The Price of Admission: A Musical Biography of Florence Beatrice Price

Airs on WQXR at 10 pm on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Florence Beatrice Price wrote more than 300 musical compositions. Some of her works have been lost, others are unpublished, and some of piano and vocal music is still being heard in concert halls. When contralto Marian Anderson gave that historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, she concluded her recital with Price’s “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord.” And since the 1930s, Price’s art songs and spiritual settings have been favorites of artists who specialize in African American concert music.

At 10 pm on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, join Terrance McKnight, WQXR host and former Morehouse professor of music, for "The Price of Admission," a one-hour program that brings to light the music and legacy of one of America’s pioneering but nearly forgotten composers and takes a biographical look at Price’s symphonic music, songs, and works for piano and organ. The radio documentary includes archival interview tape of composer Margaret Bonds talking about her friendship with Price and Marian Anderson’s performances of Price’s music recorded during “The Bell Telephone Hour,” a popular musical showcase in the 1940-'60s.

Price was born in Little Rock, Ark., but spent her professional career in Chicago. Due to her musical talent and her family’s affluence, Price enrolled at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where she majored in organ and piano. After graduating with two degrees, Price worked as a college professor, a church organist and a theater accompanist. However, she is best remembered as the first woman of African descent to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra. In 1933, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played her Symphony in E minor. That orchestra also premiered her Piano Concerto the following year.

Video: Watch Erin Flannery, soprano, and Terrance McKnight, piano, perform Florence B. Price's "To My Little Son."

Music heard within the program:

Florence Price: Concerto in One Movement
Florence B. Price Concerto in One Movement, Symphony in E Minor

Florence Price: "Dances in the Canebrakes: Silk Hat and Walking Cane"
Black Diamonds: Althea Waites plays music by African-American Composers

Blind Boone: "Sparks: Galop de Concert" (1894)
Marshfield Tornado: John Davis Plays Blind Boone

Florence Price: Symphony in E Minor
Florence B. Price Concerto in One Movement, Symphony in E Minor

Florence Price: "Hold Fast to Dreams"
Ah! Love, But a Day, Songs and Spirituals of American Women

Gioachino Rossini: Stabat Mater, "Inflammatus et accensus"
Wiener Philharmoniker; Myung-Whun Chung, conductor

Traditional: "Go Down, Moses"
Dvorak Discoveries

Carl Heinrich Reinecke: Concerto No. 2 op. 120 in E minor
Carl Heinrich Reinecke Piano Concertos 1-4

Alexandre Guilmant: Organ Sonata No. 1 in D Minor
Guilmant Organ Music

George Whitefield Chadwick: Symphonic Sketches I. Jubilee
Symphony No. 2; Symphonic Sketches

Florence Price: Symphony No. 3 in C minor Juba: Allegro
Florence Price: The Oak, Mississippi River Suite, Symphony No. 3

Florence Price: "The Oak"
Florence Price: The Oak, Mississippi River Suite, Symphony No. 3

Roland Hayes: "Beau Soir," "Alma del core," "Pity a Po' Boy," "Du bist die Ruh," "Orfeo Vi ricordo o bosch ombrosi"
The Art of Roland Hayes, Six Centuries of Songs

Alessandro Scarlatti: "Se Florindo e Fedele"
Marian Anderson Rare and Unpublished Recordings, 1936-1952

Florence Price: "Fantasie Negre"
Kaleidescope: Music by African American Women

Hector Berlioz: L'Enfance du Christ, Op. 25 - Partie 2: La fuite en Egypte: Le repos de la Sainte Famille - Les pèlerins étant venus

Florence Price: "Dances in the Canebrakes: Tropical Noon"
Black Diamonds: Althea Waites plays music by African-American Composers

Florence Price (arr.): "My Soul's Been Anchored in de Lord"
Marian Anderson: He's Got the Whole World in His Hand Spirituals

Florence Price: "Song to Dark Virgin"
American Classics Explore America Vol. 1

Florence Price: "Toccata"
Chicago Renaissance Woman, Florence B. Price Organ Works

Florence Price: "Mississippi River Suite"
Florence Price: The Oak, Mississippi River Suite, Symphony No. 3

"City Called Heaven"
Angela M. Brown, Mosaic: A Collection of African-American Spirituals with Piano and Guitar

Special thanks to Hatch Billops Collection, Helen Walker-Hill Collection at University of Colorado at Boulder, Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Center for Black Music Research and New York Public Radio Archivist Andy Lanset. 

Hosted by:

Terrance McKnight


More in:

Comments [19]

David Steinberg from Albuquerque NM

Thank you, thank you, Mr. McKnight et al for the eye-opening and ear-opening program on Florence Price. I learned so much about her professional and personal life and her unheralded contributions to American music. I look forward to hearing more of Ms. Price's compositions throughout the year, not limited to Black History Month. Perhaps WQXR can make the program available to other radio stations and to public television.

Feb. 01 2017 11:26 PM
kara Haney from nyc

agreed - Terrence Mc Knight made an invaluable contribution to the station's programming, to QXR listeners, and to the rich legacy of African Americans. Congrats, and THANK YOU!(While it is not exactly my style, program directors, let's hear some of this music more often - and also more of the less known American works of Ives etc and even of other Eastern Europeans and so many great works that are neglected. I, have heard Appalacian Spring and Steve Reich often enough!)

As a white person with southern and European roots I just wonder when we will no longer need to quote the ethnic backgrounds of our most gifted Artists.

Feb. 06 2016 09:40 PM
Avery from Kent, Ct

What a wonderful program! Beautiful music, and Terrance's narrative is so enlightening. I feel richer for being introduced to Florence Beatrice Price, and of course richer for having Terrance McKnight at WQXR!

Feb. 03 2015 09:45 PM
Anne from Massapequa, NY

Thank you Terrence. Perhaps I should thank Mother Nature that your excellent musical biography of Florence Price was replayed tonight and I heard it. Everything was wonderful, your writing, her music, the musicians, and your narration. It made me forget the stormy night. I will tell friends to look for a repeat of The Price Of Admission. I hope you will air it again soon.

Feb. 13 2014 10:02 PM
Bill Holab from Brooklyn, NY

Thank you, Terrence, for a wonderful piece on Florence Price and her unique work. I was Director of Publications at G. Schirmer and worked with Rae Linda Brown to publish some editions of Price's work, and always thought it was special and worthy of more attention. I'm thrilled to hear an hour-long piece about her life and music!

Feb. 13 2014 09:03 PM
john from new york city

I was listening to wnyc on Sunday and I heard the story of this wonderful composer. I am black yet in all my musical studies I was never introduced to this composer. I don't understand why we can't get more recognition for our complete understanding of all forms of music. Those that we have invented and also the other styles we have adopted.

Feb. 10 2014 02:17 PM
Ken Lerner from NYC

Thank you so much for the presentation of Florence Beatrice Price's music--since I had never heard of her nor heard her music--

And although I have not yet heard her whole symphony (her b minor symphony) just the pieces of it you payed on your program, I already know it's a fantastic piece of music, and will certainly purchase a CD of it shortly. in reminds me of Dvorak's New World Symphony which I conceder a masterpiece

Thank you so much for this introduction

Ken Lerner

Feb. 09 2014 11:48 PM
Barrie from Harlem

Thank you, Terrance McKnight, for a moving and informative narrative of one of our most musically prolific women. I had never heard of Florence Beatrice Price and never imagined that classical music composition was an early interest for Black women but learning that she had been encouraged and exposed to the classics at an early age reinforces the argument for early childhood development and parental encouragement to reach beyond our perceived limits. The Price of Admission is indeed priceless.

Feb. 09 2014 11:54 AM
David Tereshchuk from Manhattan

Thank you so very much for a delighting accounting of Ms Price's life and work. (And for the exquisite rendering of "To My Little Son"! Great rippling keys, Mr McKnight.) One hypersensitive picking of a nit, from a Brit. To describe Sir John Barbirolli's Halle Orchestra as being in London ... is a grave mislocation. MANCHESTER is the Halle's hallowed home. Your error is like saying the NY Phil is from Washington DC. (Just by being the nation's capital, London gets credit for far too much. We provincials deserve better, especially from a Georgia Genius like Mr McKnight.)

Feb. 09 2014 09:32 AM
Keith G. from Denver, CO

Thanks for a wonderful audio biography of Florence Price. I was only familiar with Dances in the Canebrakes--one of my favorite pieces--and a few other compositions. Your program greatly increased my understanding and appreciation of her life and work.

Feb. 06 2014 03:32 PM
Ebony Clemons from Wichita, Ks

The Price of Admission is incredible! Thank you for all that you do! I have a small piano studio comprised of 12 young ladies and I am trying to introduce them to great African American women composers. This is something that I wish I would have been introduced to as a child studying music. It wasn't until college that I was introduced to these great women. I always knew that African american women composers existed but I couldn't understand why I never studied their works in my private lessons. Her story and her music inspires me in my musical journey, I hope that it does the same for my students. I think that it is important for them to see the contributions made by classically trained African American women in piano literature and their attempt to change the face of chamber music. Again, thank you for sharing her story!

Jul. 16 2013 12:49 AM
Rupert Davis from Manhattan, NY

Utmost appreciation and sincerest gratitude to QWXR for presenting this glorious tribute to the legacy of Ms. Florence Beatrice Price and her impressive body of work left for us to behold, to listen, and to enjoy. By the same, I wholeheartedly commend, host, Mr. Terrance McKnight for his masterful presentation of this and the other lovely works featured during this Black History Month. His vast knowledge of classical music and it's dynamism in terms of the US Black experience is a welcome breath of fresh air to all, and in particular, to our black community as well.

Feb. 28 2013 07:41 PM
John B. Houston from East Orange, NJ

Thank you again Terrance for introducing me to a composer that I was oblivious to, although familiar with her cohorts; William Grant Still and Margaret Bonds. Continue to enlighten us about the contributions of our people to the world of music.

Feb. 25 2013 09:29 PM
victoria bond from NYC

Re/Discovering the Music of
Florence Beatrice Price
guest speaker,
Dr. Victoria
Bond of the
New York
Co-sponsored by the African-American History Month
Committee, Women’s History Month Committee and
the RCC Black Student Union.
For information, contact Dr. Shamika Mitchell:
Monday, 4 March 2013
6:30 PM - Ellipse Room,
Technology Center
Rockland Community College

Feb. 25 2013 02:12 PM

Thank you so very much for this invaluable program. I have long since wanted to explore more of Florence's life and works. This has been a great synopsis, enough for me to begin further exploration and appreciation of this talented woman.

Feb. 25 2013 10:12 AM
Diane Tremper from Maplewood, NJ

Terrence Mc Knight is making an invaluable contribution to the station's programming, to QXR listeners, and to the rich legacy of African Americans with the bios he's been writing, co/writing, and narrating. From King to Price we've been enlightened with factoids, introduced to new folks, and heard a variety of often new music to our ears. Congrats, and THANK YOU!(So, program directors, let's hear some of this music more often. I, for maybe the only one, have heard Lark Ascending often enough!)

Feb. 25 2013 08:52 AM
Vyctorya says: Thank you so much for all your dedications this Black History/Herstory month. I have learned and enjoyed quite a lot!

Feb. 24 2013 10:17 PM
Joan Roland from NYC

Kudos to Terrance Mcknight on the Price of Admission, a fascinating musical biography of a composer I knew nothing about. I hope this will be widely heard outside of the WQXR listening area, and will be repeated on WQXR itself in future years. This whole series has been wonderful -- enjoyed the Langston Hughes program as well. Terrance should do more of these!

Feb. 24 2013 10:07 PM
Melissa from Morris Plains NJ

Thank you for introducing me to the beautiful music and moving story of Florence Price.

Feb. 24 2013 10:02 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.