A 'Celexploration' of
Black Concert Music
Portmanteau: A “Celexploration” of Black Concert Music is a two-fold program designed to both celebrate Black History within European concert traditions and explore the unique repertoire offered to the art song form by Black concert musicians. As a Black vocalist, I have always felt and chastened at the glaring under appreciation of music composed by Black people. Even for American voice students, the standard art songs include almost no Black composers. It is this harsh reality that inspired me to weave this beautiful music into my repertoire every chance I get and to perform it as if it hails from the Twenty-Four Italian Songs and Arias songbook. Exploring this music for myself and sharing it with others is the best way I know to ensure that it survives for future generations.
As I mentioned, the program is also a celebration. June happens to be Black Music Appreciation Month and one of the prevailing goals of this program and, God willing, the scope of a successful career is to appreciate both the music left behind and the music currently being composed by Black musicians. There is more to celebrate as June 19, 1865 is the day when slaves in Texas finally received the word that they had been freed – a full three years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The holiday set aside to mark that occasion, “Juneteenth”, is where I derived the title for this program. A portmanteau is the linguistic concept that combines multiple words and their meanings to make a new ones. Taken more broadly, I like to imagine portmanteau describes the music in the recital as well.
By blending the standard classical repertoire – Schubert, Donizetti, Strauss, and others – with Black American composers, and contemporary arrangements of traditional Negro Spirituals, I hope to set out on an enriching exploration of the Black concert music experience.