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Spotlight on Classical Organ Music Composed by those of African Descent (Part 4 of 4)

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    Spotlight on Classical Organ Music Composed by those of African Descent (Part 4 of 4)

    Dear People,

    I apologize for being so tardy with this post. I was laid low by matters of health, family, and employment all in a row. (If anyone knows of somewhere looking for a musicologist/choir director/director of music, send them my way).

    I certainly hope that this series has been an enjoyable one for those of you who have been reading. I also hope that you'll play some of this sublime music for services or for your personal edification and/or enjoyment. Maybe someone else will pick it up next year, or perhaps use one of the other heritage months in the year to spotlight other composers.

    Only four composers were featured here this month, but the AGO and Pipedreams have curated individual lists and short biographies for several Afro-X composers.

    The last composer in this series, Ulysses Kay (1917-1995), is perhaps the most acerbic and tart of our February composer quadrivium, but his music is no less attractive or well-crafted because of it. The opposite may be true, in fact.

    Facts about Ulysses Kay
    1. Ulysses Kay was a Sinfonian, that is to say he was a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity (and likely the first African-American to carry that distinction). Counted amongst his Brothers are Sousa, Randall Thompson, Howard Hanson (one of his teachers at Eastman), and George W. Chadwick (who was teacher to Florence Price).
    2. When Kay was around twenty-four years old, his work caught the attention of composer Paul Hindemith, who heard Kay's work at the Berkshire Music Center. Kay spent a a year of post-graduate composition study with Hindemith (1941-42).
    3. Ulysses Kay was nephew to King Oliver (of the eponymous Creole jazz band), who encouraged him to continue his work at the piano when he was young and enamored with saxophone. I think Albert Hague wrote a song along those lines...
    4. In 1958, Kay traveled to the USSR as part of the first cultural exchange with the Soviet bloc.

    The Music

    I offer to readers Kay's Prelude, which is clear in its Hindemithian influence. I regret that this recording is somewhat flat and clinical, but the merits of the music are self-evident nevertheless.

    For more information...

    Ulysses Kay (1917-1995)
    Ulysses Kay (Wikipedia)
    Ulysses Kay (Britannica)