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Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American” (William Grant Still) – LA Phil

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  • Summary: Articles about Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American” (William Grant Still) – LA Phil The fourth movement opens with a poignant melody showcasing some of Still’s most beautiful orchestral writing. A lengthy, heartbreaking passage ultimately gives …

  • Match the search results: Baker and Florence Mills and, according to Langston Hughes, inaugurated the Harlem Renaissance. Still pursued other projects in the meantime but took up the symphony in earnest several years later. “It was not until the Depression struck,” he explained, “that I went jobless long enough to let the Sy…

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Listening Guide: William Grant Still – Baltimore Symphony …

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  • Summary: Articles about Listening Guide: William Grant Still – Baltimore Symphony … He was the first black man to conduct a major American orchestra, the first to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra, the first to have an …

  • Match the search results: Afro-American Symphony was a milestone in Still’s career as it was the first symphony by a black composer to be performed by a major orchestra.. The symphony blends jazz, blues and spirituals into a traditional classical form, which elevates that music as something to be celebrated. While Gershwin a…

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Spotlight: William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony – WQXR

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  • Summary: Articles about Spotlight: William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony – WQXR William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1 “Afro-American” is the first symphony composed by an African American that was performed by a major …

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Black History Month: William Grant Still | All Classical Portland

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  • Summary: Articles about Black History Month: William Grant Still | All Classical Portland Still broke racial barriers and earned many “firsts” in the realm of classical music. He was the first African American to conduct a major …

  • Match the search results: The Afro-American Symphony is scored for full orchestra, including celeste, harp, and tenor banjo (the piece was the first time a banjo had been used in symphonic music). The symphony has a typical sonata-form first movement, a slow movement, a scherzo, and a fast finale. While Still did not intend …

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The Depression, The New Deal, and World War II (Part 2)

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  • Summary: Articles about The Depression, The New Deal, and World War II (Part 2) William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony, written in 1930 and first … It is one of several symphonies written by black composers in the early 1930s, …

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    William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony, written in 1930 and first
    performed in 1931, epitomizes the African American composer’s right to be
    heard in the concert hall. It is one of several symphonies written by
    black composers in the early 1930s, including the Florence Price E. Minor
    Symphon…

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Listening to the Voice of William Grant Still – Houston Symphony

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  • Summary: Articles about Listening to the Voice of William Grant Still – Houston Symphony A true individual, Still defied social stereotypes his entire life. … In fact, his Symphony No. 1 (titled Afro American Symphony) was played by …

  • Match the search results: A true individual, Still defied social stereotypes his entire life. He became known as the “Dean of African American composers” because of his long list of firsts: the first Black conductor to direct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony performed by a leading…

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Afro-American Symphony | William Grant Still – Wise Music …

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  • Summary: Articles about Afro-American Symphony | William Grant Still – Wise Music … Afro-American Symphony by William Grant Still, published by Novello & Co Ltd. … 13th April 2022, Schuster Center, Dayton, OH, United States of America …

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William Grant Still – Composer Profile – Classics for Kids

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  • Summary: Articles about William Grant Still – Composer Profile – Classics for Kids William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony was the first symphony by a black composer to be performed by a major orchestra.

  • Match the search results: William Grant StillMay 11, 1895 – December 03, 1978Modern PeriodBorn in United StatesWilliam Grant Still was born in Woodville, Mississippi. He was the son of two school teachers. But when he was very little, William’s father died, so he and his mother went to live with her mother in L…

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STILL, W.G.: Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American” / In Memoriam …

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  • Summary: Articles about STILL, W.G.: Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American” / In Memoriam … The life and career of the African-American composer William Grant Still certainly qualifies as the quintessential American success story. Often referred to as …

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    Of his nearly 150 works in various media, it was the
    ‘Afro-American’ Symphony that established Still’s
    reputation worldwide. It was first given in 1931 by that
    indefatigable champion of his fellow composers,
    Howard Hanson, with the Rochester (NY) Symphony.
    It rapidly established itself in the…

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Afro-American Symphony Sheet Music by William Grant Still

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The background of William Grant Still’s ‘Afro-American …

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  • Summary: Articles about The background of William Grant Still’s ‘Afro-American … Download Citation | ‘New music’ and the ‘New Negro’: The background of William Grant Still’s ‘Afro-American Symphony’ | William Grant …

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The background of William Grant Still’s ‘Afro-American …

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  • Summary: Articles about The background of William Grant Still’s ‘Afro-American … Download Citation | ‘New music’ and the ‘New Negro’: The background of William Grant Still’s ‘Afro-American Symphony’ | William Grant …

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Exploring William Grant Still’s ‘Afro-American Symphony’

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  • Summary: Articles about Exploring William Grant Still’s ‘Afro-American Symphony’ William Grant Still is best known today for his Afro-American Symphony. Still composed the work in 1930 and strove in the symphony to – in …

  • Match the search results: William Grant Still is best known today for his Afro-American Symphony. Still composed the work in 1930 and strove in the symphony to – in his words – “portray the sons of the soil, who still retain so many of the traits of their African forebears.”

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William Grant Still Music Box

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William Grant Still | Biography & Facts – Encyclopedia Britannica

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  • Summary: Articles about William Grant Still | Biography & Facts – Encyclopedia Britannica Though a prolific composer of operas, ballets, symphonies, and other works, he was best known for his Afro-American Symphony (1931). Still was brought up by …

  • Match the search results: William Grant Still, (born May 11, 1895, Woodville, Mississippi, U.S.—died December 3, 1978, Los Angeles, California), American composer and conductor and the first African American to conduct a professional symphony orchestra in the United States. Though a prolific composer of operas, ballets, sym…

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STILL, W.G.: Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American” / In Memoriam …

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  • Summary: Articles about STILL, W.G.: Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American” / In Memoriam … The life and career of the African-American composer William Grant Still certainly qualifies as the quintessential American success story. Often referred to as …

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    The life and career of the African-American
    composer William Grant Still certainly qualifies as the
    quintessential American success story. Often referred to
    as the dean of African-American composers, Still was
    born in Woodville, Mississippi on 11th May, 1895, to a
    family of Negro, Indian, Spa…

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Black composer William Grant Still drew from the blues. Forty …

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  • Summary: Articles about Black composer William Grant Still drew from the blues. Forty … He was the first black person to conduct a major American orchestra when he led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a 1936 Hollywood Bowl concert.

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Detroit Symphony Orchestra conducted by Neeme Järvi

I – Longings. Moderato assai: 0:00

II – Sorrows. Adagio: 7:24

III – Humor. Animato: 12:44

IV – Aspirations. Lento con risoluzione: 15:53

The Symphony No.1 “Afro-American” was completed in 1930, premiered in 1931, conducted by Howard Hanson with the Rochester Symphony Orchestra. It was the first time in the history of the United States that a major orchestra premiered a symphony written by a black person. The work obtained a great triumph and soon became repertoire work, being interpreted by all the important orchestras of the United States. With this work, Still obtains a fame of world-wide scope.

First, we must mention that, at the beginning of the 20th decade, the black cultural movement known as Harlem Renaissance had been born, when Still came to New York. It was designed to show that the black race had a rich culture, which would soon prove to the United States and the entire world. Still was an active member of this movement, influencing him in his music throughout his life. In 1924 he began to work on a trilogy of works that describe the Afro-American reality: The symphonic poem “Africa” ​​represents its roots, the Afro-American Symphony the life of blacks in America and the Symphony No.2 “Song of a new race” the vision of an integrated society.

Let the composer himself talk about his work: “The themes came to mind and I wrote them down carefully, an enveloping form was growing slowly, I knew that I wanted to write a symphony, I knew it should be an American work. I wanted to show how blues, often considered as a low-level genre of expression, could be raised to the highest musical level.”

In his orchestration he uses a banjo, being the first time in the history of the symphony that this instrument is used. It is a five-string instrument from West Africa, introduced in the United States during the nineteenth century by black musicians. It is part of the Dixieland music around 1890, becoming the musical instrument of American folk music.

The first movement, moderato assai, carries the subtitle Longings. It begins with the main theme initiated by the English horn, a melody in an ambiguous tone, which will become the core of the work. It is a blues, which reminds us of the one used by Dvorak in his New World Symphony. The trumpet with a mute exposes the theme completely, which is developed below. The second theme is presented by the oboe, representing the spiritual part of black music. These elements are used in a masterful section of development, taking them to a great splendor. The recapitulation presents the themes in the in the reverse way. The blues theme appears in the final part fully orchestrated, leading to an affirmative coda.

The second movement, adagio, bears the subtitle Sorrows. It expresses the pain of a people oppressed but not destroyed. The main theme is presented by the oboe accompanied by the strings and flute. The flute itself performs a hesitant repetition of the blues theme of the first movement. The arpeggios of the harp accompany a new transformation of the blues. The two themes are presented in reverse order at the end of the movement.

The third movement, animato, carries the subtitle Humor. Being the scherzo of the work, presenting an animated dance. It is the most popular movement of its author, often interpreted separately. The rhythms used belong to ragtime and jazz. Syncopated themes are characteristic. The use of banjo adds coloration to the festive scene. Some of the rhythms remind us of Gershwin.

The last movement, slow with risoluzione, carries the subtitle Aspirations. The themes used are from the previous movements. It represents the confidence in the future of the black American people, indicating that part of their culture comes from Africans. A broad theme unfolds nobly, like a hymn to hope. In the final part the characteristic rhythm of the race returns, which leads to a great coda of triumphant aspect, as a sign of a future victory.

The themes used in the symphony, despite the style and similarity with the songs and dances of black folklore, have all been born from the imagination of its author. They remind us of the style of the spirituals, that of the shout songs, the rhythmic religious songs with their brusque answers, the black songs with the accompaniment of the banjo, the motives of the jazz music. Still was a man endowed with a great religiosity, dedicating all his works to God. His symphony represents the hope of the black people, using their religious music as a way of expression.

Picture: “Aspirations” (1936) by the Afro-American painter Aaron Douglas

Sources from this spanish website on Still symphonism:

-http://www.historiadelasinfonia.es/naciones/la-sinfonia-en-los-estados-unidos/los-compositores-mas-notables-1/grant-still/

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William Grant Still (1895 – 1978): Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American Symphony)

I. Moderato Assai

Besetzung: 3(Pic).3(Eh).4(Bk).2-4331-12, Str, Hf, Cel

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