The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Chicago’s South Side natives and inspirational brothers Anthony and Demarre McGill set an example for young African-Americans about the importance of classical music. Plus, Classical Revolution Madison performs Mozart and Schubert this morning.

March 3, 2013
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ALERT: Just a reminder that this morning from 11 a,m. to 1:20 p.m., members of Classical Revolution Madison (below) will perform a free concert a Fair Trade Coffee House, 418 State Street. The program includes the first movement of Franz Schubert‘s sublime cello Quintet in C Major; the first movement of Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata in A Minor for cello as arranged for guitar and viola; “Deh Vieni” from the opera “Don Giovanni” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; and “Flow My Tears” by John Dowland.

Classical Revolution Madison

By Jacob Stockinger

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that twice in the past month or so, I have written about the lack of African-American young people going into or at least studying classical music.

The first blog entry by me, written for Martin Luther King Jr. birthday holiday and the second Inauguration of President Barack Obama (below), brought in some great reader comments that you should be sure to read:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/classical-music-on-martin-luther-king-jr-day-and-president-barack-obamas-second-inauguration-day-the-ear-wonders-why-arent-there-more-african-american-players-in-and-audiences-fo/

obama

And then I wrote again about this on the occasion of Black History Month, which is held each February, and specifically linked to NPR’s story about conductor Marin Alsop rediscovering the classical side of jazz great James P. Johnson (below, in a photo by William Gottlieb).

Here is a link to that posting:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/classical-music-conductor-marin-alsop-helps-to-rediscover-jazz-master-james-p-johnson-as-a-serious-classical-musician-and-composer-of-symphonies

alsop_johnson

Now it turns out that I am hardly alone in thinking about this question and about how to draw young black students from hip-hop, rap, pop, R&D and jazz to classical music.

NBC reporter Ron Mott filed a terrific report, one that is even inspirational that aired this past week on the top-rated network news show, the NBC Evening News with Brian Williams.

It is a story about the very accomplished McGill brothers (below), originally from the South Side of Chicago – much in the news these days for gun violence. Their parents supported their music lessons and they played in the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. (See the joint YouTube video at bottom.)

Brother Anthony is the principal Clarinet player in the prestigious Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Brother Demarre is the principal flute player in the well-known and highly respected Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

demarre and anthony-mcgill th egrio

Both brothers have played with many orchestras and performed a lot of chamber music, Both teacher and do outreach to schools as well as perform. Both won Avery Fisher grants – the only sibling ever to do so. And their list of accomplishments goes on and on.

Anthony and Demarre McGill performing

Both men speak not only musically with eloquence on their chosen instruments; they are also articulate spokesmen for why classical music can be beneficial and should be pursued by more black youth – and, I would add, by more black adults as audience members.

McGill brothers performing 2

In fact, they are so impressive, I think they should be invited again (Anthony played his clarinet at the first Inauguration) to The White House for a nationally broadcast concert of classical chamber music. What great role model they are for all young people, but especially African-American young people, who often either get negative press coverage or are ignored by the mainstream media.

Here is the report as it appeared on NBC  TV:

http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/50964613#50964613

And here is the version that appeared on NBC’s website devoted to news and features about African-Americans called ‘The Grio” (the name is derived from the West African word for the tribal member who keeps oral history and is a “storyteller” who passes along music, poetry and drama as well as stories and news):

http://thegrio.com/2013/02/27/thegrios-100-anthony-mcgill-and-demarre-mcgill-brothers-making-it-big-in-classical-music/

You can keep up with the latest developments of the these two remarkable brothers. You can find a lot of their individual and joint performances and master classes by going to YouTube and typing their names in the search engine. It is well worth the effort, believe me, and was eye-opening.

You find yourself wondering: HOW CAN SUCH ADMIRABLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND INSPIRATIONAL HUMAN INTEREST ESCAPE THE NOTICE OF THE MAINSTREAM PRESS AND MEDIA FOR SO LONG? So thank you, Ron Mott, Brian Williams and the NBC crew.

And, most of all, thank Anthony and Demarre McGill and their parents!

You can also follow Anthony McGill on Twitter at @mcgillab


Classical music: For Black History Month, conductor Marin Alsop rediscovers jazz master James P. Johnson as a serious classical musician and composer of symphonies. Plus, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Rhapsodie String Quartet plays a FREE concert of Mozart and Brahms in Stoughton on Tuesday evening.

February 11, 2013
4 Comments

ALERT: The Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Rhapsodie String Quartet (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) will play music by Mozart and Brahms in a FREE concert tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. at the Skaalen Retirement Community Chapel , at 400 North Morris Street, in Stoughton. Free-will donations will be welcome at the door. The quartet brings together some of the brightest stars of the MSO: Co-concertmaster Suzanne Beia, Principal Cellist Karl Lavine, Principal Violist Christopher Dozoryst and violinist Laura Burns. The concert will include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s  String Quartet No. 15 in D minor, K. 421, and Johannes Brahms‘ Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 155, featuring MSO clarinetist Nancy Mackenzie. The Rhapsodie String Quartet is the resident quartet of the MSO’s HeartStrings Community Engagement Program which reaches beyond traditional learning environments to bring live, interactive performances by some of the MSO’s best players into healthcare and residential facilities.

Rhapsodie Quartet MSO Greg Anderson

By Jacob Stockinger

February is Black History Month.

That makes it a great time to once again ask a question that I posted last month on Martin Luther King Day: Where are African-American classical musicians, and why don’t we see and hear more of them?

Apparently, I’m not the only person with that question on my mind. In fact, if you follow this link back to that posting, you can read reader Comments and see some very fine suggestions for more names of black composers and performers.

Here is a link:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/classical-music-on-martin-luther-king-jr-day-and-president-barack-obamas-second-inauguration-day-the-ear-wonders-why-arent-there-more-african-american-players-in-and-audiences-fo/

But there is more.

National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition” with Scott Simon also featured a terrific story about Marin Alsop (below), the conductor and music director of the Baltimore Symphony and the Sao Paul Symphony in Brazil.

Marin Alsop big

It turns out that Alsop uncovered long-lost manuscripts of serious music by the forgotten James P. Johnson (below, in a photo by William Gottlieb), best known as an outstanding jazz stride pianist who also taught Fats Waller.

And as a jazz composer, he wrote THE piece that embodied an entire age: “The Charleston.”

But it runs our that there was a classical side to Johnson too. He wrote “Harlem” Symphony (an excerpt in a YouTube video is at the bottom) and several other works that were actually performed in Carnegie Hall during the 1940s.

alsop_johnson

Moreover, Alsop – a Leonard Bernstein student in spirit as well as name — is trying to bring Johnson back into the mainstream.

Alsop is attempting to restore the lost manuscripts that languished in an attic for decades. And she intends to give performances of the music that will become, one suspects, recordings. The story even includes some excerpts, so stream it and listen to it, don’t just read it.

And more live performances and recordings of a black composer just might also lead to more black students and black audiences.

At least one can hope so.

Here is a link to the story:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/02/02/170864270/treasures-in-the-attic-finding-a-jazz-masters-lost-orchestral-music


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