The Lebrecht Weekly: Dreams of a New Day – Songs by Black Composers (Cedille)

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In a year when every US institution is trying to fly multicultural credentials, the unanswered question is whether classical music has anything positive to contribute. No major orchestra has gone beyond the token overture or intermezzo by a minority composer, and no work by an unsung artist has yet captured the spirit of these times. For all its hiring of diversity v-ps and woke PRs, the music establishment has not changed its ways, nor the audience its tastes.

The present recital is something of a breakthrough. Will Liverman, a baritone much seen at the Met, has chosen songs by Black composers of two or three generations, songs that undermine the whiter-than-white setings of bygone year. ‘Pale Hands I Love Thee’ by Henry Burleigh (1866-1949) sounds richly, transgressively vivid beside the wispy orations of Rudolph Valentino and Richard Tauber.

An alternative Amazing Grace, set by Leslie Adams (b.1932), replaces humble faith with raw aspiration, unstoppable in its vigour. Two songs by Shawn E Okpebholo (b. 1981) remember racial attacks in southern states, while Richard Farina’s Birmingham Sunday leaves us with a glint of hope in an all-American narrative idiom.

Livermore summons up a gamut of emotions and colours, delicately supported by pianist Paul Sanchez. I listened to this album with pleasure and  affirmation. There is a wealth of diverse talent out there and it has a variety of messages for our present confusions. All we have to do is listen.


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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


About Author

Norman Lebrecht is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is one of the most popular sites for cultural news. He presents The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3 and is a contributor to several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Standpoint. Visit every Friday for his weekly CD review // Norman Lebrecht est un rédacteur prolifique couvrant les événements musicaux et Slipped Disc, est un des plus populaires sites de nouvelles culturelles. Il anime The Lebrecht Interview sur la BBC Radio 3 et collabore à plusieurs publications, dont The Wall Street Journal et The Standpoint. Vous pouvez lire ses critiques de disques chaque vendredi.

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