Assessing the rise in performances of works by Black composers, following centuries of marginalization

Posted on: May 19, 2021

“Black composers have been emerging over the past year at a dramatically accelerated pace,” writes David Patrick Stearns in Tuesday’s (5/18) Classical Voice North America. “Young figures such as Valerie Coleman—whose highly appealing Seven O’Clock Shout for the Philadelphia Orchestra was an instant hit—shouldn’t be such a surprise, but what about figures from the past who aren’t around to give a living face to their respective musical outputs?… Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), Florence Price (1887-1953), and Shirley Graham Du Bois (1896-1977) have parachuted into digital concert life with the prominence that long seemed hopelessly out of reach…. Very different issues will have a decisive impact on whether the renewed visibility of Black composers is maintained…. In Bologne’s output, there could well be ‘a greatest hit’ that hasn’t yet been discovered because the world hasn’t paid enough attention to him. And the young African-American violinist Randall Goosby, who has industry visibility … is exactly the sort of person who could find it. Consider how that might change history: a ubiquitous evergreen work by a Black composer? How unthinkable is that? These days, it’s at least as thinkable as a two-term Black American president.”