May 20, 2022
May 24 concert celebrates music by black composers
On May 24, the School of Creative and Performing Arts presents A Celebration of Music by Black Composers IV featuring faculty and students from the Division of Music. This series was initiated in 2020, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The concert will present music by Eric Brian Lacy, Joseph Bologne, William Grant Still, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
“What’s special about this program is that it offers a sampling of musical works by Black composers from over four centuries,” says SCPA music professor Edmond Agopian.
From the 18th century classical style of Joseph Bologne, to the 19th century romantic style of Samuel-Coleridge Taylor, to the 20th century American jazz style of William Grant Still, and to the 21st century modernist style of Eric Brian Lacy, these works shed light on the creativity of Black composers who despite racism and oppression were able to excel as composers of music that ranges from solo works, to chamber music, to symphonic music, to opera, and so on.
The programme includes Sonata for Two Violins No. 3a in A major by Bologne, Invariant for two violins by Lacy, Suite for Violin and Piano by Still, and Clarinet Quintet Op. 10 by Coleridge-Taylor.
The featured musicians are Isaac Willocks and Edmond Agopian (violins), Ethan Mung (viola), Takumi Rodgers (cello), Sam Lucas (clarinet), and Jarome Harlea (piano).
About the composers
Contemporary American composer Eric Brian Lacy has composed music for every medium, including orchestral and chamber music works, as well as music for film and video games. His unique ability to combine romanticism with 21st century compositional techniques brings a lush and expressive quality to his music, and his music has been performed worldwide.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) sought to draw from African-American music and integrate it into the classical tradition. In a revealing quotation in the preface to Twenty-Four Negro Melodies, he writes: “What Brahms has done for the Hungarian folk music, Dvorak for the Bohemian, and Grieg for the Norwegian, I have tried to do for these Negro melodies.”
William Grant Still (1895-1978) was undoubtedly one of the most influential African-American composers of the early 20th century. His composition career started when he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in the era of Jim Crow segregation, when Oberlin was one of the few major conservatories that admitted Black students. The premiere of Still’s Afro-American Symphony in 1931 signalled one of the earliest works by an African-American composer to gain a place in the orchestral canon. In the work’s title, Still identified his race with pride, inspired by the cultural activism of the Harlem Renaissance.
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), began his professional career as a musician with Les Concerts des Amateurs. He made a sensational debut as a soloist with that orchestra in 1772, playing two violin concerti of his own composition. In 1773, he was named the conductor of the orchestra. Under his leadership, it became regarded as the finest orchestra in Paris and one of the finest in all Europe. In 1781, Bologne became director of the newly formed orchestra Le Concert Olympique. He composed string quartets, violin concertos, orchestral works, operas and other works.