathaniel Dett, William Dawson and Darius Milhaud, Perry taught for nearly 30 years at Central State Unviersity in Ohio, and has composed more than 100 pieces of music including piano music, art songs, chamber music, works for orchestra, band, chorus and an opera. Let's hope this is simply the first in a series; after this small sample, I'd love to hear more!
Koch International Classics
Florence Price. The Women's Philharmonic. KOCH International Classics, 2001. Program notes enclosed. Ap Hsu, Artistic Director & Conductor. Features premier recordings of "The Oak," Mississippi River Suite" and "Symphony No. 3." Order at Amazon.com
Florence Price (1888-1953) was American's first black woman composer to achieve international recognition, and she was highly celebrated in her lifetime. She was a neoromanticist who drew freely on African American folk idioms and fortunately, through work by those such as The Women's Philharmonic, she is being restored to her rightful "place among those important composers of the 1930's and 1940's who helped define America's voice in music."
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas barely a generation after the Emancipation Proclamation, she graduated from high school at the age of fourteen and entered the New England Conservatory of Music. She began her career as a music educator in the South at age nineteen, teaching at several colleges over the years before eventually moving to Chicago in 1927 to take advantage of wider opportunities available for blacks in the North. She won prizes in Holstein competitions in 1925 and 1927, and began to achieve fame in the early 1930's when her "Symphony in e minor" won the Rodman Wanamaker Foundation Award. This symphony was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Chicago World's Fair of 1933 and on several subsequent occasions.
"Symphony No. 3 in c minor," which is found on this CD, was premiered in 1940 by the WPA Symphony Orchestra in Detroit. It is solemn and lyrical in places, jubilant in others. It is everywhere rich and beautiful, drawing on European traditions such as French Impressionism but inspired by African American dance rhythms and folk melodies.
I especially enjoyed the haunting "Mississippi River Suite," which sweeps one down the river through various subtle arrangements of spirituals floating in and out of the piece. Simply gorgeous!
Watch and Pray: Spiritual and Art Songs by African-American Women Composers
This album appears to be available only in digital format. Twenty-one songs by Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Betty Jackson King and Julia Perry.
Leonarda Productions http://www.leonarda.com
Leonarda publishes recordings & educational materials on music & women in music
Kaleidoscope: Music by African-American Women. Leonarda Productions, 1995. Helen Walker-Hill, Piano, Gregory Walker, Violin. Program notes enclosed. Celebrates the lives and work of fourteen African-American women composers: Irene Britton Smith; Dorothy Rudd Moore (b. 1940); Julia Perry (1924 - 1979); Betty Jackson King (1928 - 1994); Margaret Bonds (1913 - 1972); Lettie Beckon Alston (b. 1953); Undine Smith Moore (1904 - 1989); Rachel Eubanks; Valerie Capers (b. 1935); Lena Johnson McLin (b. 1929); Regina Harris Baiocchi (b. 1956); Dorores White; Nora Douglas Holt (1885 - 1974); and Florence Price (1887 - 1953.)
I enjoyed this CD from beginning to end! It provides a wide and dazzling array of styles, from lush romanticism to pulsing atonal. The first work, Irene Britton Smith's 1947 Sonata, bowled me over with its haunting lyricism. Negro Dance by Nora Douglas Holt is a wonderful piece of classical ragtime composition that rivals anything I've heard by Joplin. (Holt was the first black in U.S. history to receive a master's degree in music.) Sadly, it is the only piece that survived out of some 200 works which were stolen from storage, and only because it had been published in her short-lived journal Music and Poetry (1921.) Margaret Bond's Troubled Water is a concert piece incorporating jazz idioms, based on the spiritual "Wade in the Water." Florence Smith Price's Fantasie Negre (1929), inspired by the spiritual "Sinner, Please Don't Let This Harvest Pass" is dedicated to Bonds, and is an ambitious work combining African-American melodic and rhythmic idoms with classical European forms.
The works are wonderfully performed by Helen Walker-Hill and her son, Gregory Walker, who have been performing as the Walker Duo since 1983. Walker-Hill is the author of a book, Piano Music by Black Women Composers: A Catalog of Solo and Ensemble Works, the editor of an anthology, Black Women Composers: A Century of Piano Music 1893 - 1990, and editor of the Vivace Press series, Music by African-American Women.
Music and Arts http://www.musicandarts.com
Piano Music by William Grant Still and Other Black Composers.Music & Arts, 1998. Monica Gaylord, piano. Program notes and biographies enclosed. Works by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), Robert Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943), William Grant Still (1895 - 1978), Duke Ellington (1899 - 1974), Howard Swanson (1907 - 1978), Ulysses Kay (1917 - 1996), and Oscar Peterson (b. 1925). Wonderful! There is something on this CD for every taste, and it provides an excellent introduction to a broad cross-section of musical styles: nineteenth-century romanticism, impressionism, jazz, Negro folk tunes, and contemporary classicism. Pianist Gaylord is equally at ease in any of these musical languages. Order or listen at Amazon.com
Musicians Showcase http://www.msrcd.com/
Senku: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent. Musicians Showcase Recordings, 2003. Read more at Amazon.com. William Chapman Nyaho, pianist. Extensive notes enclosed. Works: "Talking Drums" Joshua Uzoigwe NIGERIA (b. 1946); "Three Jamaican Dances" Oswald Russell JAMAICA (b. 1933); "Scherzo" Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson USA (b. 1932); "Deep River" Samuel Coleridge-Taylor ENGLAND (1875-1912); "Troubled Water" Margaret Bonds USA (1912-1972); "Variations on an Egyptian Folksong" Gamal Abdel-Rahim EGYPT ( 1924-1988); "In the Bottoms" Suite, Robert Nathaniel Dett USA (1882-1943); "Earthbeats, Op. 22" Gyimah Labi GHANA (b. 1950)
William Chapman Nyaho is a Ghanaian American, an independent scholar, teacher and concert pianist. His performances of the works here are stunning, but I'd also like to address the importance of this collection. These are not merely works by composers who happen to be of African descent; they are inspired and informed by ethnic influences. Joshua Uzoigwe's (Nigeria) "Talking Drums" juxtaposes the rhythmic and melodic characteristics found in African master drumming on the Ukom, Iyalu and small slit-drums, and are based on the Ukom scale and harmonic system. Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson's (USA) "Scherzo" is inspired by Chopin, blues and jazz. Gamal Abdel-Rahim's (Egypt) "Variations on an Egyptian Folksong" is compelling and intricate. But don't get me wrong...these are not intellectual exercises in nationalism. Each piece stands on its own musically, and the variety here makes this a compelling and wonderful CD from start to finish.
The Negro Speaks of Rivers. Musicians Showcase Recordings, 1999. Order or listen at Amazon.com. Odekhiren Amaize (Bass Baritone) with David Korevaar (piano). Art songs by African American composers: including Leslie Adams (b. 1933), Margaret Bonds (1913-1972), Charles Brown (b. 1940), Cecil Cohen (1894-1967), Undine S. Moore (b. 1904), Robert Owens (b. 1925), Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (b. 1932), Florence B. Price (1888-1953), Howard Swanson (1907-1978), George Walker (b. 1922) and John W. Work Jr (1901-1968). Amaize's excellent selection of art songs covers a wide range of poets, among them Sappho, Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Robert Burns. Whatever he's singing, you know it comes from someplace very deep in his soul. His deep, rich voice will linger in your mind long after the CD has stopped playing.
Ain't A That Good News: African-American Art Songs and Spirituals.HM Classics, 1998. Amazon.com Richard Heard. Lyric tenor Richard Heard, accompanied on piano by Pamela Howland, performs with a fresh, clear sound and an obvious enthusiasm for his repertoire, which features diverse composers including William Grant Still, John Work, Margaret Bonds, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, H.T. Burleigh and W.C. Handy. For more information visit his website at http://richardheard.iuma.com or contact him at email@example.com
Dreamer: A Portrait of Langston Hughes. Naxos, 2002. Darryl Taylor, Tenor, William Warfield, Narrator. This collection is a gem! Langston Hughes was a very "musical" poet who was inspired by a variety of forms, from jazz to classical. His poetry in turn inspired a whole generation of composers, thirteen of whom are represented here in fifteen art songs. Additionally, eight Hughes poems are read by William Warfield. African American composers included are Robert Owens (b. 1952); William Grant Still (1895-1978); Hale Smith (b. 1925); Margaret Bonds (1913-1971); Florence Price (1888-1953); Howard Swanson(1907-1978); Harriette Davison (1923-1978); Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949). Order or listen at Amazon.com
STILL: In Memoriam / Africa / Symphony No 1, 'Afro-American' Naxos , 2005. Fort Smith Symphony. Order CD at Amazon.com
Three orchestral works including "In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy," "Africa" (also known as: Darker Africa; Darkest Africa), suite in 3 movements for orchestra (or piano) and Symphony No.1 ("Afro-American")
New World Records http://www.newworldrecords.org
New World Records is a unique institution dedicated to the documentation of that American music which is largely ignored by commercial recording companies. The company currently averages 12-18 new titles per year, with music chosen from a wide repertory including jazz, rural folk, Native American, concert and choral, opera, sacred music, band music, popular songs and dances, musical theater, and songs of social import.
Black Manhattan: Members of the Legendary Clef Club. New World Records, 2004. Paragon Ragtime Orchestra. Order or listen at Amazon.com
This CD captures all the energy and optimism of the early Harlem Renaissance...you'll think you've been transported back in time.
Ragtime music is probably most familiar to people through two contemporary movies: The Sting, which brought Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" to public awareness, and Ragtime, with a score by Randy Newman. In my opinion, Newman's score pales in comparison with these originals. The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra faithfully interprets original orchestral scores of composers like James Reese Europe and Will Marion Cook so if, like me, you're used to hearing this music on scratchy old mono recordings, you're in for a real treat.
It's easy to see why this music took the country by storm at the turn of the century...I played this CD three times the first night I got it, because it captivated me. There's not a song here I don't like and there's such a good mixture of styles that it doesn't become repetitive.
As with all releases from New World Records, this one includes a booklet packed with historical and biographical information. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Donel Fox: Gone City. New World Records, 1997. Order or listen at Amazon.com
Videmus, with Vivian Taylor. Donel Fox (Piano) Quincy Troupe (Poet), William Brown (Tenor), Eric Thomas (Clarinet), John Lockwood (Double bass), Oliver Lake (Alto Sax). Biographies, program notes enclosed. Gone City is a collection of seven compositions, each of which interconnect thematically or emotionally with each otherRiver Town Packin House Blues (1993); T-Cell Countdown (1993); Gone City: Concert Version (1994); The Old People speak of Death (1993); Ballade for Clarinet and Piano (1993); Jazz Sets With T.T. (1991); Following the North Star Boogaloo (1993). This new music is highly inventive, part improvisation and part notated music... difficult to describe in words! So I'd suggest you listen for yourself at Amazon.com
Julius Hemphill Sextet. At Dr. King's Table. New World Records 1997. Order or listen at Amazon.com
A collection of 16 previously unrecorded works by groundbreaking jazz composer Julius Hemphill (1938-1995) with extensive liner notes.
Thad Jones Legacy. Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.New World Records, 1999 Order or listen at Amazon.com
Thad Jones (1923-1986) was a trumpeter, cornetist, valve trombonist, arranger and composer. He founded the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1966, which has performed continuously ever since (currently called the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.) This project presents the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra's loving and alert interpretations of nine of Jones' charts from the 1960's and 1970's. "A-That's Freedom," " Once Around," "Quiet Lady," "Central Park North," "Yours and Mine," "Fingers," " Groove Merchant," "All My Yesterdays," "My Centennial."
James Newton. As the Sound of Many Waters. New World Records, 2000. Order or listen at Amazon.com
Seven chamber works by James Newton (b. 1953) performed by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players.
Videmus: Works by T.J. Anderson, David Baker, Donal Fox, and Olly Wilson. New World Records, 1992. (Videmus is a Boston-based chamber organization established in 1986 to promote the music of minority and women composers.) Biographies, text and program notes enclosed. A fascinating fusion of jazz improvisation and classical concert techniques. I hear something new each time I listen! Order or listen at Amazon.com
Works by William Grant Still. Videmus. New World Records, 1990. Includes biography, lyrics, program notes and discography. Still (1895 - 1978) is considered the "Dean of Afro-American Composers." Since I'm a romantic at heart, I especially enjoyed "Summerland" and his gorgeous setting for Johnson's "Life Every Voice and Sing" gave me a lump in my throat. I've listened to many versions of The Negro National Anthem over the years, and feel that of all of them, this one truly captures the spirit of the text. Order or listen at Amazon.com
Frederick Tillis: Freedom. New World Records, 1996. Includes biography and program notes. Featuring The Lark Quartet; Paulina Stark (soprano) Nadine Shank (piano) Jon Humphrey (tenor) and the University of Massachusetts Chorale, Richard Du Bois, conductor. Frederick Tillis (b. 1930) is a black composer schooled in jazz and European classical music traditions. His style is eclectic, drawing on African American, African and Southeast Asian idioms, and his composition touches deep roots. The opening track on this CD, with Tillis solo playing soprano saxophone on "Motherless Child," will break your heart. Another powerful work is "Freedom", written by Tillis after hearing about Dr. King's assasination. Order or listen at Amazon.com
Original Jazz Classics
Afro/American Sketches: The Music of Oliver Nelson. Oliver Nelson Orchestra. Original Jazz Classics, 1961. Amazon.com
Oliver Nelson's first big-band date as a leader, this album pays tribute to the history of blacks in America, with such songs as "Jungleaire," "Emancipation Blues," "Going Up North" and "Freedom Dance."
Rarely Performed Piano Works: Seta Karakashian, piano. Romeo, 2004. Amazon.com
Contains Willliam Grant Still's "Kaintuck: Poem for Two Pianos"
Senrab Records P.O. Box 72430, Thorndale, PA 19372 (610) 384-3006
senrab at hotmail.com
You Can Tell The World: Songs by African-American Women Composers. Senrab Records, 2000. Sebronette Barnes, Soprano, Elise Auerbach, Piano. Order or listen at Amazon.com
Nineteen compositions gorgeously sung. Alas, no program notes or biographical material on the composers (though there are performer bios) so you'll need to supplement this with other resources. Works by Florence Price (1888-1953), Julia Perry (1924 - 1979) , Zenobia Powell Perry (1908 - ) , Betty Jackson King (1928 - 1994), Jeraldine Saunders Herbison (1941 - ) , Sharon J. Willis, Lena J. McLin (1928 - ), Margaret Bonds (1913 - 1972) , Jackie Hairston.
Summit Records http://www.summitrecords.com
Lilacs:the Music of George Walker. Summit Records, 2000. Biography, program notes by George Walker, and text enclosed. George Walker (piano) Gregory Walker (violin) Faye Robinson (soprano) ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. George Walker (b. 1922) is the first black composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music (1996), and this CD contains his prize-winning composition, "Lilacs," based upon Walt Whitman's poem. Walker's music is sometimes haunting, sometimes energetic, always deep and rich, providing a perfect musical expression of the text. Order or listen at Amazon.com
The artists under the Videmus label have created the standard for interpreting the concert music of African American and women composers. You'll find them on various labels above, or you can get further information at their web site.
William Grant Still - Master Player Music http://www.williamgrantstill.com
Dedicated to preserving and promoting the achievments of Afro-American composer and conductor, William Grant Still as well as those of minority and women composers. An extensive selection of books, recordings, and other educational materials, including a large catalog of sheet music by William Grant Still and other minority composers.
Back to Top
Classical Music Recordings of Black Composers: A Reference Guide http://astro.temple.edu/~rgreene/BlackComp
Compiled by Dr. Richard Greene of Temple University, this comprehensive discography of CD recordings identifies the recorded works of over 130 black composers. It is available both online and as a print version. The web site includes recent news, music references, recent recordings and suggested listening.
Myrtle Hart Society
This content rich site chronicles the heritage and ongoing actitivities of the classical community of color. You'll find their eNewsletter, reviews, events plus links to information about composers and artists, and many useful sites for the procurement of sheet music, scholarships, etc.
William Grant Still Music & The Master Player Library http://www.williamgrantstill.com/
Dedicated to preserving and promoting the achievments of Afro-American composer and conductor, William Grant Still as well as those of minority and women composers. An extensive selection of books, recordings, and other educational materials, including a large catalog of sheet music by William Grant Still and other minority composers.
Africlassical.com Composers and Musicians of African Descent
Recordings, classroom resources and more.
Afrocentric Voices in "Classical" Music http://www.afrovoices.com/
Bibliographies, a small but growing collection of biographies, chronology and a list of libraries and research centers that house collections of resources by and about African American musicians.
Archives of African American Music http://www.indiana.edu/~aaamc/index.html
From spirtuals to classical, the archives are dedicated to collecting and preserving the music of African American culture.
Center for Black Music Research http://www.colum.edu/cbmr/
"The CBMR is devoted to research, preservation, and dissemination of information about the history of black music on a global scale."
Center for Southern African American Music http://www.sc.edu/library/music/csam_archive.html
"South Carolina served as a portal for a vast majority of African and Caribbean slaves entering this country, and with them came a wealth of musical traditions and identities. Our history and identity as a nation and region are told in this music, in the spirituals, blues, ragtime, jazz and protest songs that developed from these early slave traditions. USC's Center for Southern African-American Music will establish the centricity of Southern African-American music by collecting, preserving, teaching and performing this music, asserting its importance both as a historical and living tradition."
Document Records http://www.document-records.com/
This site is more than just the world's largest (800 titles) catalogue for Vintage Blues, Gospel, Spirituals, Jazz and Country Music, with a little bit of World Music and Soul thrown in. It's also one of the biggest blues (and related music) projects around, with articles, search facilities and more.
N-Time Music http://www.ntimemusic.com
This is a great site for singers. If you're looking for gospel CDs, songbooks, sheet music, accompanyment/performance tapes (aka karaoke, but somehow that term doesn't sound right with gospel!) this is the first place to stop. If they don't have it, they can probably find it for you.
African American Art Song Alliance http://www.darryltaylor.com/alliance/
Founded in 1997, this is the home of interchange between performers and scholars interested in art song by African-American composers. Includes links, recordings, information on composers and more.
William Grant Still - Still Going On http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/sgo/
Still (1895 - 1978) is considered the "Dean of Afro-American Composers." (Though his daughter Judith Anne Still writes in William Grant Still: A Voice High-Sounding p. 206, that he responded "Why, then, isn't Aaron Copeland called the 'Dean of White Composers'?") This site provides historical information and discography, plus links to related collections at the Duke archives. You can listen to music by Still and others at Amazon.com, which carries the CD collection Piano Music by Still and other Black Composers.