On the evening of January 20th this year, I was listening to PBS while sitting in the parking lot of the Presbyterian Church waiting for one of my regular customers to come out from her board meeting.
I sat, enthralled, as I listened to composition after composition either performed or written by black musicians, some of which I'd never heard. I took a couple of notes, but mainly I just listened and enjoyed.
In honor of Black History Month, I thought it would be appropriate to share a few with you.
This first name, George Theophilus Walker, was a complete stranger to me, so don't be a bit surprised if you are in the same boat. Born in 1922, he has had a long and distinguished career as a concert pianist, a composer, and teacher. He earned a doctorate in music, and has had several honorary degrees conferred upon him since by other educational institutions.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra commissioned Dr. Walker to compose a piece around Walt Whitman's When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in music in 1996, the first African American to do so.
What is most amazing to me is that I was unable to find - after several hours of searching - a recording of this to share with you. Altho this was the second musical composition commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra to win the Pulitzer - the first one performed again in several encore presentations and a recording made, the only logical explanation I can personally accept for the lack of promotion for "Lilacs" is that today's marketplace does not support contemporary classical music.
Mike Wallace, I believe it was, conducted what must have been (certainly sounded like!) an obligatory and somewhat distasteful interview following the Pulitzer announcement. I'd share it with you, but it upsets me. Many interruptions, sometimes mid-word. Disgraceful! The only reason I'm even talking about it now is that it did provide a little background and insight into some of Dr. Walker's thought processes while composing the piece.
Another blogger friend of mine, Steve, intends to do a post on Abraham Lincoln a bit later this month. I'll link it for you when he publishes. This should tie in quite nicely with his, I would think.
The best link I could find to read more about Dr. Walker is this one. There were many citations in Wiki and other locations where I tried to dig a little deeper, but most that I tried to follow were either deadends or of little consequence.
I'm feeling more than a little frustrated and inadequate with this post, but am going to hit "Publish" before another minute goes by.