Romantic Pieces by Black Composers

Pictured: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

At WDAV, the month of February brings with it two great programming opportunities. Though we play a wide selection of classical music throughout the year, in February we get to highlight certain pieces as we celebrate both Black History Month and Valentine’s Day. It may seem that the calendar coincidence is all that connects these two holidays, but they actually overlap when it comes to classical music, too. Many incredibly romantic pieces have been composed by talented black musicians, and we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites below. Enjoy!

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Romance in G for Violin and Orchestra

Coleridge-Taylor was a prolific composer whose works included several string quartets, symphonies, sonatas, and songs. Named after the famous poet, Coleridge-Taylor studied at the Royal College of Music in London and soon gained renown as the “African Mahler.” Here, one of his many romances is performed by the London Philharmonic with Nicholas Braithwaite conducting and Lorraine McAslan on violin.



Robert Nathaniel Dett: “Magnolias” from Magnolia Suite

Dett is a Canadian-born composer, musician, and professor who grew to fame in America for his use of African American folk and spiritual music as inspiration for Romantic Era-style classical music. His piano and choral pieces are so noteworthy that a choir in Canada dedicated to the works of black composers bears his name. Here, Denver Oldham performs the opening to Dett’s Magnolia Suite, which premiered around 1912.



H. Leslie Adams: “The Heart of a Woman”

Adams went from studying music at Oberlin College, California State University, and Ohio State to a successful career as an orchestral composer. His works, mostly notably piano etudes and choral pieces, have been performed by countless symphonies around the world. Here, Darryl Taylor performs his piece The Heart of a Woman, an arrangement of the poem by G.D. Johnson, with Robin Guy on piano.



Florence Price: “Song to a Dark Virgin”

Price is one of the most successful black female composers in the 20th century, as she was “the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer.” This piece, an arrangement of the Langston Hughes poem by the same name, is hauntingly beautiful, performed here by opera singer Marie Hadley Robinson

William Grant Still: A Music-Maker and a Groundbreaker

Pictured: William Grant Still in 1949; credit: Carl van Vechten on Wikipedia.

by Hannah Liberman

To the opera-goers who attended the NYC Opera on March 31, 1949, Troubled Island was simply another original work premiering at the renowned theatre. But the three-act opera, chronicling the assassination of a self-proclaimed emperor during the Haitian revolution of the late 18th century, was so much more than initially met the eye.

With music composed by William Grant Still and a libretto partially written by Langston Hughes, it was the first opera composed by an African American to be produced by a major opera house.

As unprecedented as it was, Troubled Island was met with mixed reviews. Critics questioned Still’s ability to transition from “the soufflé of operetta [to] the soup bone of opera,” and the show was never revived in full.

What’s more, the opening cast featured two white opera stars as the lead characters, while both had been written as black Haitians. But Troubled Island earned 22 curtain calls its opening night, and its legacy as a revolutionary work- both in content and context- continues to this day.

It not only beautifully brought new subject matter to the opera world, but opened up conversation about the lack of representation of marginalized groups in American opera.

Troubled Island may not be in some opera enthusiasts’ repertoires, but it has stood the test of time, with noteworthy productions happening as recently as 2013. Meanwhile, opera companies are starting to replace outdated practices so more prolific artists like Still can have their works produced.

Watch a performance of “I Dream a World” from Troubled Island:


Hannah Lieberman is a senior at Davidson College where she studies Political Science and Theatre. She loves her work at WDAV, where you can hear her live on Sunday mornings.

2018 Grammy Awards: Full list of Classical Music & Film Score Winners

The 60th annual Grammy Awards celebrated a lot of great music, including some fabulous film scores and classical recordings. Read the list of nominees and winners in the Classical, Music for Visual Media  and Arranging/Composing categories below:


Best Orchestral Performance

WINNER Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5; Barber: Adagio
Manfred Honeck, conductor (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)

Concertos For Orchestra
Louis Langrée, conductor (Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra)
Copland: Symphony No. 3; Three Latin American Sketches
Leonard Slatkin, conductor (Detroit Symphony Orchestra)
Debussy: Images; Jeux & La Plus Que Lente
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (San Francisco Symphony)
Mahler: Symphony No. 5
Osmo Vänskä, conductor (Minnesota Orchestra)

Best Opera Recording

WINNER Berg: Wozzeck
Hans Graf, conductor; Anne Schwanewilms & Roman Trekel; Hans Graf & Brad Sayles, producers (Houston Symphony; Chorus Of Students And Alumni, Shepherd School Of Music, Rice University & Houston Grand Opera Children’s Chorus)

Berg: Lulu
Lothar Koenigs, conductor; Daniel Brenna, Marlis Petersen & Johan Reuter; Jay -David Saks, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra)
Bizet: Les Pêcheurs De Perles
Gianandrea Noseda, conductor; Diana Damrau, Mariusz Kwiecień, Matthew Polenzani & Nicolas Testé; Jay David Saks, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)
Handel: Ottone
George Petrou, conductor; Max Emanuel Cencic & Lauren Snouffer; Jacob Händel, producer (Il Pomo D’Oro)
Rimsky-Korsakov: The Golden Cockerel
Valery Gergiev, conductor; Vladimir Feliauer, Aida Garifullina & Andrei Serov; Ilya Petrov, producer (Mariinsky Orchestra; Mariinsky Chorus)

Best Choral Performance

WINNER Bryars: The Fifth Century
Donald Nally, conductor (PRISM Quartet; The Crossing)

Handel: Messiah
Andrew Davis, conductor; Noel Edison, chorus master (Elizabeth DeShong, John Relyea, Andrew Staples & Erin Wall; Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Toronto Mendelssohn Choir)
Mansurian: Requiem
Alexander Liebreich, conductor; Florian Helgath, chorus master (Anja Petersen & Andrew Redmond; Münchener Kammerorchester; RIAS Kammerchor)
Music Of The Spheres
Nigel Short, conductor (Tenebrae)
Tyberg: Masses
Brian A. Schmidt, conductor (Christopher Jacobson; South Dakota Chorale)

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance

WINNER Death & The Maiden
Patricia Kopatchinskaja & The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

Buxtehude: Trio Sonatas, Op. 1
Divine Theatre Sacred Motets By Giaches De Wert
Stile Antico
Franck, Kurtág, Previn & Schumann
Joyce Yang & Augustin Hadelich
Martha Argerich & Friends – Live From Lugano 2016
Martha Argerich & Various Artists

Best Classical Instrumental Solo

WINNER Transcendental
Daniil Trifonov
Bach: The French Suites
Murray Perahia
Haydn: Cello Concertos
Steven Isserlis; Florian Donderer, conductor (The Deutsch Kammerphilharmonie Bremen)
Levina: The Piano Concertos
Maria Lettberg; Ariane Matiakh, conductor (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin)
Shostakovich: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Frank Peter Zimmermann; Alan Gilbert, conductor (NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester)

Best Classical Solo Vocal Album

WINNER Crazy Girl Crazy
Music By Gershwin, Berg & Berio – Barbara Hannigan (Orchestra Ludwig)

Bach & Telemann: Sacred Cantatas
Philippe Jaroussky; Petra Müllejans, conductor (Ann-Kathrin Brüggemann & Juan de la Rubia; Freiburger Barockorchester)
Gods & Monsters
Nicholas Phan; Myra Huang, accompanist
In War & Peace
Harmony Through Music – Joyce DiDonato; Maxim Emelyanychev, conductor (Il Pomo D’Oro)
Sviridov: Russia Cast Adrift
Dmitri Hvorostovsky; Constantine Orbelian, conductor (St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra & Style Of Five Ensemble)

Best Classical Compendium

WINNER Higdon: All Things Majestic, Viola Concerto & Oboe Concerto
Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer

Alexandre Tharaud; Cécile Lenoir, producer
Kurtág: Complete Works For Ensemble & Choir
Reinbert de Leeuw, conductor; Guido Tichelman, producer
Les Routes De L’Esclavage
Jordi Savall, conductor; Benjamin Bleton, producer
Mademoiselle: Première Audience – Unknown Music Of Nadia Boulanger
Lucy Mauro; Lucy Mauro, producer

Best Contemporary Classical Composition

WINNER Viola Concerto
Jennifer Higdon, composer (Roberto Díaz, Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony)
Track from: Higdon: All Things Majestic, Viola Concerto & Oboe Concerto

Concerto For Orchestra
Zhou Tian, composer (Louis Langrée & Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra) Track from: Concertos For Orchestra
Picture Studies
Adam Schoenberg, composer (Michael Stern & Kansas City Symphony) Track from: Schoenberg, Adam: American Symphony; Finding Rothko; Picture Studies
Tigran Mansurian, composer (Alexander Liebreich, Florian Helgath, RIAS Kammerchor & Münchener Kammerorchester)
Songs Of Solitude
Richard Danielpour, composer (Thomas Hampson, Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony) Track from: Danielpour: Songs Of Solitude & War Songs




Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media

 (Various Artists) Marius de Vries & Justin Hurwitz, compilation producer

Baby Driver (Various Artists)
Edgar Wright, compilation producer
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2 (Various Artists)
James Gunn, compilation producer
Hidden Figures: The Album (Various Artists)
Pharrell Williams; Pharrell Williams, compilation producer
Moana: The Songs (Various Artists)
 Opetaia Foa’i, Tom MacDougall, Mark Mancina & Lin-Manuel Miranda, compilation producers

Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media

Justin Hurwitz, composer

Jóhann Jóhannsson, composer
Hans Zimmer, composer
Game Of Thrones: Season 7
Ramin Djawadi, composer
Hidden Figures
Benjamin Wallfisch, Pharrell Williams & Hans Zimmer, composers

Best Song Written For Visual Media

WINNER How Far I’ll Go
Lin-Manuel Miranda, songwriter

City Of Stars
Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, songwriters
I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker)
Jack Antonoff, Sam Dew & Taylor Swift, songwriters
Never Give Up
Sia Furler & Greg Kurstin, songwriters
Stand Up For Something
Common, Andra Day & Diane Warren, songwriters




Best Instrumental Composition

WINNER “Three Revolutions”
Arturo O’Farrill, composer (Arturo O’Farrill & Chucho Valdés)

Pascal Le Boeuf, composer (Le Boeuf Brothers & JACK Quartet)
Choros #3″
Vince Mendoza, composer (Vince Mendoza & WDR Big Band Cologne)
“Home Free (For Peter Joe)”
Nate Smith, composer (Nate Smith)
“Warped Cowboy”
Chuck Owen, composer (Chuck Owen And The Jazz Surge)

Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella

WINNER “Escapades For Alto Saxophone And Orchestra” From Catch Me If You Can – John Williams, arranger (John Williams)

“All Hat, No Saddle”
Chuck Owen, arranger (Chuck Owen And The Jazz Surge)
“Home Free (For Peter Joe)”
Nate Smith, arranger (Nate Smith)
“Ugly Beauty/Pannonica”
John Beasley, arranger (John Beasley)
“White Christmas”
Chris Walden, arranger (Herb Alpert)

Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals

WINNER “Putin”
Randy Newman, arranger (Randy Newman)

“Another Day Of Sun”
Justin Hurwitz, arranger (La La Land Cast)
“Every Time We Say Goodbye”
Jorge Calandrelli, arranger (Clint Holmes Featuring Jane Monheit)
“I Like Myself”
Joel McNeely, arranger (Seth MacFarlane)
“I Loves You Porgy/There’s A Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon For New York”
ShellyBerg, Gregg Field, Gordon Goodwin & Clint Holmes, arrangers (Clint Holmes Featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater And The Count Basie Orchestra)

For a complete list of winners and nominees from the awards ceremony, click here.
Image by: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Holiday Treats from WDAV

The holidays are truly a wonderful opportunity to spend time with loved ones and make memories that last a lifetime! In preparing this year’s Christmas Eve edition of Biscuits & Bach: A Baroque Christmas, we asked WDAV staff to share some stories of their favorite holiday treats! Here’s a taste:


Ted Weiner,
Music Director & Early Shift Host
Ted Weiner

Ted Weiner

When I was a kid my maternal grandmother, LaVerne, would spend the weekends with my single mother and us five kids. LaVerne was a terrific cook making all sorts of great dishes. But, once a year she forced us kids to eat calve’s liver…she said the vitamin B12 in the liver would give us strength!

As good a cook as LaVerne was, her liver always turned out like rubber. You’d need SUPER strength to chew through it. One year, she chose as Liver Night — Christmas Eve. Of all nights… Christmas Eve!

I remember this so well because LaVerne had prepared her annual Christmas Eve dessert, Boston Cream Pie, which was my absolute favorite. And LaVerne said only those that finish their liver may have pie. Needless to say, I left my four siblings in the dust eating that slab of liver because that night’s Boston Cream Pie turned out to be THE most memorable holiday treat of my childhood. It even made me forget the horror of LaVerne’s Rubbery Liver!


Amanda Preston,
Marketing Manager
Amanda Preston

Amanda Preston

Probably one of my favorite “treats” (which wasn’t actually edible) is that my grandmother used to make my sister and me Christmas ornaments for the tree each year out of an egg shell. It’d have a photo of us from that year, as well as a little item or two that symbolized what we were up to that year. So when I started playing viola, mine had a tiny instrument and music note in it. When my sister turned 16 and got her learner’s permit to drive, hers featured a small little convertible. I have no idea how Grams did such delicate work each and every year, but it’s such a fun process now to decorate the tree together and see our childhoods unfold as we hang up our collection of eggs.


Myelita Melton,
Afternoon Host
Myelita Melton

Myelita Melton

Fudge has always been a Christmas tradition in the Melton household.  I started helping my aunt and my grandmother make it when I was about six years old—barely tall enough to stand on a chair to take a peek into the boiling pot of chocolate, butter, sugar and marshmallow cream. Every Christmas Eve my sister, my parents, and I enjoyed that sweet chocolate fudge with my mom’s southern sausage balls. They were legendary!


Rodger Clark,
Director of Philanthropy and Special Projects
Rodger Clark

Rodger Clark

One of my best holiday memories is my mother busily baking cookies for the various family gatherings. My absolute favorite was her “Bird’s Nest” cookies. These were wonderful confections that featured a crushed up Life cereal coating and a dab of strawberry preserves in the middle – purposively indented to look like a nest. She only made these during the Christmas holidays. Thankfully, she passed on the recipe to my wife and now we have to have at least one batch every Christmas!


Be sure to tune in to Biscuits & Bach: A Baroque Christmas on Sunday, December 24 at 7 a.m. to hear each of these stories, as well as a few more from others on our great staff. To delve into some extra tasty tidbits and hear more from our friends and special guests, subscribe to our “Biscuit Chats” podcast available here.

Happy Birthday Beethoven!

By Hannah Lieberman

From his triumphant Symphony No. 3 and No. 5 to the simple, melodic Fur Elise, Ludwig van Beethoven’s work has undoubtedly earned him a spot as one of the most successful and recognizable classical composers ever. His compositions helped define the Classical and Romantic eras of music and, given his importance in the history of classical, his life has been captured in multiple biographical works (re: several books and even some movies about him).

Most people know the basics of Beethoven’s life. He was a child prodigy turned helpless romantic turned deaf composer. But what might you have missed about this famous composer’s life? Here are a few fun tidbits about the man behind some of the greatest symphonies:

A Mysterious Birthday
Most fans celebrate Beethoven’s birthday on December 16th, but some scholars argue his exact birthday was later in the month. The dispute, according to WDAV’s Music Director Ted Weiner, stems from the recorded date of Beethoven’s baptism. But Weiner contends all one need know is that Schroder, the piano enthusiast from the Peanuts cartoons, celebrates his idol’s birthday on the 16th of the month.

Secret Lessons
When it became clear that Beethoven’s piano teacher, the famous composer Joseph Haydn, couldn’t offer his student helpful composition lessons any more, he began taking additional private lessons elsewhere behind Haydn’s back!

Deafness and Social Life
Many people know that Beethoven began going deaf at the early age of 25, but the condition also significantly affected his social life and, at times, even his will to live. Beethoven credited his music with keeping him alive: “But only Art held back,” he wrote in a reflection called the Heiligenstadt Testament, “for, ah, it seemed unthinkable for me to leave the world forever before I had produced all that I felt called upon to produce.”

A Hopeless Romantic
Beethoven never got married, but there were several women in his life. His Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata are both said to have been dedicated by Beethoven to his love interests.

Want to learn more about Beethoven’s life and work? Here are some great online sources!


Hannah Lieberman is a senior at Davidson College where she studies Political Science and Theatre. She loves her work at WDAV, where you can hear her live on Sunday mornings.

Defiant Requiem: We Sing What We Cannot Say

By John Cox

As a Holocaust historian and educator, I am often asked, “Why did no one resist?” Fortunately, there was considerable resistance, from many quarters and in many forms. This becomes more visible when we break free from narrow definitions of “resistance” —that is, the notion that only armed struggle qualifies as resistance.

The Nazis used their infamous camp Theresienstadt (also known as Terezín), forty miles north of Prague, as a “model” camp that they claimed was humane, a ruse that some outsiders accepted. As part of this charade, the Nazis transported large numbers of artists and musicians to the camp.

In 1941 Rafael Schächter, a young Czech conductor, was arrested and sent to Terezín. He managed to recruit 150 prisoners and teach them Verdi’s Requiem under near-impossible conditions: learning by rote in a dank cellar using a single score, and holding semi-clandestine rehearsals after long days of forced labor. They performed the piece on sixteen occasions for fellow prisoners—the final time, in June 1944, before an audience of SS officers from Berlin and officials of the International Red Cross.

Schachter collaborated with the famed pianist and composer Gideon Klein, among others. Klein would also perish during the Holocaust.

Murry Sidlin came upon this story by chance browsing through a book in a Minneapolis bookstore. Sidlin alighted upon a brief reference to the Requiem performances in Theresienstadt and began to question the possibility of such a performance given the circumstances.

Sidlin, whose paternal grandmother and her family were killed in a Latvian ghetto, began to decode the connection between their resistance and the Verdi text. He contacted survivors, as the Defiant Requiem Foundation’s site explains, and the story began to unfold:

“I could see that almost every line of the Mass could have a different meaning as a prisoner,” detected Sidlin. ‘Deliver me O Lord’ for them meant liberation. Nothing remaining unavenged was certainty of punishment for their captors….”

When Sidlin interviewed the survivors, his intuition was confirmed about why they were drawn to the work:

“Schächter told his chorus: ‘We can sing to the Nazis what we cannot say to them’—that was the essence, that was the message behind the Verdi.”

UNC Charlotte’s School of Music and the university’s Center for Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies will host two events that highlight this striking and powerful form of defiance to Nazism.

On November 16, the School of Music and the Holocaust-studies center will show a documentary film, Defiant Requiem, at UNCC’s Center City location. The 80-minute film employs testimony provided by surviving members of Schächter’s choir. The film explores the singers’ view of the Verdi as a work of defiance and resistance against the Nazis.

Susan Cernyak-Spatz, who survived Theresienstadt as well as Auschwitz, and knew artists in Theresienstadt, will speak at the November 16th event. More than once in the last year, Susan has expressed her concern over the rise of nationalism and fascism, which “remind [her] of things [she] saw in Berlin and Vienna” in her youth.

Members of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, Prague Philharmonic Choir, and the Kühn Choir of Prague take stage for June 2013 performance of the Defiant Requiem in Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral. Photo credit: Josef Rabara

The second event will be a concert entitled, “Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín.” Conductor Murry Sidlin created the concert/drama to tell the story of the Requiem at Terezín. This multi-media production will be performed on December 3rd at UNCC’s Robinson Hall.

In creating the concert Sidlin has said, “my own objectives were simple: I am attempting to give Schächter the career he was prevented from having; and I want everyone who learns of the commitment to the ‘high ground’ taken by the conductor and chorus to associate them always with the Verdi score.”

For more information about the performances mentioned visit, Defiant Requiem November 16th film-showing and the Defiant Requiem December 3rd concert.

John Cox is associate professor of Global Studies at UNC-Charlotte, where he directs the Center for Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies.

WDAV Spotlights Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month in the U.S., established more than 70 years ago to celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities. Throughout the month, WDAV highlighted classical musicians with disabilities who have left an indelible mark on the arts.

In addition to this on-air focus, we partnered with Davidson College students in Professor Neil Lerner’s seminar on music and disability studies to produce a blog series highlighting composers and performers with disabilities. We also turned to the community to discover what role music might play in serving individuals living with disabilities. We spoke with Meg Johnson, Music Therapy Clinical Coordinator for the Queens University of Charlotte, who provided insights into her use of music therapy.

Read full article on wdav.org