Classical Stories
1:44 pm
Sun February 13, 2011

Black History Month on WRTI


African-American composers and performers are in the spotlight this month.

Tune in to hear works by composers including William Grant Still, William Levi Dawson, Scott Joplin, and George Walker - the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize in music in 1996. We'll also hear music composed by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; although he was British, he had a strong following in America.

Click to Listen: "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Chamber Music: Five Negro Melodies for Piano Trio Op. 59, No. 1

William Grant Still is probably the best-known African-American composer of the early to mid-20th century. Over the years, Stills' first symphony has been his only work to be performed and recorded with any regularity. Thanks to the Naxos record label, we can now hear world-premiere recordings of Still's 4th and 5th symphonies.

While many black composers who wrote serious concert music weren't necessarily American born, some had a connection to our nation. The black composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was born in England, and first came to America in the early 20th century. He was a sought-after composer/conductor who made several American appearances; he absorbed African-American culture and used this knowledge as inspiration in many of his musical compositions.

Tune in or listen online for a month of beautiful and historically significant music.

Click to Listen: A brief excerpt from William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1 - "Afro-American"

African Heritage in Classical Music - an excellent website with information about 52 composers and instrumental performers