African American Choral Composers

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

On this edition of The Choral Mix, Kent Tritle explores compositions of contemporary African Americans.  Also featured is this week's Choral Story from David Hurd, a native New Yorker who makes his living as a concert organist, professor and choral music director. 

Ulysses Kay was originally encouraged to pursue composition by William Grant Still, and composed for chorus receiving particular praise for his works. He taught for two decades in the city at Lehman College. Featured on this episode is his sacred triptych called, A New Song-3 Psalms for Chorus. They are a capella settings of portions of Psalms 149, 103 and 117. The Choir of Trinity Church Wall Street sings this version under the direction of Larry King.

Philip Brunelle and his Minnesota group Vocalessence are champions of African American composition. We play selections sung by the midwestern group composed by two leading women -- Undine Smith Moore and Evelyn Simpson-Curenton.

This episode would not be complete without a contribution from the great William Grant Still. Grant Still was a prolific composer and man of many firsts -- the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony (his first symphony) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television. These are all testaments to the great quality of work.  We feature his dramatic work, Wailing Woman. It's scored for Chorus, Orchestra and soloist.  We play a version featuring more of Vocalessence, with soloist Yolanda Williams led by Philip Brunelle.

Choral Story with David Hurd

David shares his thoughts on teaching and composing liturgical music for the Episcopal church. He is a Professor of Sacred Music and Director of Chapel Music at the General Theological Seminary located in Chelsea in New York City. He is also the Music Director at the Church of the Holy Apostles. Featured in his story is his setting of Psalm 51, Miserere, Mei Deus, as well as his compositions I will wash my hands in innocense, There is a budding morrow in midnight, and Love bade me welcome.




Ulysses S. Kay/Choral Music By 20th-Century American Composers/Trinity Church Wall Street, Larry King

A New Song-3 Psalms for Chorus

Sing Unto the Lord

Like as a Father

O Praise the Lord


Undine Smith Moore/Dance Like The Wind/VocalEssence Chorus, VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, Philip Brunelle, Yolanda Williams, soprano

Mother to Sun

We Shall Walk through The Valley

Tambourines to Glory


Evelyn Simpson-Curenton/Dance Like The Wind/VocalEssence Chorus, Philip Brunelle, Dan Dressen, tenor

My Soul Has Refuge in Thee


Hailstork/Copland and his American Contemporaries, Vol.3/ The Choir of New College Oxford, Edward Higginbottom

Henry Jenkinson (Voice (Treble)), Stephen Taylor (Alto)

The Song of Deborah



I will wash my hands in innocense

Miserere, Mei Deus


William Grant Still/ William Grant Still: Skyward My People Rose/ Studio Orchestra, VocalEssence Chorus, VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, Philip Brunelle Yolanda Williams, soprano

Wailing Woman

Comments [5]

Gary Ekman from Manhattan NYC

We Shall Walk Through the Valley is simple and simply beautiful. A "spiritual" in the best sense of the word. I learned so much from this program.

Mar. 05 2013 08:00 AM
Carl MaultsBy, DFA

This is the second of two outstanding segments of Kent Tritle's 2013 salute to the African American Choral tradition. In it composer David Hurd offers a mini-seminar on liturgy, music and composition. The brilliance of this program is that although but the tip of the iceberg, it is a mainstream shout-out to the all too often unsung African American conservatory style composer. Kudos!

Feb. 26 2013 10:43 AM
david from okc, ok

Hit the play button at the top and it will work.
The other one seems inoperative.

Feb. 25 2013 11:39 PM
david dunkle from okc, ok

Finally, Kent has invited David to be on the progam! Yea! The most incredible composition (aside from the virtuoso "Te Deum" for organ), the greatest missing thing about this program was his setting of "I am the Way...".
Incredible composition, of extreme difficulty, both for a professional choir and an organist with the chops of Vladimir Horowitz!
It was recorded in the 70s by the fabulous choir of Trinity, Wall St.
The piece is veritably one of the greatest compositions for virtuoso professional choir and organist of the entire 20th century.
Its airing on the program was sadly missed.
Every professional choir in the world should hear this piece, and it should be put out on the international airwaves ASAP!
Any, thanks, Kent, for presenting David in this important forum!

David Dunkle, longtime friend of David and college classmate.

Feb. 25 2013 10:49 PM
e from CT

Any reason why this choral mix and the previous one are not available to listen to?

Feb. 25 2013 09:08 AM

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