Earlier this Fall, I had the opportunity to make my debut with the Hopkins Concert Orchestra on September 30, 2018. The HCO is a second orchestra within the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra organization. It is a terrific community/campus orchestra made up of Johns Hopkins University faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduates, and Baltimore community members. It is distinctive for its raw concentration of PhD’s and I shudder to think of the impressive innovations issuing from the various labs and offices which constitute the day jobs of the wonderful musicians with whom I have the privilege to share the stage.
There is nothing quite like leading a group of musicians who devote their precious free time to performing in an orchestra on the basis of passion. This is made doubly special when we spend our time in service of some grander purpose. In this case, we put time into the music of a terrific composer who is just now getting some fragment of the attention she has long deserved, taking a small part in all of the recent blossoming of activity, as I have written about many times.
Her name is Florence Price, and she is the first African American composer to receive a performance by a major American Orchestra. Most of her works were lost for many years, but a large cache of manuscripts were recently rediscovered and are currently in the process of being published.
We performed the Andante from Price’s three-movement suite, Ethiopia’s Shadow in America. This was the first known performance of this music on the East Coast and this is the first known live recording to be made available.
Embedded below is a sample of two excerpts from the recording of our performance.
Price provides the following inscription for Ethiopia’s Shadow:
Ethiopia’s Shadow in America is intended to portray:
I. The Arrival of the Negro in America when first brought here as a slave – (Introduction and Allegretto)
II. His Resignation and Faith – (Andante)
III. His Adaptation – (Allegro) – A fusion of his native and acquired impulses
– Florence B. Price
The larger work for medium-large orchestra contains many difficult passages, but the three-minute Andante uses a smaller subset of instruments, making it performable in a wide range of scenarios and by groups with a wide range of ability levels. The orchestra needed for just the Andante consists of:
For a performance of just the Andante, it is recommended to end at the A Major chord in measure 164.
The second trombone is given a single pitch, the A natural in measure 160. For practical purposes, the second bassoon can be asked to play this A natural instead. The “a 2” marking in bassoons in measure 159 is editorial and can be safely ignored in order to accomplish this.
The audio file contains two brief excerpts. Conductors interested in obtaining the full recording for reference may feel free to contact me.
Composer: Florence Price
Title: Ethiopia’s Shadow in America
Movement: II. His Resignation and Faith – (Andante)
Performers: Hopkins Concert Orchestra, Jordan Randall Smith
Date: September 30, 2018, 3:00 PM
Venue: Bunting-Meyerhoff Interfaith Center, Johns Hopkins University
Note: It is important to acknowledge that, as of this writing, there is one other video of the work on the web. However, the audio is a MIDI file, making this the first live recording available online.