by Anthony R. Green
This morning, walking down the street in Berlin, I saw an article in the Berliner Morgenpost about Beethoven and how the world is preparing for celebrations of his 250th anniversary. Wonderful! I am sure many are anticipating the articles, educational events, displays, and thousands of concerts all dedicated to Beethoven's life, perhaps some of his contemporaries and inspirations (such as Cherubini), and his music. I personally am anticipating catching a performance of the Grosse Fugue, which - in my opinion - is one of the most transcendental pieces ever composed.
By now, you probably have noticed, like I did, that these big anniversary celebrations of the "great masters" are staged by institutions that have defined the composers who are considered the "great masters", and ... well ... many well-deserving composers have simply not made the cut, for ... various ... different reasons.
With that, let's consider adding William Grant Still to next year's major celebrations. Born in 1895, 2020 will mark his 125th anniversary! With so many barries broken, so many accomplishments achieved successfully and gracefully, and such incredible music, Still deserves the title of "Great Master" as much as Beethoven. Still composed over 150 works, including 5 symphonies and eight operas! He was the first Black composer to have a symphony played by a major symphony orchestra, the first to have an opera played by a major opera company, the first to have an opera broadcast on television, and he was the first Black person to conduct a major symphony orchestra in the US. How did he achieve all of this? Talent, hard work, dedication, persistence, strength, tenacity, and so much more. But the mere fact that he was so prolific, often performed, sought after, and respected is a testament to his character and the worth of his music.
So where are the Still celebration preparations? Have you noticed them? Have you noticed a lack of them? There is still time to write letters, posts, blogs, and make other requests to demand to hear the music of Still in celebration of his 125th next year! The concerts and celebrations unfortunately will not happen if people do not ask. Please ask! Demand! Don't forget about William Grant Still!
In the meantime, listen to this beautiful recording of Summerland by the incomparable Althea Waites!
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