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Bonds, Kay & Perkinson: African American Voices Ii Kellen Gray, Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Bonds, Kay & Perkinson: African American Voices Ii Kellen Gray, Royal Scottish National Orchestra

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Kellen Gray has reunited with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for a second instalment of African American Voices. Though representing differing schools of thought regarding African American classical music, the composers here are united by their roots in black history, culture and its rich musical heritage. Drawing upon jazz and spirituals – ‘I Want Jesus to Walk with Me’ serving as the source material – Margaret Bonds’ Montgomery Variations engages with African American history, namely the Montgomery bus boycott and the 1963 Birmingham church bombing. In this work, re-discovered in 2017, Bonds tackles the themes of strength, resistance, determination and faith. Bonds’ contemporary, the prolific composer Ulysses Kay cultivated a neoclassical voice, as his Concerto for Orchestra exemplifies, very much in line with William Grant Still and his teacher Paul Hindemith. A versatile musician, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson comes a generation later. In his Worship: A Concert Overture, we can hear a blend of Baroque counterpoint, elements of the blues, spirituals and black folk music.


Margaret Bond (1913–1972) wrote her 1964 Montgomery Variations as a seven-movement theme-and-variations on the spiritual “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me.” Bond’s impassioned cri de coeur bypasses the constraints of academic cd’s and don’ts as it chronicles in boldly theatrical music the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, from the Montgomery bus boycott through the tragic 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. Bond dedicated the piece to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., though sadly never heard it performed during her brief lifetime.

Ulysses Kay (1917–1995) reflects in his 1948 Concerto for Orchestra the influence of several of his mentors – including Paul Hindemith – as a thoroughly tonal work conceived in mid-20th century, in a moment in which the music of the followers of the Second Viennese School reigned supreme in the classical music worlds of both Europe and America. Kay’s classically structured, richly orchestrated, harmonically dense, and contrapuntally complex composition remains at its core a consonantly melodic, post-Romantic work.

In his 2001 Worship: A Concert Overture Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932–2004) successfully amalgamates sacred and secular music, incorporating blues in his nobly elegant treatment of Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.

-- All About The Arts (Rafael de Acha)

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