Saturday, February 24, 2018 TCC [Tacoma Community College] Orchestra to feature works by African American composers, Friday, March 2 at 7:30 PM

Dr. Nse Ekpo will be a guest conductor of Scott Joplin’s classical ragtime compositions when the TCC Orchestra performs works by a trio of African American composers on March 2. Photo courtesy of Nse Ekpo

Tacoma Weekly

By Dave Davison

February 23, 2018

The Tacoma Community College Orchestra, conducted by Dr. John Falskow and Dr. Nse Ekpo, is slated to perform a concert March 2 at 7:30 p.m. The program, featuring music by African-American composers, is called “American Expressions.”
On the schedule for the evening are three of Scott Joplin’s ragtime compositions, from “The Red Back Book;” George Walker’s “Lyric for Strings” and Florence Price’s “Symphony No. 1.”

Price is especially interesting. She was an African American composer who was based in Chicago. Born in Little Rock, Ark. in 1887, she died in 1953 and her music was largely neglected during her lifetime, though she did receive some national attention and some of her works were performed by the Chicago Symphony.

Joplin (1868-1917), the “King of Ragtime,” wrote 44 ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet and two operas over the span of his career. Joplin refined the ragtime music of honky-tonk piano players and combined Afro-American music’s syncopation with 19th-century European romanticism to elevate the form.

Walker, who is still with us, is the first African American composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music, which was awarded for “Lilacs” in 1996. “Lyric for Strings,” the piece to be played by the TCC Orchestra, was written in 1946 after the death of Walker’s grandmother. It was composed while Walker was a graduate student at the Curtis Institute of Music. After a brief introduction, the principal theme is stated by the first violins with imitations appearing in the other instruments. The linear nature of the material alternates with static moments of harmony.  After the second of two climaxes, the work concludes with reposeful cadences that were presented earlier.

Chicago Tribune: Rare are the classical singers who use their celebrity cachet to help generate new repertory. One shining example is Lawrence Brownlee

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee's "Cycles of My Being" touches on matters of hate, religious faith, black consciousness and, ultimately, hope and unity. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

Chicago Tribune
 Contact Reporter

February 23, 2018

Rare are the classical singers who use their celebrity cachet to help generate new repertory. One shining example is Lawrence Brownlee, who regards the commissioning of music by living composers and sharing it with audiences around the world an essential part of who he is as a performing artist.

Even so, his involvement with “Cycles of My Being,” the new song cycle he included in his recital Thursday night at the DuSable Museum of African American History, was motivated by something much deeper, something much more personal: Brownlee and his collaborators, composer Tyshawn Sorey and poet Terrance Hayes, wanted to express their feelings, and, crucially, how they are perceived, as African-American men living in a racially divided America.

There can be no denying the worth or pertinence of such an undertaking at a time when black men face acts of violence, incarceration and death on a seemingly day-to-day basis. Classical music has been remiss in addressing themes associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, certainly to the extent that artists working in film, theater, literature and visual art are doing.

And there was no denying the palpable commitment that Brownlee, and his finely supportive accompanist, pianist Myra Huang, brought to this Chicago premiere of “Cycles of My Being.” The duo had taken part in the world premiere Tuesday in Philadelphia, where it was presented with a slightly larger instrumental accompaniment. Opera Philadelphia, where the singer is artistic adviser, co-commissioned the work along with Carnegie Hall and Lyric Unlimited, which sponsored Thursday’s performance.

The cycle of six songs, some to rewritten sonnets by Hayes, a 2014 MacArthur Fellow, and poems by Brownlee himself, steers clear of politics, touching instead on matters of hate, religious faith, black consciousness and, ultimately, hope and unity. Song and speech mingle in songs like the fourth, in which the singer declares, “You don’t know me. Still you hate me.” The overall tone is more of questioning that anger. As Brownlee has said in interviews, there are no raised fists here.

John Malveaux: Los Angeles Times: Julius Eastman — African American, militantly gay and alienated by the musical world at the time — wrote the provocatively titled "Evil Nigger"

Pianists Michelle Cahn, left, Joanne Pearce Martin, Vicky Ray and Dynasty Battles perform Julius Eastman's piece during the Green Umbrella concert Tuesday at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
 (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

John Malveaux of 

KUSC Radio "OPEN EAR" ( a series of stories about composers, musicians, and conductors who deserve more recognition) profiled composer Julius Eastman January 11, 2018. Julius Eastman’s provocatively titled Evil Nigger was performed during LA Phil Green Umbrella concert on February 20th. See Mark Swed-LA Times critic's review specific to Eastman's piece:
"Julius Eastman — African American, militantly gay and alienated by the musical world at the time — wrote the provocatively titled "Evil Nigger" nine years earlier than "L's G.A.," and it is a shocking reminder of the roots of racial issues. Eastman had a meteoric rise as baritone, pianist and visionary composer and a tragic fall. He died in obscure poverty at age 49 in 1990, much of his work lost. But in the last couple of years, he has undergone so remarkable a revival that he seems about to turn into an outsider icon.
The performance was introduced with an archival recording of Eastman eloquently explaining his title at the 1979 premiere. He said he felt there was, for him, an elegant fundamentalism to a term that had become disabused. Of course, he knew full well that he was asking for, and wanting, trouble.
The work in question indeed asks for trouble, and it is amazing. Written for four or more melody instruments (Eastman used pianos because that's what he had), it is a nearly indecipherable and somewhat Minimalist score with melodic lines of repeated notes and tremolos presented without instruction. The result is a work that shares many repetitious and harmonic aspects of the phase and pulse music that Philip Glass and Steve Reich were writing at the time, but Eastman adds an element of unpredictable ecstatic liberation.
It is almost as though the notes themselves are packed with helium. For an unrelenting 22 minutes, Dynasty Battles, Michelle Cann, Joanne Pearce Martin and Vicki Ray produced great piano waves that grew, crested and broke, each more exhilarating than the last. When it all ended, I had the sensation of a fundamental cause that could not be stopped."

Compliments to KUSC Radio "Open Ear" and LA Phil Green Umbrella concert series. YES WE CAN. See

OperaCréole: New Orleans Opera Presents "Champion, an Opera in Jazz" by Terence Blanchard, March 9 and 11 at Mahalia Jackson Theater

Terence Blanchard

OperaCréole founders were guest artists on New Orleans Opera's Podcast:
"At Large" Host, Joe McKesson

OperaCréole is a partner organization in celebration of New Orleans Opera's 75th Anniversary Season.
Their production of

Champion, an Opera in Jazz written by Grammy Award winning
Terence Blanchard
is 2 WEEKS Away!
March 9, and 11 at Mahalia Jackson Theater.

This is the first opera they have presented by a composer of African descent.
As a partner organization, OperaCréole has a code that would allow you to get a discount. BUT HURRY, it​ i​s ​SELLING OUT​!

On opening night, I will be speaking at the Nuts and Bolts presentation 30 minutes before curtain, and ​I have ​submitted an article ​on the history of composers of African descent ​for their program.

I have also joined the ensemble in support of the principal cast that has come in from the Washington National Opera production of Champion. ​Now that I have been in staging, I can tell you that this is a genius level work, and I am having a blast!​

Also in the ensemble​/chorus, that have been on ​OperaCréole 's roster​,​ are:
Mark Anthony Thomas,
Kentrell Roberts,
Christian Patterson, and
Pamela Nions!

The discount code I was given for community partners is:
10% discount code (enter at check out, and doesn't have to be all caps): NOOPARTNERZ

See you all soon!
Givonna Joseph,

Friday, February 23, 2018

Transcultural Visions: Harmonies From Classical Melodies, Journey Through African Classical Music in London, England March 3rd and 18th

Harmonies from classical melodies
Journey Through African Classical Music
Transculturalvisions ( presents Harmonies from Classical Melodies, inspired by the rich heritage of African classical music, featuring the Singing Cultures Choir accompanied by dynamic pianist Kevin Satizabal, acclaimed soprano Victoria Oruwari, and renowned flautist Rowland Sutherland.
There are two London dates for Harmonies from Classical Melodies. Saturday 3rd March 2018, 6.45pm, St. George’s Church, Bloomsbury Way, WC1A 2HR; and Sunday 18th March 2018, 6.45pm, Carmelite Church, 41 Kensington Church St, W8 4BB Tickets £10.00 adults; £5.00 children
Established in 2014, Transculturalvisions delivers creative projects inspired by the cultural experiences and heritage of Britain’s diverse communities.
Harmonies from Classical Melodies is inspired by the music of African composers featuring the Singing Cultures Choir performing notable works by Fela Sowande and Ayo Bankole, African folksongs and new works created by the choristers, led by British-Nigerian soprano and choral director, Victoria Oruwari. There will be a narrative performance capturing the journey of the choir. The programme also features celebrated flautist Rowland Sutherland performing solo flute pieces by contemporary African composers Justinian Tamusuza (Uganda) and Bongani Ndodana-Breen (South Africa).
Bilkis Malek, founding Director of Transculturalvisions says, “Harmonies from Classical Melodies is the culmination of the second chapter of the Singing Cultures journey. Last time choristers were inspired by African Classical Music to feel ‘anything is possible’. This time they have delved deeper into the challenges for building that ‘better world’ imagined by African composers. The result is thought provoking melodies honest about the challenges for ‘humankind’ but which also leave you with a real sense of ‘hope’.”
Harmonies from Classical Melodies will be at two prestigious London venues, St. George’s Church, Bloomsbury Way, WC1A 2HR; and Carmelite Church, 41 Kensington Church St, W8 4BB.
Full details, including ticket information can be found at:

Chicago Sinfonietta: "Hear Me Roar" A Celebration of Women in Classical Music 3 PM March 11 at Wentz Concert Hall and 7:30 PM March 12 at Symphony Center

Celebrate the unique voices of women at this not-to-be-missed event!

March 11, 2018 | 3:00PM
Wentz Concert Hall

March 12, 2018 | 7:30PM
Symphony Center

This celebration of women features an all-female program of composers under the baton of the beloved conductor Mei-Ann Chen leading the esteemed orchestra in the premiere of two new commissioned works from our Project W initiative. 
Mei-Ann Chen
 Dances in the Canebrakes
Higdon Dance Card**
Esmail #metoo*
Symphony in F sharp minor, Op. 41**
* World premiere
** Chicago premiere
Part of Chicago Sinfonietta's Project W:Commissions by Women Composers                         

Eric Conway: The Theatre Morgan Production Entitled "Everybody" by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is a Very Thoughtful Play About Life and Death

Eric Conway writes:

Hello Everybody!

I just attended another fine Theatre Morgan production entitled EVERYBODY by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.  This is a very thoughtful play about Life and Death exploring questions such as:  
1) What happens after our time on this earth?
2) Is there a God? 
3) How should I live my life on this earth?  

Quite interestedly, the nine actors in this ninety minute play, do not play traditional characters, but ideas or abstractions.  The play begins with a character who gives an entertaining soliloquy-like request to silence our cellphones, who within a matter of moments plays the character of God!  God quickly meets her helper Death whose job it is to identify the roles of the nine actors. In true experimental theatre fashion, all actors previously learned all roles and via the process of picking out of hat on stage during the show,  learned their roles to be played on real-time.  In theory, every night, out of possible 120 possibilities, could be another character, with the exception of God and Death who will be constant.  After their roles are selected, the play is on.

The primary role’s name is Everybody, who really could represent any one of us.  As actors' names are picked out of a hat, this somewhat depicts the random nature of the timing of the end of our lives.   Death meets Everybody and tells her that her time is up.  Everybody, not being ready negotiates and asks if someone could come with her to this thing called death.  After trying to cajole characters like Friendship, Cousinship, Stuff, to go with her, at the end of the day, no one wants to or is able to go with her.

Quite symbolically, the only character that was willing to go along for the ride to Death with Everybody was the character Love.  In the end, although we might want to have someone with us during the process, Everybody dies alone.

Again, this is a great play about life and death — which is more about life, as we all still do not definitively know about the hereafter.

I strongly encourage you to attend this very entertaining play.  You will leave the theatre reexamining your meaning of your life.  Again, Theatre at its finest asks us all to re-examine ourselves.

Guest director Thembi Duncan does a masterful job in assisting our Morgan students in this production.  Our Theatre Morgan students also convincingly played their abstract roles.

Everybody only runs this weekend, over this Sunday, February 25, 2018.  Please attend if you are able.


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

John Malveaux: Fundamental to the genius of Quincy Jones, but seldom mentioned, is his study of classical music composing with Nadia Boulanger in France

Quincy Jones

Nadia Boulanger

John Malveaux of 

The current controversy about QUINCY JONES comments in an interview bring to mind that Q is the GREATEST producer of ALL TIME in multiple genres. Fundamental to his genius, but seldom mentioned, is his study of classical music composing with Nadia Boulanger in France. I recall Q once told me that he traveled 9 months a year and YOU GOT TO GO TO KNOW.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sergio Mims: The world catches up to iconoclastic composer Julius Eastman [Concert 2 PM Sunday, Feb. 25, Preston Bradley Hall]

Julius Eastman in 1974, during a rehearsal of the S.E.M. Ensemble at SUNY Buffalo  (Chris Rusiniak)

Sergio A. Mims writes:

This Sunday in Chicago there will be a special concert devoted to works by the composer Julius Eastman whose  musical compositions and legacy have recently found a new resurgence.

The concert will take place at 2 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington in downtown Chicago and is free for all-ages

This week the Chicago Reader had an extensive article about Eastman, his life and work and the concert:

John Malveaux: 10 Contemporary Black Composers You Should Know

John Malveaux of 

Ryan Ballard shared the following article with MusicUNTOLD 


In honor of Black History Month, we are celebrating black excellence by highlighting some of the very best black artists producing and creating work today. This week we are highlighting ten contemporary black composers you should know...