A new generation of African-American composers

While the content of classical music performances is always going to be focused on the composers which formed it’s foundation, new music is being written on a daily basis which needs and deserves, to be heard.

Black History Month gives us an opportunity to do a couple of things. We can put the past and present African-American composers into the spotlight, then make sure that music isn’t returned to the shelf and left unplayed for 11 months.

One chamber group recently took it upon themselves to make certain new African-American composers are heard.  The Da Capo Chamber Players gave a performance a few days ago in New York City. In a New York Times article by Steven Smith, flutist Patricia Spencer, the only remaining original member of the group, spoke of the inspiration for this event.

“Feeling quite helpless as a mere flute player, I decided that even a small step, a program honoring black history and featuring a few of the extraordinary black composers in our midst, might help raise awareness of this (situation).”

One of the pieces on the program was African Sketches by Nigerian-American composer Nkeiru Okoye.  Another was “Portraits of Langston,” a six-part suite incorporating five Langston Hughes poems with music by Valerie Coleman, flutist in the Imani Winds.  A portion of another of her compositions, Umoja, can be heard in the video above.

It is my hope that, as we focus on African-American composers and performers this month, that it is the beginning of a year-round enjoyment and appreciation of music of all types.

Read more: Raising Voices and Awareness for Overlooked Works ( The New York Times)

Watch: Imani Winds play Elliot Carter’s Quintet

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