William Grant Still (1895-1978)

Episodes

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A Black Pierrot20190207

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, an unhappy brush with Hollywood, and Still’s 4th Symphony, ‘Autochthonous'.

In 1942, Still was approached by 20th Century Fox to be musical director on Stormy Weather, a film with an all-black cast based on the life of the dancer Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, who also starred. Things did not go to plan. Before long, he said, he found himself sat in an office all day with nothing to do, twiddling his thumbs. It must have been a relief to return to the world of “pure music ?, which is how Still said he composed his 4th Symphony, to which he later gave the unusual subtitle ‘Autochthonous’, meaning ‘native to the place where it is found’. The symphony, Still said, was “intended to represent the spirit of the American people. It may also be said that the music speaks of the fusion of musical cultures in North America ?.

‘A Black Pierrot’ (Songs of Separation)
Robert Honeysucker, baritone
Vivian Taylor, piano

Incantation and Dance, for oboe and piano
Joseph Robinson, oboe
Pedja Muzijevic, piano

Festive Overture
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Arthur Bennet Lipkin, conductor

Bells
Denver Oldham, piano

Symphony No 4, ‘Autochthonous’
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales.

Still's unhappy brush with Hollywood, and his Fourth Symphony, \u2018Autochthonous'.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music."

A Black Pierrot20190207

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, an unhappy brush with Hollywood, and Still’s 4th Symphony, ‘Autochthonous'.

In 1942, Still was approached by 20th Century Fox to be musical director on Stormy Weather, a film with an all-black cast based on the life of the dancer Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, who also starred. Things did not go to plan. Before long, he said, he found himself sat in an office all day with nothing to do, twiddling his thumbs. It must have been a relief to return to the world of “pure music ?, which is how Still said he composed his 4th Symphony, to which he later gave the unusual subtitle ‘Autochthonous’, meaning ‘native to the place where it is found’. The symphony, Still said, was “intended to represent the spirit of the American people. It may also be said that the music speaks of the fusion of musical cultures in North America ?.

‘A Black Pierrot’ (Songs of Separation)
Robert Honeysucker, baritone
Vivian Taylor, piano

Incantation and Dance, for oboe and piano
Joseph Robinson, oboe
Pedja Muzijevic, piano

Festive Overture
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Arthur Bennet Lipkin, conductor

Bells
Denver Oldham, piano

Symphony No 4, ‘Autochthonous’
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales.

Still's unhappy brush with Hollywood, and his Fourth Symphony, \u2018Autochthonous'.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, an unhappy brush with Hollywood, and Still’s 4th Symphony, ‘Autochthonous'.

In 1942, Still was approached by 20th Century Fox to be musical director on Stormy Weather, a film with an all-black cast based on the life of the dancer Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, who also starred. Things did not go to plan. Before long, he said, he found himself sat in an office all day with nothing to do, twiddling his thumbs. It must have been a relief to return to the world of “pure music”, which is how Still said he composed his 4th Symphony, to which he later gave the unusual subtitle ‘Autochthonous’, meaning ‘native to the place where it is found’. The symphony, Still said, was “intended to represent the spirit of the American people. It may also be said that the music speaks of the fusion of musical cultures in North America”.

‘A Black Pierrot’ (Songs of Separation)
Robert Honeysucker, baritone
Vivian Taylor, piano

Incantation and Dance, for oboe and piano
Joseph Robinson, oboe
Pedja Muzijevic, piano

Festive Overture
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Arthur Bennet Lipkin, conductor

Bells
Denver Oldham, piano

Symphony No 4, ‘Autochthonous’
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales.

"

A Black Pierrot20190207

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, an unhappy brush with Hollywood, and Still’s 4th Symphony, ‘Autochthonous'.

In 1942, Still was approached by 20th Century Fox to be musical director on Stormy Weather, a film with an all-black cast based on the life of the dancer Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, who also starred. Things did not go to plan. Before long, he said, he found himself sat in an office all day with nothing to do, twiddling his thumbs. It must have been a relief to return to the world of “pure music”, which is how Still said he composed his 4th Symphony, to which he later gave the unusual subtitle ‘Autochthonous’, meaning ‘native to the place where it is found’. The symphony, Still said, was “intended to represent the spirit of the American people. It may also be said that the music speaks of the fusion of musical cultures in North America”.

‘A Black Pierrot’ (Songs of Separation)
Robert Honeysucker, baritone
Vivian Taylor, piano

Incantation and Dance, for oboe and piano
Joseph Robinson, oboe
Pedja Muzijevic, piano

Festive Overture
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Arthur Bennet Lipkin, conductor

Bells
Denver Oldham, piano

Symphony No 4, ‘Autochthonous’
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales.

Still's unhappy brush with Hollywood, and his Fourth Symphony, \u2018Autochthonous'.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Coast to Coast20190205

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still writes his breakthrough 1st Symphony, the ‘Afro-American’, and relocates to LA on a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship.

Despite the recent success of his orchestral suite Africa, Still embarked on the composition of his ‘Afro-American’ Symphony in a mood of deep despondency. He laid out his feelings in a letter to his friend, the critic Irving Schwerké: “It is unfortunate for a man of color who is ambitious, to live in America. There are many splendid people here; broad-minded, unselfish; judging a man from the standpoint of his worth rather than his color, but there is a preponderance of those who are exactly the opposite. Unless there is a change soon I will be forced to abandon my aspirations and look to other means of gaining a livelihood – or to go where such conditions do not exist. ? In the event, thanks to the extraordinary reception of the symphony at its first performance by the Rochester Philharmonic under Howard Hanson, Still’s fears proved unfounded; by the end of the decade the ‘Afro-American’ had been taken up by a further 34 American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia. Buoyed up by the positive reaction to the symphony at its première, Still applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship. Guggenheim Fellows usually went overseas, but Still requested that he should be allowed to serve his fellowship in Los Angeles. It was there that he resumed his relationship with the woman who would become his second wife, Verna Arvey.

Quit Dat Fool’nish
Denver Oldham, piano

Symphony No 1 in A flat, ‘Afro-American’
Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra
Jindong Cai, conductor

A Deserted Plantation
Denver Oldham, piano

Kaintuck’, poem for piano and orchestra
Richard Fields, piano
Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra
Jindong Cai, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still writes his \u2018Afro-American\u2019 Symphony and is given a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music."

Coast To Coast20190205

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still writes his breakthrough 1st Symphony, the ‘Afro-American’, and relocates to LA on a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship.

Despite the recent success of his orchestral suite Africa, Still embarked on the composition of his ‘Afro-American’ Symphony in a mood of deep despondency. He laid out his feelings in a letter to his friend, the critic Irving Schwerk退: “It is unfortunate for a man of color who is ambitious, to live in America. There are many splendid people here; broad-minded, unselfish; judging a man from the standpoint of his worth rather than his color, but there is a preponderance of those who are exactly the opposite. Unless there is a change soon I will be forced to abandon my aspirations and look to other means of gaining a livelihood – or to go where such conditions do not exist.” In the event, thanks to the extraordinary reception of the symphony at its first performance by the Rochester Philharmonic under Howard Hanson, Still’s fears proved unfounded; by the end of the decade the ‘Afro-American’ had been taken up by a further 34 American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia. Buoyed up by the positive reaction to the symphony at its premi耀re, Still applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship. Guggenheim Fellows usually went overseas, but Still requested that he should be allowed to serve his fellowship in Los Angeles. It was there that he resumed his relationship with the woman who would become his second wife, Verna Arvey.

Quit Dat Fool’nish
Denver Oldham, piano

Symphony No 1 in A flat, ‘Afro-American’
Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra
Jindong Cai, conductor

A Deserted Plantation
Denver Oldham, piano

Kaintuck’, poem for piano and orchestra
Richard Fields, piano
Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra
Jindong Cai, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still writes his \u2018Afro-American\u2019 Symphony and is given a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music."

Coast To Coast20190205

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still writes his breakthrough 1st Symphony, the ‘Afro-American’, and relocates to LA on a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship.

Despite the recent success of his orchestral suite Africa, Still embarked on the composition of his ‘Afro-American’ Symphony in a mood of deep despondency. He laid out his feelings in a letter to his friend, the critic Irving Schwerké: “It is unfortunate for a man of color who is ambitious, to live in America. There are many splendid people here; broad-minded, unselfish; judging a man from the standpoint of his worth rather than his color, but there is a preponderance of those who are exactly the opposite. Unless there is a change soon I will be forced to abandon my aspirations and look to other means of gaining a livelihood – or to go where such conditions do not exist.” In the event, thanks to the extraordinary reception of the symphony at its first performance by the Rochester Philharmonic under Howard Hanson, Still’s fears proved unfounded; by the end of the decade the ‘Afro-American’ had been taken up by a further 34 American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia. Buoyed up by the positive reaction to the symphony at its première, Still applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship. Guggenheim Fellows usually went overseas, but Still requested that he should be allowed to serve his fellowship in Los Angeles. It was there that he resumed his relationship with the woman who would become his second wife, Verna Arvey.

Quit Dat Fool’nish
Denver Oldham, piano

Symphony No 1 in A flat, ‘Afro-American’
Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra
Jindong Cai, conductor

A Deserted Plantation
Denver Oldham, piano

Kaintuck’, poem for piano and orchestra
Richard Fields, piano
Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra
Jindong Cai, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still writes his \u2018Afro-American' Symphony and is given a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Darker America20190204

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still’s early years, including his transformative period of study with Edgard Varèse.

William Grant Still never really knew his father; William Grant Snr died, in mysterious circumstances, when his son was just three months old. Still’s mother, Carrie, a high-school English teacher, seems to have responded by redoubling her efforts to be a good parent: as Still recalled later, “She constantly impressed me with the thought that I should achieve something worthwhile in life ?. His school career went well, but by the time he moved on to college, his interest in music had become all-consuming. He struggled to make his grades and dropped out to become a jobbing musician, playing with and making arrangements for the man who would become known as the ‘Father of the Blues’, W C Handy. At 21, Still married, to a fellow college-student called Grace Bundy. It was evidently an explosive relationship, and after a few months she moved back in with her parents. Still used part of an inheritance from his father to enrol at Oberlin College to study music. World War I intervened, after which he gravitated to New York, where he eventually found himself working as a staff composer and arranger for the Pace Phonograph Company – which is how he came to meet Edgard Varèse, the groundbreaking modernist composer who soon become Still's mentor.

Brown Baby (extract)
Ethel Waters and The Jazz Masters

Darker America
Westchester Symphony Orchestra
Siegfried Landau, conductor

Breath of a Rose
Louise Toppin, soprano
Vivian Taylor, piano

La Guiablesse (The She-Devil), ballet
Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Isaiah Jackson, conductor

Africa, suite for orchestra (1. Land of Peace)
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still\u2019s early years, including his transformative studies with Edgard Varese

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music."

Darker America20190204

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still’s early years, including his transformative period of study with Edgard Var耀se.

William Grant Still never really knew his father; William Grant Snr died, in mysterious circumstances, when his son was just three months old. Still’s mother, Carrie, a high-school English teacher, seems to have responded by redoubling her efforts to be a good parent: as Still recalled later, “She constantly impressed me with the thought that I should achieve something worthwhile in life”. His school career went well, but by the time he moved on to college, his interest in music had become all-consuming. He struggled to make his grades and dropped out to become a jobbing musician, playing with and making arrangements for the man who would become known as the ‘Father of the Blues’, W C Handy. At 21, Still married, to a fellow college-student called Grace Bundy. It was evidently an explosive relationship, and after a few months she moved back in with her parents. Still used part of an inheritance from his father to enrol at Oberlin College to study music. World War I intervened, after which he gravitated to New York, where he eventually found himself working as a staff composer and arranger for the Pace Phonograph Company – which is how he came to meet Edgard Var耀se, the groundbreaking modernist composer who soon become Still's mentor.

Brown Baby (extract)
Ethel Waters and The Jazz Masters

Darker America
Westchester Symphony Orchestra
Siegfried Landau, conductor

Breath of a Rose
Louise Toppin, soprano
Vivian Taylor, piano

La Guiablesse (The She-Devil), ballet
Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Isaiah Jackson, conductor

Africa, suite for orchestra (1. Land of Peace)
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still\u2019s early years, including his transformative studies with Edgard Varese

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music."

Darker America20190204

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still’s early years, including his transformative period of study with Edgard Varèse.

William Grant Still never really knew his father; William Grant Snr died, in mysterious circumstances, when his son was just three months old. Still’s mother, Carrie, a high-school English teacher, seems to have responded by redoubling her efforts to be a good parent: as Still recalled later, “She constantly impressed me with the thought that I should achieve something worthwhile in life ? His school career went well, but by the time he moved on to college, his interest in music had become all-consuming. He struggled to make his grades and dropped out to become a jobbing musician, playing with and making arrangements for the man who would become known as the ‘Father of the Blues’, W C Handy. At 21, Still married, to a fellow college-student called Grace Bundy. It was evidently an explosive relationship, and after a few months she moved back in with her parents. Still used part of an inheritance from his father to enrol at Oberlin College to study music. World War I intervened, after which he gravitated to New York, where he eventually found himself working as a staff composer and arranger for the Pace Phonograph Company – which is how he came to meet Edgard Varèse, the groundbreaking modernist composer who soon become Still's mentor.

Brown Baby (extract)
Ethel Waters and The Jazz Masters

Darker America
Westchester Symphony Orchestra
Siegfried Landau, conductor

Breath of a Rose
Louise Toppin, soprano
Vivian Taylor, piano

La Guiablesse (The She-Devil), ballet
Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Isaiah Jackson, conductor

Africa, suite for orchestra (1. Land of Peace)
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still\u2019s early years, including his transformative studies with Edgard Varese

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music."

Darker America20190204

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still’s early years, including his transformative period of study with Edgard Varèse.

William Grant Still never really knew his father; William Grant Snr died, in mysterious circumstances, when his son was just three months old. Still’s mother, Carrie, a high-school English teacher, seems to have responded by redoubling her efforts to be a good parent: as Still recalled later, “She constantly impressed me with the thought that I should achieve something worthwhile in life”. His school career went well, but by the time he moved on to college, his interest in music had become all-consuming. He struggled to make his grades and dropped out to become a jobbing musician, playing with and making arrangements for the man who would become known as the ‘Father of the Blues’, W C Handy. At 21, Still married, to a fellow college-student called Grace Bundy. It was evidently an explosive relationship, and after a few months she moved back in with her parents. Still used part of an inheritance from his father to enrol at Oberlin College to study music. World War I intervened, after which he gravitated to New York, where he eventually found himself working as a staff composer and arranger for the Pace Phonograph Company – which is how he came to meet Edgard Varèse, the groundbreaking modernist composer who soon become Still's mentor.

Brown Baby (extract)
Ethel Waters and The Jazz Masters

Darker America
Westchester Symphony Orchestra
Siegfried Landau, conductor

Breath of a Rose
Louise Toppin, soprano
Vivian Taylor, piano

La Guiablesse (The She-Devil), ballet
Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Isaiah Jackson, conductor

Africa, suite for orchestra (1. Land of Peace)
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still's early years, including his transformative studies with Edgard Varese

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Success20190206

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still marries – for a second time – and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

When Still married Verna Arvey in February 1939, just two days after his divorce from his first wife Grace came through, they had to drive over the border to Tijuana to do it – racially mixed marriages were against Californian law in those days, as they continued to be until 1948. It wasn’t just on a personal level that Arvey had been become indispensable to Still; she helped him practically, too, effectively becoming his secretary and PR assistant, not to mention musical advisor, librettist and even biographer. By now, Still’s career and reputation were in the ascendant. In 1936, he had become the first African-American to conduct a major US symphony orchestra: the LA Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl. When his 2nd Symphony was premièred the following year, it was by the crack team of Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Then there were honorary degrees, fellowships and prestigious commissions, like the one to write the theme music for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. But despite all these tokens of respect, Still must have been keenly aware of the situation faced by people of colour outside of the cultural bubble. His setting of a poem by Katherine Garrison Chapin, ‘And they lynched him on a tree’, inspired by the murders ten years previously of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana, received its first performance in 1940 – the same year that the Gavagan anti-lynching bill was blocked by the US Senate.

Blues, Pt 1
Artie Shaw and his Orchestra

Lenox Avenue (The Crap Game; The Flirtation; The Fight; The Law)
Juano Hernandez, narrator
CBS Symphony Orchestra
Howard Barlow, conductor

Symphony No 2 in G minor, ‘Song of a New Race’ (4. Moderately Slow)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Out of the Silence (Seven Traceries, No 4)
Monica Gaylord piano

And They Lynched Him on a Tree
Hilda Harris, mezzo soprano
William Warfield, narrator
Leigh Morris Chorale
VocalEssence Ensemble and Singers
Philip Brunelle, conductor

Old California
New York Philharmonic
Pierre Monteux, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still remarries, and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music."

Success20190206

"""

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still marries – for a second time – and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

When Still married Verna Arvey in February 1939, just two days after his divorce from his first wife Grace came through, they had to drive over the border to Tijuana to do it – racially mixed marriages were against Californian law in those days, as they continued to be until 1948. It wasn’t just on a personal level that Arvey had been become indispensable to Still; she helped him practically, too, effectively becoming his secretary and PR assistant, not to mention musical advisor, librettist and even biographer. By now, Still’s career and reputation were in the ascendant. In 1936, he had become the first African-American to conduct a major US symphony orchestra: the LA Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl. When his 2nd Symphony was premièred the following year, it was by the crack team of Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Then there were honorary degrees, fellowships and prestigious commissions, like the one to write the theme music for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. But despite all these tokens of respect, Still must have been keenly aware of the situation faced by people of colour outside of the cultural bubble. His setting of a poem by Katherine Garrison Chapin, ‘And they lynched him on a tree’, inspired by the murders ten years previously of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana, received its first performance in 1940 – the same year that the Gavagan anti-lynching bill was blocked by the US Senate.

Blues, Pt 1
Artie Shaw and his Orchestra

Lenox Avenue (The Crap Game; The Flirtation; The Fight; The Law)
Juano Hernandez, narrator
CBS Symphony Orchestra
Howard Barlow, conductor

Symphony No 2 in G minor, ‘Song of a New Race’ (4. Moderately Slow)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Out of the Silence (Seven Traceries, No 4)
Monica Gaylord piano

And They Lynched Him on a Tree
Hilda Harris, mezzo soprano
William Warfield, narrator
Leigh Morris Chorale
VocalEssence Ensemble and Singers
Philip Brunelle, conductor

Old California
New York Philharmonic
Pierre Monteux, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still remarries, and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music."""

Success20190206

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still marries – for a second time – and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

When Still married Verna Arvey in February 1939, just two days after his divorce from his first wife Grace came through, they had to drive over the border to Tijuana to do it – racially mixed marriages were against Californian law in those days, as they continued to be until 1948. It wasn’t just on a personal level that Arvey had been become indispensable to Still; she helped him practically, too, effectively becoming his secretary and PR assistant, not to mention musical advisor, librettist and even biographer. By now, Still’s career and reputation were in the ascendant. In 1936, he had become the first African-American to conduct a major US symphony orchestra: the LA Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl. When his 2nd Symphony was premièred the following year, it was by the crack team of Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Then there were honorary degrees, fellowships and prestigious commissions, like the one to write the theme music for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. But despite all these tokens of respect, Still must have been keenly aware of the situation faced by people of colour outside of the cultural bubble. His setting of a poem by Katherine Garrison Chapin, ‘And they lynched him on a tree’, inspired by the murders ten years previously of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana, received its first performance in 1940 – the same year that the Gavagan anti-lynching bill was blocked by the US Senate.

Blues, Pt 1
Artie Shaw and his Orchestra

Lenox Avenue (The Crap Game; The Flirtation; The Fight; The Law)
Juano Hernandez, narrator
CBS Symphony Orchestra
Howard Barlow, conductor

Symphony No 2 in G minor, ‘Song of a New Race’ (4. Moderately Slow)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Out of the Silence (Seven Traceries, No 4)
Monica Gaylord piano

And They Lynched Him on a Tree
Hilda Harris, mezzo soprano
William Warfield, narrator
Leigh Morris Chorale
VocalEssence Ensemble and Singers
Philip Brunelle, conductor

Old California
New York Philharmonic
Pierre Monteux, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still remarries, and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still marries – for a second time – and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

When Still married Verna Arvey in February 1939, just two days after his divorce from his first wife Grace came through, they had to drive over the border to Tijuana to do it – racially mixed marriages were against Californian law in those days, as they continued to be until 1948. It wasn’t just on a personal level that Arvey had been become indispensable to Still; she helped him practically, too, effectively becoming his secretary and PR assistant, not to mention musical advisor, librettist and even biographer. By now, Still’s career and reputation were in the ascendant. In 1936, he had become the first African-American to conduct a major US symphony orchestra: the LA Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl. When his 2nd Symphony was premi耀red the following year, it was by the crack team of Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Then there were honorary degrees, fellowships and prestigious commissions, like the one to write the theme music for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. But despite all these tokens of respect, Still must have been keenly aware of the situation faced by people of colour outside of the cultural bubble. His setting of a poem by Katherine Garrison Chapin, ‘And they lynched him on a tree’, inspired by the murders ten years previously of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana, received its first performance in 1940 – the same year that the Gavagan anti-lynching bill was blocked by the US Senate.

Blues, Pt 1
Artie Shaw and his Orchestra

Lenox Avenue (The Crap Game; The Flirtation; The Fight; The Law)
Juano Hernandez, narrator
CBS Symphony Orchestra
Howard Barlow, conductor

Symphony No 2 in G minor, ‘Song of a New Race’ (4. Moderately Slow)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Neeme J䀀rvi, conductor

Out of the Silence (Seven Traceries, No 4)
Monica Gaylord piano

And They Lynched Him on a Tree
Hilda Harris, mezzo soprano
William Warfield, narrator
Leigh Morris Chorale
VocalEssence Ensemble and Singers
Philip Brunelle, conductor

Old California
New York Philharmonic
Pierre Monteux, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

"

Success20190206

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still marries – for a second time – and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

When Still married Verna Arvey in February 1939, just two days after his divorce from his first wife Grace came through, they had to drive over the border to Tijuana to do it – racially mixed marriages were against Californian law in those days, as they continued to be until 1948. It wasn’t just on a personal level that Arvey had been become indispensable to Still; she helped him practically, too, effectively becoming his secretary and PR assistant, not to mention musical advisor, librettist and even biographer. By now, Still’s career and reputation were in the ascendant. In 1936, he had become the first African-American to conduct a major US symphony orchestra: the LA Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl. When his 2nd Symphony was premièred the following year, it was by the crack team of Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Then there were honorary degrees, fellowships and prestigious commissions, like the one to write the theme music for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. But despite all these tokens of respect, Still must have been keenly aware of the situation faced by people of colour outside of the cultural bubble. His setting of a poem by Katherine Garrison Chapin, ‘And they lynched him on a tree’, inspired by the murders ten years previously of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana, received its first performance in 1940 – the same year that the Gavagan anti-lynching bill was blocked by the US Senate.

Blues, Pt 1
Artie Shaw and his Orchestra

Lenox Avenue (The Crap Game; The Flirtation; The Fight; The Law)
Juano Hernandez, narrator
CBS Symphony Orchestra
Howard Barlow, conductor

Symphony No 2 in G minor, ‘Song of a New Race’ (4. Moderately Slow)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Out of the Silence (Seven Traceries, No 4)
Monica Gaylord piano

And They Lynched Him on a Tree
Hilda Harris, mezzo soprano
William Warfield, narrator
Leigh Morris Chorale
VocalEssence Ensemble and Singers
Philip Brunelle, conductor

Old California
New York Philharmonic
Pierre Monteux, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still remarries, and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Troubled Island20190208

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still’s uphill struggle to establish himself as a composer of opera.

Of Still’s eight surviving operas, to date only five have had any kind of production. The first of these, Troubled Island, was produced by New York City Opera in 1949, which was the first time a major American opera company had put on a work by an American-born composer, regardless of race. Following an initial rejection by the Metropolitan Opera and despite the advocacy of the conductor Leopold Stokowski, it had taken the best part of a decade form the opera's completion to bring it to the stage, with plenty of haggling over funding along the way. Three performances were scheduled, with leading roles taken by white singers in blackface. The première was well received by the audience, but the reviews were hostile, and after the initial run, there were no further performances. Still was understandably devastated by the critical panning meted out to his long-cherished project, and came to believe that the opera’s chances had been deliberately sabotaged in some kind of racist plot. It would be nearly four decades before New York City Opera staged another opera by a black composer.

Whippoorwill's Shoes (Wood Notes)
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Little Black Slave Child (Troubled Island)
Christin-Marie hill, mezzo soprano
Andrew Altenbach, piano

Ennanga, for harp, piano and string quartet (1. Moderately fast)
Lois Adele Craft, harp
Annette Kaufman, piano
Kaufman String Quartet

Symphony No 3, ‘The Sunday Symphony’ (2. Prayer – very slowly; 3. Relaxation – Gaily)
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Lyric Quartette
Oregon String Quartet

Highway One: Act I (extract)
Robert Honeysucker, baritone (Bob)
Louise Toppin, soprano (Mary)
Pamela Dillard, mezzo soprano (Aunt Lou)
Vocal Essence
St Olaf Orchestra
Philip Brunelle, conductor

Grief (Weeping Angel)
Thomas Hampson, baritone
Wolfram Rieger, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still\u2019s uphill struggle to establish himself as a composer of opera.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music."

Troubled Island20190208

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still’s uphill struggle to establish himself as a composer of opera.

Of Still’s eight surviving operas, to date only five have had any kind of production. The first of these, Troubled Island, was produced by New York City Opera in 1949, which was the first time a major American opera company had put on a work by an American-born composer, regardless of race. Following an initial rejection by the Metropolitan Opera and despite the advocacy of the conductor Leopold Stokowski, it had taken the best part of a decade form the opera's completion to bring it to the stage, with plenty of haggling over funding along the way. Three performances were scheduled, with leading roles taken by white singers in blackface. The première was well received by the audience, but the reviews were hostile, and after the initial run, there were no further performances. Still was understandably devastated by the critical panning meted out to his long-cherished project, and came to believe that the opera’s chances had been deliberately sabotaged in some kind of racist plot. It would be nearly four decades before New York City Opera staged another opera by a black composer.

Whippoorwill's Shoes (Wood Notes)
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Little Black Slave Child (Troubled Island)
Christin-Marie hill, mezzo soprano
Andrew Altenbach, piano

Ennanga, for harp, piano and string quartet (1. Moderately fast)
Lois Adele Craft, harp
Annette Kaufman, piano
Kaufman String Quartet

Symphony No 3, ‘The Sunday Symphony’ (2. Prayer – very slowly; 3. Relaxation – Gaily)
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Lyric Quartette
Oregon String Quartet

Highway One: Act I (extract)
Robert Honeysucker, baritone (Bob)
Louise Toppin, soprano (Mary)
Pamela Dillard, mezzo soprano (Aunt Lou)
Vocal Essence
St Olaf Orchestra
Philip Brunelle, conductor

Grief (Weeping Angel)
Thomas Hampson, baritone
Wolfram Rieger, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still\u2019s uphill struggle to establish himself as a composer of opera.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still’s uphill struggle to establish himself as a composer of opera.

Of Still’s eight surviving operas, to date only five have had any kind of production. The first of these, Troubled Island, was produced by New York City Opera in 1949, which was the first time a major American opera company had put on a work by an American-born composer, regardless of race. Following an initial rejection by the Metropolitan Opera and despite the advocacy of the conductor Leopold Stokowski, it had taken the best part of a decade form the opera's completion to bring it to the stage, with plenty of haggling over funding along the way. Three performances were scheduled, with leading roles taken by white singers in blackface. The premi耀re was well received by the audience, but the reviews were hostile, and after the initial run, there were no further performances. Still was understandably devastated by the critical panning meted out to his long-cherished project, and came to believe that the opera’s chances had been deliberately sabotaged in some kind of racist plot. It would be nearly four decades before New York City Opera staged another opera by a black composer.

Whippoorwill's Shoes (Wood Notes)
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Little Black Slave Child (Troubled Island)
Christin-Marie hill, mezzo soprano
Andrew Altenbach, piano

Ennanga, for harp, piano and string quartet (1. Moderately fast)
Lois Adele Craft, harp
Annette Kaufman, piano
Kaufman String Quartet

Symphony No 3, ‘The Sunday Symphony’ (2. Prayer – very slowly; 3. Relaxation – Gaily)
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Lyric Quartette
Oregon String Quartet

Highway One: Act I (extract)
Robert Honeysucker, baritone (Bob)
Louise Toppin, soprano (Mary)
Pamela Dillard, mezzo soprano (Aunt Lou)
Vocal Essence
St Olaf Orchestra
Philip Brunelle, conductor

Grief (Weeping Angel)
Thomas Hampson, baritone
Wolfram Rieger, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

"

Troubled Island20190208

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still’s uphill struggle to establish himself as a composer of opera.

Of Still’s eight surviving operas, to date only five have had any kind of production. The first of these, Troubled Island, was produced by New York City Opera in 1949, which was the first time a major American opera company had put on a work by an American-born composer, regardless of race. Following an initial rejection by the Metropolitan Opera and despite the advocacy of the conductor Leopold Stokowski, it had taken the best part of a decade form the opera's completion to bring it to the stage, with plenty of haggling over funding along the way. Three performances were scheduled, with leading roles taken by white singers in blackface. The première was well received by the audience, but the reviews were hostile, and after the initial run, there were no further performances. Still was understandably devastated by the critical panning meted out to his long-cherished project, and came to believe that the opera’s chances had been deliberately sabotaged in some kind of racist plot. It would be nearly four decades before New York City Opera staged another opera by a black composer.

Whippoorwill's Shoes (Wood Notes)
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Little Black Slave Child (Troubled Island)
Christin-Marie hill, mezzo soprano
Andrew Altenbach, piano

Ennanga, for harp, piano and string quartet (1. Moderately fast)
Lois Adele Craft, harp
Annette Kaufman, piano
Kaufman String Quartet

Symphony No 3, ‘The Sunday Symphony’ (2. Prayer – very slowly; 3. Relaxation – Gaily)
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Lyric Quartette
Oregon String Quartet

Highway One: Act I (extract)
Robert Honeysucker, baritone (Bob)
Louise Toppin, soprano (Mary)
Pamela Dillard, mezzo soprano (Aunt Lou)
Vocal Essence
St Olaf Orchestra
Philip Brunelle, conductor

Grief (Weeping Angel)
Thomas Hampson, baritone
Wolfram Rieger, piano

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still's uphill struggle to establish himself as a composer of opera.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201803Success20190206

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still marries – for a second time – and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

When Still married Verna Arvey in February 1939, just two days after his divorce from his first wife Grace came through, they had to drive over the border to Tijuana to do it – racially mixed marriages were against Californian law in those days, as they continued to be until 1948. It wasn’t just on a personal level that Arvey had been become indispensable to Still; she helped him practically, too, effectively becoming his secretary and PR assistant, not to mention musical advisor, librettist and even biographer. By now, Still’s career and reputation were in the ascendant. In 1936, he had become the first African-American to conduct a major US symphony orchestra: the LA Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl. When his 2nd Symphony was premièred the following year, it was by the crack team of Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Then there were honorary degrees, fellowships and prestigious commissions, like the one to write the theme music for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. But despite all these tokens of respect, Still must have been keenly aware of the situation faced by people of colour outside of the cultural bubble. His setting of a poem by Katherine Garrison Chapin, ‘And they lynched him on a tree’, inspired by the murders ten years previously of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana, received its first performance in 1940 – the same year that the Gavagan anti-lynching bill was blocked by the US Senate.

Blues, Pt 1
Artie Shaw and his Orchestra

Lenox Avenue (The Crap Game; The Flirtation; The Fight; The Law)
Juano Hernandez, narrator
CBS Symphony Orchestra
Howard Barlow, conductor

Symphony No 2 in G minor, ‘Song of a New Race’ (4. Moderately Slow)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Out of the Silence (Seven Traceries, No 4)
Monica Gaylord piano

And They Lynched Him on a Tree
Hilda Harris, mezzo soprano
William Warfield, narrator
Leigh Morris Chorale
VocalEssence Ensemble and Singers
Philip Brunelle, conductor

Old California
New York Philharmonic
Pierre Monteux, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still remarries, and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, Still marries – for a second time – and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

When Still married Verna Arvey in February 1939, just two days after his divorce from his first wife Grace came through, they had to drive over the border to Tijuana to do it – racially mixed marriages were against Californian law in those days, as they continued to be until 1948. It wasn’t just on a personal level that Arvey had been become indispensable to Still; she helped him practically, too, effectively becoming his secretary and PR assistant, not to mention musical advisor, librettist and even biographer. By now, Still’s career and reputation were in the ascendant. In 1936, he had become the first African-American to conduct a major US symphony orchestra: the LA Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl. When his 2nd Symphony was premièred the following year, it was by the crack team of Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Then there were honorary degrees, fellowships and prestigious commissions, like the one to write the theme music for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. But despite all these tokens of respect, Still must have been keenly aware of the situation faced by people of colour outside of the cultural bubble. His setting of a poem by Katherine Garrison Chapin, ‘And they lynched him on a tree’, inspired by the murders ten years previously of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Marion, Indiana, received its first performance in 1940 – the same year that the Gavagan anti-lynching bill was blocked by the US Senate.

Blues, Pt 1
Artie Shaw and his Orchestra

Lenox Avenue (The Crap Game; The Flirtation; The Fight; The Law)
Juano Hernandez, narrator
CBS Symphony Orchestra
Howard Barlow, conductor

Symphony No 2 in G minor, ‘Song of a New Race’ (4. Moderately Slow)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Out of the Silence (Seven Traceries, No 4)
Monica Gaylord piano

And They Lynched Him on a Tree
Hilda Harris, mezzo soprano
William Warfield, narrator
Leigh Morris Chorale
VocalEssence Ensemble and Singers
Philip Brunelle, conductor

Old California
New York Philharmonic
Pierre Monteux, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

Still remarries, and is embraced by the American musical establishment.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

"

201804A Black Pierrot20190207

"

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, an unhappy brush with Hollywood, and Still’s 4th Symphony, ‘Autochthonous'.

In 1942, Still was approached by 20th Century Fox to be musical director on Stormy Weather, a film with an all-black cast based on the life of the dancer Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, who also starred. Things did not go to plan. Before long, he said, he found himself sat in an office all day with nothing to do, twiddling his thumbs. It must have been a relief to return to the world of “pure music ?, which is how Still said he composed his 4th Symphony, to which he later gave the unusual subtitle ‘Autochthonous’, meaning ‘native to the place where it is found’. The symphony, Still said, was “intended to represent the spirit of the American people. It may also be said that the music speaks of the fusion of musical cultures in North America ?

‘A Black Pierrot’ (Songs of Separation)
Robert Honeysucker, baritone
Vivian Taylor, piano

Incantation and Dance, for oboe and piano
Joseph Robinson, oboe
Pedja Muzijevic, piano

Festive Overture
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Arthur Bennet Lipkin, conductor

Bells
Denver Oldham, piano

Symphony No 4, ‘Autochthonous’
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales.

Still's unhappy brush with Hollywood, and his Fourth Symphony, \u2018Autochthonous'.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of African-American composer William Grant Still. Today, an unhappy brush with Hollywood, and Still’s 4th Symphony, ‘Autochthonous'.

In 1942, Still was approached by 20th Century Fox to be musical director on Stormy Weather, a film with an all-black cast based on the life of the dancer Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, who also starred. Things did not go to plan. Before long, he said, he found himself sat in an office all day with nothing to do, twiddling his thumbs. It must have been a relief to return to the world of “pure music ?, which is how Still said he composed his 4th Symphony, to which he later gave the unusual subtitle ‘Autochthonous’, meaning ‘native to the place where it is found’. The symphony, Still said, was “intended to represent the spirit of the American people. It may also be said that the music speaks of the fusion of musical cultures in North America ?

‘A Black Pierrot’ (Songs of Separation)
Robert Honeysucker, baritone
Vivian Taylor, piano

Incantation and Dance, for oboe and piano
Joseph Robinson, oboe
Pedja Muzijevic, piano

Festive Overture
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Arthur Bennet Lipkin, conductor

Bells
Denver Oldham, piano

Symphony No 4, ‘Autochthonous’
Fort Smith Symphony
John Jeter, conductor

Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales.

Still's unhappy brush with Hollywood, and his Fourth Symphony, \u2018Autochthonous'.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music."