Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sergio A. Mims: Conductor Brandon Keith Brown interviewed on my radio show Wednesday, July 1, 2015, 12-3 PM US Central Time, 88.5 FM & www.whpk.org

Brandon Keith Brown

Sergio A. Mims writes:

I wanted to let you and all your readers know that conductor Brandon Keith Brown will be interviewed on my radio show this Wednesday July 1st on WHPK-FM Chicago (88.5 FM and live streamed on www.whpk.org 12-3PM U.S. Central Time)

Also on my show I will broadcast Felix Weingartner's Symphony No. 2   and Franz Schubert's opera Die Fruende von Salamanka.


John Malveaux: May 24 Freedom Concert footage includes Soprano Sheila Yvette Judson, with Pianist Polli Chambers-Salazar, singing 'I Am Moses, the Liberator'

Soprano Sheila Yvette Judson, with Pianist Polli Chambers-Salazar

John Malveaux of 

MusicUntold.com presented the Freedom Concert -150th Anniversary of the End of the Civil War - 13th Amendment Abolish Slavery. The concert included Soprano Sheila Yvette Judson, with Pianist Polli Chambers-Salazar, singing 'I Am Moses, the Liberator' from the opera 'Harriett Tubman: When I Crossed That Line To Freedom by composer and lyricist Nkeiru Okoye

John Malveaux

Comment by email:

1) [Forwarded by John Malveaux] Thank you for sending.  She did a great job with the aria.  Nkeiru [Nkeiru Okoye]

2) Wow!  Thank you so much.  I thoroughly enjoyed performing the aria.  Best,
Sheila [Sheila Yvette Judson]

Monday, June 29, 2015

John Malveaux: Documentary 'What Happened, Miss Simone?' is available on Netflix and the current time is most appropriate to attend

John Malveaux of 

On Thursday, June 25, 2015, John Malveaux attended screening of WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The documentary is available on Netflix and the current time is most appropriate to see WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?

John Malveaux

Dominique-René de Lerma: A New Publisher Series

Dominique-René de Lerma:


William Grant Still Music, the prime source and more often only source for the music of this major composer (1895-1978), has initiated a new series, Done found my lost sheep, which, it might be guessed, is directed to the publication of music from the past -- either in reissue or in first edition.  Such a project has not been previously contemplated.

The Arizona-based firm has long made available not only printed music, but audio and video recordings in various format, books, well as specialty products and materials directed  for the young, providing extensive documentation on its namesake, but has recently become the source for works by others from Black music history -- the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, as an example.

Now comes the new series, which promises to provide new repertoire of older music for the student, teacher, scholar, and professional.  A directory of currently available materials is located at http://www.williamgrantstill.com/

The new series is initiated with the ballad for soprano and piano, Henry, previously available only in the first edition of 1812.  With a vocal range well within the treble clef and piano accompaniment readily within the ability of most keyboardists, the song lends itself readily for student or professional recital.
Now in production is the second title within the series, a version of the same song which was featured in the City of London's festivities for the 200th anniversary of the abolishment   of slavery. The future of the series is projected to include works of France's Saint-Georges, Cuba's Joseph White y Lafitte, and England's Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, along with works by Black Americans such as Will Marion Cook, Frank Johnson, and Frederick Jerome Work.

Mail to William Grant Still Music may be directed to 809 W. Riordan Road, Suite 100, Box 109, Flagstaff AZ 86001-0810,  Phone: (928) 526-9355 ,Fax: (928) 526-0321, or Email: discovermusic@williamgrantstill.com.

Dominique-René de Lerma

Sunday, June 28, 2015

University of Arkansas Little Rock: Hear Florence Price’s heroic, virtuoso 'Piano Sonata in E Minor' now on 'A Celebration of American Music' by Linda Holzer, piano

Dr. Linda Holzer
Coordinator of Classical Piano Studies
Music Department
University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Florence B. Price was the first African-American woman composer to have her music performed by a major symphony. She was also a Little Rock native.  (Credit University of Arkansas Libraries Special Collections)

Florence B. Price is the second of three American Women Composers heard on A Celebration of American Music, a special program of piano and piano chamber music. It will air on KLRE Classical 90.5 Sunday, June 28, 2015 at 7 p.m. and again Friday, July 3, 2015 at 7 p.m. Audio of the program will be accessible on this page following the first broadcast. 

Florence B. Price (1887-1953) is profiled at AfriClassical.com,  which features a comprehensive Works List by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma, http://www.CasaMusicaledeLerma.com. 

Florence Price (1887-1953), a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, was a pioneer in the field of American classical music in the early twentieth century. She became the first black woman composer to earn an international reputation for her work, and was among the first American composers to integrate her Negro heritage with Western art music. Price's father, Dr. James H. Smith, was a dentist, and her mother, Florence Gulliver, was a school teacher with some musical training who was her daughter’s first piano teacher. Young Florence Smith was an excellent student, and graduated from Capitol High School in Little Rock in 1903 as the valedictorian of her class. She traveled to Boston and enrolled at the New England Conservatory of Music, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1906. This institution was among the few professional music schools in the country that accepted students regardless of race. She taught on the music faculties of historically black colleges in Georgia and Arkansas for several years.

In 1912 Florence Smith married attorney Thomas J. Price and the couple settled in Little Rock, where Thomas Price was partner in a law firm. His law firm was involved in several contentious civil rights cases, including the Elaine Race Riot Case in 1919. The Prices decided to move north to Chicago in 1926. Having lived in Boston during her student days at the New England Conservatory, Florence Price quickly found ways to take advantage of Chicago's cultural riches and the thriving artistic contingent of the urban black community. Among the pieces she composed in Chicago was the formidable Piano Sonata in E Minor (1932). Shortly after that, she won the Wanamaker Award for her 1st symphony, which was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933 as part of the World’s Fair, known as “A Century of Progress.” The performance was attended by First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, who wrote about it in her column, “My Day.” Price’s heroic, virtuoso Piano Sonata in E Minor is featured on A Celebration of American Music program. Performer is Linda Holzer, piano, in concert at UALR.

Comment by email:
Thank you, Bill.  If you’d like to add this link to the blog, it includes the MP3 of the broadcast.

Even if someone wasn’t able to tune in for the 7 PM broadcast today, KLRE is making the full hour program available on their web site via MP3. Thanks very much, Linda Holzer

Tweet Favorited
By Eunice Mullins (@elm57

OvergrownPath.com: Music as a bridge between form and the formless

Hamza El Din (1929-2006)

Bob Shingleton of On An Overgrown Path writes:

A line of transmission from Hamza El Din to John Luther Adams - http://goo.gl/Ve1OZc



Sunday, June 28, 2015

Music as a bridge between form and the formless 

It was only when I stood on the Aswan High Dam and looked south across Lake Nasser that I really understood the tragedy of the Nubian people. Beneath more than 2000 square miles of water lie the Nubian homelands that were flooded when the dam was built in the 1960s, and between the dam and Aswan are the soulless villages that the Nubians were resettled in. Hamza El Din (1929-2006) - seen above - made it his mission to preserve the Nubian culture that was being extinguished by the waters of Lake Nasser. He was born in the Nubian village of Toshka which was flooded when the High Dam was built. After training as an electrical engineer he went on to study Arabic music in Cairo and Western music at the Academy of Santa Celia in Rome before moving to the West Coast of the States. He played at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, recorded two albums for Vanguard, jammed with the Grateful Dead and taught at the the legendary Mills College in Oakland, California. A collaboration with the Kronos Quartet followed an introduction by Terry Riley, and Hamza El Din's sparse and repetitive oud lines are though to have influenced the development of the minimalist style. His two classic albums are Escalay (The Water Wheel) - seen above - recorded for Nonesuch in 1971, and Eclipse, produced by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart in 1988. 

The Nubians practise a syncretic mix of Islam and ancient animism, and Hamza El Din was influenced by Sufi mysticism. Dr H.J. Witteveen has written that: "Of all the arts music has a particular spiritual value and meaning, because it helps [us] to concentrate or meditate independently of thought: and therefore music seems to be the bridge between form and the formless. This is why music has always played an important role in Sufism." The Nubian Dhul-Nun al-Misri (830 CE) was an Egyptian hermetic and Sufi who, according to the authoritative British Orientalist R A Nicholson, "above all others gave to the Sufi doctrine its permanent shape". Animistic and shamanistic elements mix with Islam in the Nubian religion, and the anthropologists Marlene Dobkin de Rios and Fred Katz have described how in shamanistic rituals, music provides "pathways and bannisters" between the familiar form of everyday waking consciousness and the formless mystery of higher levels of consciousness. That line of transmission from Hamza El Din to the Minimalists continues through to John Luther Adams. The shamanist rituals of indigenous Alaskans influence John Luther Adams' post-minimalist music - notably in Strange and Sacred Noise - and his best known work Become Ocean has a coincidental but poignant link to the tragedy of the Nubians

Also on Facebook and Twitter. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Renowned American Composer and Pianist George Walker, born in 1922, has large number of recordings to his credit as he turns 93 on June 27, 2015

George Walker (b. 1922) 
has a website at http://georgetwalker.com/

and is featured at AfriClassical.com

On June 8, 2015 AfriClassical posted:

Among the significant events of George Walker's 92nd year was the Mannes Beethoven Institute of 2015.  We linked to a New York Times article of June 5, 2015 b

The unimaginatively named Mannes Beethoven Institute has in recent years reached far beyond Beethoven, pairing his works with those by contemporary composers. Stephen Hartke and Peter Lieberson were recently featured; for this year’s lineup, music by the New Jersey-based composer George Walker is in the spotlight.

In 1996, Mr. Walker, now 92, became the first black composer to win a Pulitzer Prize, for “Lilacs,” a short piece for soprano and orchestra based on a poem by Walt Whitman.
Mr. Walker trained as a pianist at the Curtis Institute with Rudolf Serkin, and his compositional mentors included Rosario Scalero and Nadia Boulanger. His large catalog features several concertos, numerous chamber pieces and five piano sonatas; he has received commissions from the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.
Despite those accolades, his works are infrequently performed, and the program on Wednesday at Mannes offered a welcome chance to hear two pieces of contrasting character. Indeed, it seemed unlikely that the same composer had written the spiky Violin Sonata No. 2 (1979) and the luxuriant “Lyric for Strings.” The violinist Miranda Cuckson was the fiery soloist in the violin sonata, deftly paired with the pianist Thomas Sauer, the director of the Mannes Beethoven Institute.

Comment by email:
Hello Bill, It's very kind of you to remember my birthday. I am most 
appreciative of your thoughtfulness. Best regards. George  [George Walker]

By BookChick (@bookchick1327)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Richard C. Alston: Alston, Lee, & Artisson perform Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Arrangement of 'Deep River' Arranged for Piano Trio (4:32) (YouTube)

is profiled at AfriClassical.comwhich
features a comprehensive Works List and a  
Bibliography by Dr. Dominique-René de

Uploaded on Aug 28, 2006
Richard Alston, pianist Christopher Lee, violinist Ellison Arttison, cellist perform the Negro Spiritual "Deep River" based on the arrangement by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor included in his 24 Negro Melodies. Arranged as a trio by Karl Rissland. 
Please visit my web site

Richard C. Alston writes:

Hello and Good Morning Bill,

In memory of

State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Emanuel African Methodist ChurchCynthia Hurd,  Tywanza Sanders,  Sharonda Singletonn, Myra Thompson,  Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson,  the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. and DePayne Doctor.

Condolences to their families,

Richard Alston  

19th Annual Sphinx Competition for young Black & Latino string players, February 3 - 7, 2016, Applications Due November 10, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sandra Bailey is New Principal Bassoon of Chicago Sinfonietta; Project Inclusion Fellow Takes On A Leadership Role With The Nation’s Most Diverse Orchestra

Sandra Bailey

Chicago, IL (June 24, 2015) - Chicago Sinfonietta, a professional orchestra focused on promoting diversity, inclusion, and innovative programming in the field of classical music, is pleased to announce the appointment of Sandra Bailey as Principal Bassoon for the coming 2015-16 season. Bailey won the appointment through blind auditions that took place on Wednesday June 10, 2015.  She recently graduated from the Sinfonietta’s industry-leading professional development program, Project Inclusion.
"Chicago Sinfonietta’s Project Inclusion,” explains Maestro Mei-Ann Chen, “is a special two-year program that works to prepare and mentor musicians of diverse backgrounds as they pursue careers as professional classical musicians. A serious, intense, and inspiring program, Project Inclusion provides musicians with professional experience and guidance they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.“
Chen recommended Bailey apply for the Project Inclusion Fellowship while a freshman at Northwestern University. Previously she worked with Bailey as part of the prestigious Boston University Tanglewood Institute program in Massachusetts. Chen speaks about her time with Bailey,
“…During her time as a Fellow, my colleagues and I were pleased to witness Sandra's growth and maturing musical personality on and off the stage.  Sandra's accomplishments on bassoon to date makes her an ideal example of Project Inclusion's impact on the professional orchestral scene. The Chicago Sinfonietta is proud to have played an important role in helping Sandra find her true voice as an extremely gifted performer.”
"I am honored that such experienced players have invited me in their music making,” Bailey commented. “I'm looking forward to giving my all. There's nothing that can replace professional experience and I'm honored to have the opportunity. The Project inclusion program has allowed me the space to grow professionally, giving me the confidence to strive for my highest musical goals."
Bailey will begin performing as principal bassoon in October as part of the 2015-16 season of the Chicago Sinfonietta. “All of us in the Chicago Sinfonietta are thrilled and excited to continue working with Sandra in her new role as our new Principal Bassoon,” Chen states. “It is with great pleasure that I congratulate her.”

Sandra Bailey Sandra Bailey, 21, studies with David McGill at Northwestern University. In 2011 she won the Jack Kent Cooke Artist Scholarship, which gave her the opportunity to appear and perform on From The Top, a nationally syndicated radio show. With the guidance of From the Top staff, she has done musical outreach projects and fundraising performances with Christopher O’Riley, under hosts such as Joshua Bell and the WGBH Studios in Boston, Massachusetts. In the summer of 2012 she attended the Castleton Music Festival under conductor Lorin Maazel. She became a Chicago Sinfonietta member in 2013. In the summer of 2013 Sandra attended the Brevard Music Festival where she won the Jan and Beattie Wood Concerto Competition. She attended the ‘Musik Akademie Westfalen 2013′ under conductor Krzysztof Penderecki and recently the Orchestra De La Francophone 2014 under Jean Philippe.  She was one of three winners of the Evanston Music competition and was a finalist Northwestern University Concerto Competition, Skokie Valley Concerto Competition and Hellam Concerto Competition. She won second place in the national 2014 Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition and was a first place winner in the American Protégé International Concerto Competition 2014, where she performed Hummel Bassoon Concerto in F Major in December at Carnegie Hall.
More about the Chicago Sinfonietta The Chicago Sinfonietta is a professional orchestra that forms unique cultural connections through the universal language of symphonic music. For over 27 years, the Sinfonietta has pushed artistic and social boundaries to provide an alternative way of hearing, seeing and thinking about a symphony orchestra.  Each concert experience fuses inventive new works with classical masterworks from a diverse array of voices to entertain, transform and inspire. The Chicago Sinfonietta performs five subscription concerts in both downtown Chicago at Symphony Center and in Naperville at Wentz Concert Hall. The Sinfonietta has a proud history of having enriched the cultural, educational and social quality of life in Chicago under the guidance of Founding Music Director Paul Freeman.  Mei-Ann Chen succeeded Paul Freeman as the Chicago Sinfonietta’s Music Director beginning with the 2011-12 season. In 2012 the Sinfonietta was honored with two national awards for excellence from the League of American Orchestras, one for adventurous programming and one recognizing Maestro Chen with the Helen M. Thompson Award for an Emerging Music Director.

For more information on the Project Inclusion Conducting Fellowship program, visit http://www.chicagosinfonietta.org/education/project-inclusion/.

NPR.org: Unearthed In A Library, 'Voodoo' Opera Rises Again

 Harry Lawrence Freeman, the Harlem Renaissance composer of the opera Voodoo.
H. Lawrence Freeman Papers, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University

National Public Radio

Unearthed In A Library, 'Voodoo' Opera Rises Again

TheStar.co.uk: Romanian-Nigerian pianist Rebeca Omordia will share the stage with...Amy Dickson. [Omordia will play 4 piano studies of Fred Onovwerosuoke]

Rebeca Omordia and Fred Onovwerosuoke

Saxophonist Amy Dickson

On May 19, 2015 AfriClassical posted:

Fred Onovwerosuoke forwards correspondence he has exchanged with Rebeca Omordia:

Dear Fred,

Please see below more publicity in the Sheffield Telegraph for 24 June Bradfield Festival.
Here's the link to the publication :

Very best,

Brava, Rebeca, a big BRAVA to you! Amy Dickson is a multi-Grammy nominee. Thanks for sharing. In our prayers that within our lifetime we'll see more performers and composers of color sharing many more arenas of classic music, both large and small. Be well, my friend. 


Sergio A. Mims: BBC.com: Joseph Emidy: From slave fiddler to classical violinist [The remarkable life of a former slave who became a pioneer of classical music]

Joseph Emidy led the Truro Philharmonic Orchestra 
(Royal Cornwall Museum)

The 'boss' dedicated to Joseph Emidy will remain in Truro Cathedral

A plaque to mark the life of Joseph Emidy was installed in Falmouth in 2005

Sergio A. Mims:

  • 21 June 2015

The "genius" violinist Joseph Emidy, from West Africa, was enslaved for two long periods of his eventful life.

But having finally gained his freedom in 1799, Emidy became "Britain's first composer of the African diaspora".

His achievements were marked at Truro Cathedral on Sunday with the erection of a 'boss' - a painted wooden carving featuring a violin and a map of Africa.
On his death in 1835, The West Briton newspaper reported in Emidy's obituary: "As an orchestral composer, his sinfonias may be mentioned as evincing not only deep musical research, but also those flights of genius."
Emidy is thought to have been born in 1775 and was sold into slavery at the age of 12.

What is known of Emidy's life comes largely from the autobiography of one of his students, the anti-slavery politician James Silk Buckingham.

Emidy was first taken to work on plantations in Brazil before he was brought to Lisbon in Portugal by his "owner or master".

Silk Buckingham wrote: "Here he manifested such a love for music, that he was supplied with a violin and a teacher; and in the course of three or four years he became sufficiently proficient to be admitted as one of the second violins in the orchestra of the opera at Lisbon."

But Emidy's freedom to perform the music he loved was curtailed by the English naval commander, Sir Edward Pellew.

Sir Edward and his crew frequented the Lisbon Opera House while their ship, the Indefatigable, was undergoing repairs in 1795.

They were so impressed by Emidy's talents a press gang was sent to kidnap him to "furnish music for the sailors' dancing".

The Indefatigable set sail the next day and Emidy spent the next four years entertaining his shipmates with "hornpipes, jigs, and reels".

Emidy was finally discharged four years later in the port of Falmouth on 28 February 1799.

By Nathaniel Dett Chorale (@ndettchorale

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dominique-René de Lerma: Satan In The Conservatory

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Dominique-René de Lerma

            My years at Morgan State University (1975-1990) had been a salvation; I was rescued from an intolerable racist and political environment and brought into one where the same musical potentials were present, where being African American could be a source of great pride (Leontyne Price called it "the luxury of being Black"), but only achieved often with victories over sociological disadvantage and philosophical misdirection.   This was in Morgan's first really golden age, before Eric Conway fell heir to the firm foundation established by Nathan Carter, carrying the school to even greater international importance.  It has just been raised to university status when I arrived.  While the college's history included Shirley Graham DuBois,  Eva Jessye,  Lonnie Liston Smith, and Anne Brown, it was the Choir, starting in the 1970s, that shot the school's musical reputation from performances at Baltimore's churches to concerts and recording sessions in London, Copenhagen, Helsinski, and (almost) Leningrad --  why the Soviets cancelled the concerts when we were all ready to be bussed to the event was never explained.
Quite soon I became sensitive to the perestroika between the singers and the instrumentalists -- a division that has not been exceptional at other music schools, where the jazzers are absent from the song recital and the singer has no temptation to give notice to the other world.  This was brought home to be particularly when a bandsman made contrasting reference to the "musicians and singers."  My comment, as kindly as I could express it, was that this instrumentalist would spend all of his life trying to perform as a singer, but might never make it.
Instrumentalists, very much a part of the written tradition, observe that singers usually perform without music (but for choral performances, where the notation has become irrelevant) and often need to be coached in their rhythms as undergraduates, that they learn even more from the oral tradition than their counterparts.
When I studied with Marcel Tabuteau at the Curtis Institute, I was not alone in being introduced to his concept of phrasing, rationally represented by numbers.  Had Tabuteau been more alert to singers, he would have been aware of the natural phrasing that results from the text's rhetoric.  He insisted that all music had an upbeat which, in a text, would be an article, perhaps with an adjective.  When the theory teacher assigns s strong beat to the start of a measure, he might notice this is where the previous harmonic motion has reached a pause, however temporary, with a consonance, but neglect to alert his class to the performance implications; one always moves from dissonance to a resolution, just as articles and adjectives must be followed by a noun.  This can be observed by looking at Beethoven's dynamics.
There is more behind the instrumentalist-singer dichotomy, especially in a Black school.  The singer is found in church on Sunday mornings, while the instrumentalist spends the previous night in the jazz club.  There's the rub.
Morgan was loaded with vocal talent, certainly in equal proportion to that found in the nation's most celebrated schools.  It was from this foundation that Morgan produced such stars from Betty Ridgeway's studio as Kevin Short, Maysa Leak, Kishna Davis...  These were among those whose careers became possible, not only from talent, but from a willingness to study all that the profession demanded -- requisites not even imagined by the naively gifted.   As I told Kishna after she astonished the faculty at her freshman audition with a Puccini aria, her talent was her cross.  There were many others with an extraordinary gift, but who lacked the courage to go the rest of the way, who felt they were ready immediately, right then and there.
Most painful during my stay was an exceptional and true contralto, one whose voice was wonderfully rich, with a thrilling texture.  When she sang Schubert's Der Tod und das Mädchen, so she needed more work with her diction, but the final low bass-clef D was as glorious as anything I had ever heard.  We met in my office, and she expressed a curiosity about Marian Anderson, someone she had only heard about briefly.  I told her Mahler and Brahms were impatient for her, even if she never heard of them.  All this was totally new to her, and there is nothing more exciting than a young person just finding out what a superb career in the arts talent would make possible, if they met the demands.
I left Morgan as she was to enter her second year, urgently called by Samuel Floyd to become director of the Center for Black Music Research in Chicago.  I had little difficulty following the evolution of the careers of Kevin, Maysa, Kishna (check the internet!), and the others who had won my devotion and support, but what of the contralto?  Alas, her church convinced her that Schubert, Mahler, and Brahms wrote the devil's music and, like Mahalia Jackson, she left the poorly identified secular world behind.  She could certainly have continued singing in church, but her ill-informed advisors won with no compromise.  How I would have wished they knew music well enough to realize the godliness of that music which also was so beneficial to the soul!. 

Dominique-René de Lerma

John Malveaux: NPR.org: Pulitzer Prize-Winning Musician Gunther Schuller Dies At 89

Gunther Schuller (1925-2015)

John Malveaux of 

Gunther Schuller bridged classical music and jazz http://www.npr.org/2015/06/22/416390008/pulitzer-prize-winning-musician-gunther-schuller-dies-at-89


National Public Radio

Gunther Schuller, who bridged classical music and jazz, has died at age 89. The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, conductor and educator ranged widely in his musicianship.

Monday, June 22, 2015

In Memoriam, Gunther Alexander Schuller, 1925-2015: Dominique-René de Lerma

Gunther Alexander Schuller (1925-2015)

Dominique-René de Lerma

He was born in New York, the son of a violinist with the New York Philharmonic (1923-1965): German-born Arthur Schuller.  His formal education began at a private school in Germany (1932-1936) then in New York at the St. Thomas Choir School, with pre-college study at the Manhattan School of Music.  He never was a university student, although a high-school dropout who never earned a college diploma, he held ten honorary doctorates.  While in high school, he was introduced to the music of Duke Ellington on a radio broadcast, remaining an Ellington enthusiast for life.   He was only 15 when he joined the orchestra of the American Ballet Theatre as hornist in 1943, the same year he was appointed principal horn with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to 1945, then occupying the same position with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra until 1959.
He had already become active in jazz, working with John Lewis by 1955.  In later years he worked, mainly as arranger, with the Modern Jazz Quartet, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charles Mingus, but he was a sideman in recordings with Frank Sinatra (1950), Mitch Miller (1951), Gigi Gryce (1955), Johnny Mathis (1956), and Miles Davis (1949, with Birth of the cool).  In 1957 at Brandeis University, he introduced the term "third stream," indicating an ecumenical alliance of jazz with concert music.  With David Baker, he was conductor of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.
He visited T. J. Anderson after T.J.'s move to Tufts University where, following supper, T. J. played a tape recording of his 1972 Atlanta performance of Scott Joplin's Treemonisha.  Gunther subsequently made his own arrangement of the opera, commercially videotaped and recorded in Houston, followed by tours.  A second version secured a 2012 performance in London.
Early jazz (1968) and The sing era (1991) are significant histories, which he published with Oxford University Press.
As administrator, he was director of the Tanglewood Music Center (1965-1984), meanwhile serving as president of the New England Conservatory.  From 1993, he directed the Northwest Bach Festival in Spokane. 
He died in a Boston hospital, to the sound of Beethoven's final symphony.
On a personal note: I invited Gunther to participate in the 1969 conference held at Indiana University (reference: Black music in our culture, Kent: Kent State University Press, 1970).  Although he replied with regrets, he nonetheless attended on his own, observing the lack of ethnic identity taking place in the globalization of music.  I next encountered him at Lawrence University where he greeted me, surprised I had left Indiana.  He was then on his way to a university convocation where he spoke on the importance of a liberal-arts education, not having realized this was the prime mission of the University.  He returned to Lawrence two more times, a guest of Professor Robert Levy.  At the first of these, we sat together at a luncheon, discussing Leopold Stokowski.  A musical polymath -- prodigy horn player, Pulitzer-prize composer, advocate of the Third Stream, jazz historian and performer, publisher, administrator -- he secured popular notice with his recordings of Scott Joplin while at the New England Conservatory (167-1977).  I was ever tempted, but never followed through, to call his attention to Paul Laurence Dunbar's text for Will Marion Cook's 1903 In Dahomey: "When they hear our ragtime tunes, White folks try to pass for coons."

Dominique-René de Lerma

Sergio A. Mims: New York Times: ‘Voodoo,’ Opera by the African-American Composer H. Lawrence Freeman, Is Revived

Musicians rehearse at the Convent Avenue 
Baptist Church for “Voodoo,” a long-
unheard opera by the pioneering 
African-American composer and Harlem 
Renaissance figure H. Lawrence Freeman.
James Estrin/The New York Times 

Sergio A. Mims:

No doubt this is a major story of vast importance.

Michael Cooper

June 21, 2015

He was described as a black Wagner in the late 19th century, went on to write more than 20 operas and formed the Negro Grand Opera Company, which he once conducted at Carnegie Hall. But after the pioneering African-American composer H. Lawrence Freeman died in 1954, he fell into obscurity, with his works unpublished, unrecorded and, for decades, unperformed.

Until now. Mr. Freeman’s opera “Voodoo,” about a love triangle on a plantation in post-Civil War Louisiana, will be given its first performances since 1928 on Friday and Saturday at the Miller Theater at Columbia University. The revival offers a glimpse of a nearly forgotten chapter of African-American operatic achievement, and another chance for Mr. Freeman to claim the place in musical history he had always sought against long odds, lengthened by discrimination.

“Voodoo” might have remained an unheard and unperformed historical footnote had Mr. Freeman’s family not placed his papers and scores in Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 2007. The collection interested scholars, who were drawn to his accounts of the Harlem Renaissance, and also came to fascinate Annie Holt, a graduate student who cataloged it. A year later she helped start a small opera company of her own, Morningside Opera, with the vague idea of someday mounting one of Mr. Freeman’s forgotten operas.

That is how the strains of “Voodoo,” in which passages of Wagnerian grandeur alternate with spirituals and a cakewalk, came to be heard again for the first time in decades last week in practice rooms at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem, where Morningside Opera and its partners in the production, Harlem Opera Theater and the Harlem Chamber Players, ran through the work.

The rehearsal drew Alberta Grannum Zuber, 88, who joined the Freeman family when one of her sisters married the composer’s son, Valdo. Ms. Zuber sang a small role in Mr. Freeman’s Egyptian-theme opera “The Martyr” when he conducted it at Carnegie in 1947. As she listened to the young singers bring the long-dormant “Voodoo” back to life, Ms. Zuber said that she did not think that Mr. Freeman ever doubted that he would be remembered for posterity.

“I think he felt it in his bones,” she said.