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Festival Celebrates Julia Perry’s 100th – Lyric Say

In case you are asking “who is Julia Perry?” I’m positive you aren’t alone. However in the present day, March 25th, would have been the 100th birthday of this composer whose music is now poised on each rediscovery and discovery. Musically talking, we’re in an thrilling period. Historic composers who had been relegated to the dustbin of historical past ― for arbitrary causes, together with these of race and intercourse ― are actually being rigorously recovered and reexamined. Florence Worth is a now-famous case. Margaret Bonds can be in progress. And Julia Perry’s flip is simply starting!

Julia Perry (1924-1979) has a dramatic story of acknowledged brilliance and success, which then took a tragic slide into obscurity. Monetary instability compounded by diseases meant that she was unable to maintain herself within the inventive scene. After she had entered the forefront of the musical panorama, for a spread of causes she slid off that notable highpoint. So, together with her Brief Piece for Orchestra each carried out and recorded by the New York Philharmonic, and her Stabat Mater for Contralto and Strings recorded, and carried out extensively ― to say simply two of the bigger of her profitable works ― one would possibly suppose that Perry had it made as a composer. She had levels from Westminster Choir School and quite a few awards and fellowships in each the U.S. and Europe. A lot stays to be realized, however well being issues started within the later Nineteen Sixties, and within the Nineteen Seventies she suffered a collection of strokes; she died at age 55.

Perry at Tanglewood (Irene Britton Smith picture)

A small group of devoted musicians who’ve been working to rediscover Perry, piece collectively details about her, and produce to mild her unknown music, organized a latest Julia Perry Festival in New York Metropolis. However a basic authorized concern exists: with no identified surviving household, who owns her musical rights? That query wanted to be addressed earlier than the numerous unpublished works may very well be carried out. Akron, OH, was Perry’s dwelling for a lot of her life, and Christopher Wilkins, Music Director of the Akron Symphony has led the venture to deal with these points. Additionally spearheading the Pageant have been Soprano Louise Toppin, and conductor James Blachly of the Experiential Orchestra.

The Pageant launched on Wed. March 13th with a live performance within the Greenwich Village nightclub, Le Poisson Rouge, which lent a celebratory ambiance, and alternatives to lift a glass in tribute to Perry. After a couple of phrases of introduction from James Blachly, the live performance opened with the Perry’s Prelude for Piano (of 1946, which she later revised, a typical apply for her) and right here in an association for string quartet, carried out by PUBLIQuartet (violinist Rubén Rengel substituted for Jannina Norpoth). In its solemn chordal construction it served as invocation, a meditation. Repeating the quick work, the musicians gave the mild phrases an area for swish, improvised interpolations.

Perry’s choral work Ye, Who Search The Fact (organized for strings) sounded lush and heat in its harmonies and lilting rhythms. The elegant British musicologist and pianist Samantha Ege is getting ready to report Perry’s Piano Concerto in Two Uninterrupted Speeds, however on this night time she dove right into a glowing, jagged jewel, a solo titled merely Miniature. Then a string quartet model of this taut work forged that jewel in a distinct mild. Soprano Laquita Mitchell joined Ege in two transferring songs, the mournful By the Sea (1950), and How Lovely are the Toes (1954), an evocative, emotional prayer. Mitchell is a compelling performer.

Curtis Stewart will not be solely an excellent violinist, but in addition a composer and performer on electronics and spoken phrase. With the opposite members of PUBLIQuartet he carried out his personal We Who Search, a mirrored image on Perry’s Ye Who Search, with peace because the purpose. This multi-media work pushed boundaries but in addition supplied layered insights on Perry’s hymn.

The night ended with pensive lyricism as Ege gave a subdued account of the Prelude in its piano model. It served to remind us that though the live performance had ended, the pageant had simply begun.

To be continued …. Two extra concert events of the pageant, and a complete day of shows and dialogue!

And a reminder that the Akron Symphony’s Julia Perry Project page gives wealthy insights into her life in addition to hyperlinks to recordings of her music, together with some world premieres.

Liane Curtis (Ph.D., Musicology) is President of Girls’s Philharmonic Advocacy and The Rebecca Clarke Society, Inc.  Her web site is here.

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