I’m a regular contributor to the #ClassicsaDay feed on Twitter. At a speech in Poland on 7/6/17, the President said, “The world has never known anything like our community of nations. We write symphonies.” The next day #WeWriteSymphonies appeared on Twitter, citing all the non-Western — and non-white — composers who do indeed write symphonies.
To celebrate composers of color, I used both hashtags in my feed for the month of September.
Below is an annotated list for the fourth and final week of posts.
José Silvestre White Lafitte (1836-1918) – Concerto for Violin
Lafitte was born in Cuba. He was an accomplished violinist and toured with Louis Moreau Gottschalk. His works are mostly for the violin, including a concerto.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) Symphony in A minor, Op. 8 (1896)
Coleridge-Taylor had a Creole father and an English mother. His music was extremely popular in Britain and the United States. In New York, musicians referred to him as the “African Mahler.”
José Maurício Nunes Garcia (1767-1830) – Requiem (1816)
Garcia was born in Rio de Janeiro of mulatto parents. He was a skilled singer, harpsichordist, and composer. In 1807 he was appointed the Master of the Royal Chapel for the King of Portugal. Garcia was also an ordained priest, and many of his works were written for the church. He also composed secular works, including an opera and at least one symphony.
Edmond Dédé (1827-1901) – Chicago, Grande valse à l’Américaine (1891)
Edmond Dédé was born in New Orleans. Though a free Creole, he had to move to Europe to have any kind of career. Dédé was a successful violinist, conductor, and composer in France. Many of his orchestral works have French-inspired themes, such as his 1865 Quasimodo Symphony.
William Grant Still (1895-1978) – Symphony No. 2 in G minor “Song of a New Race”
William Grant Still studied with both George Whitefield Chadwick and Edgard Varèse. His ground-breaking career includes a number of African-American firsts: first to have a work produced by the New York City Opera; first to conduct a major symphony orchestra; first to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra. “Song of a New Race” is the second of his five symphonies.