From the Pastor
In our March 10 bulletin, an oversight was made in listing the dates for William Grant Still. We apologize for this printing error and would like to take this opportunity to share more information about this under recognized African-American composer of the 20th century. Also, the piece that was sung, “All That I Am,” was received directly from the daughter of Mr. Still who lives in Arizona by way of phone conversation I had with her. All the music of Maestro Still is kept by the family and self-published as there remains the historical mistrust by African-American artists in the publishing and recording industry in the U.S. What the following biography does not tell us is that Maestro Still was denied many opportunities to conduct a major symphony orchestra due to the color of his skin until the 1960s.
William Grant Still (May 11, 1895–December 3, 1978) was an American composer of more than 150 works, including five symphonies and eight operas. Often referred to as “the Dean” of African-American composers, Still was the first American composer to have an opera produced by the New York City Opera. Still is known most for his first symphony, the “Afro-American,” which was until the 1950s the most widely performed symphony composed by an American. Born in Mississippi, he grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, attended Wilberforce University and Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and was a student of George Whitefield Chadwick and later Edgard Varèse. Of note, Still was the first African American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony (his 1st 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. Due to his close association and collaboration with prominent Afro-American literary and cultural figures such as Alain Locke and Langston Hughes, William Grant Still is considered to be part of the Harlem Renaissance movement.
Here is a short documentary and an example of Still’s music:
One more note about music:
Did you know that for centuries the key of E flat has been associated with the Holy Trinity? The key of E flat is represented by three flats, the notes B flat, E flat, and A flat, in that order. J.S. Bach often used this key to symbolize his religious beliefs when composing and it can be found most well represented in his “Prelude” and “Fugue in E flat,” nicknamed “St. Anne” which is the tune name for the familiar hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”
Each Sunday the Chiming of the Hour is played using the note E flat to symbolize this music and theological association.