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Neil Gladd's Inaugural Concert of American Music

By Mandolin Cafe
January 13, 2009 - 9:15 am

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Neil Gladd

Neil Gladd

Washington, D.C. — An Inaugural Concert of American Music featuring Neil Gladd (composer) on mandolin with Marjorie Bunday, mezzo-soprano, and Billie Whittaker, piano will be held at the Washington Ethical Society, 7750 16th St. NW on Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 8:00 p.m.

The program, a celebration honoring the nation's first African-American president will feature all American music, including three world premieres, as well as the first American mandolin sonata and the first American mandolin concerto, both of which were written by black composers.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the mandolin and John Phillip Sousa were both at the peak of their popularity. As a result, his marches were issued in multiple mandolin arrangements by his original publisher. There were more versions for mandolin than for any other instrument. The concert begins with his Washington Post, giving the audience an opportunity to hear Sousa's music as it is seldom heard today, but was commonly heard then.

There were many brilliant American mandolinists in this day, but Seth Weeks (ca. 1865-after 1924) was the only black professional mandolin soloist, and among his compositions is his Mandolin Concerto of 1900, the first by an American composer. Weeks was born in Chicago, toured the U.S. in vaudeville, went to England in 1901, and spent most of the rest of his career in Europe. His mandolin compositions were published in both the US and England, where he also made a number of recordings. In addition to his Concerto, the program also includes two of his concert polkas.

James Reese Europe (1881-1919) was an important transitional figure from late ragtime to early jazz, and used a mandolin section in both his Society Orchestra and his Clef Club Orchestra. He was also the first to present a concert at Carnegie Hall, entirely by black musicians of black composers, in 1912. The second half of the concert, which is also entirely by black composers, opens with his Clef Club March (1910) and ends with the Castle House Rag (1914).

In 1965, New York mandolinist Howard Frye (1920-1967) announced a competition for new mandolin music. Carman Moore's Sonata: Variations for Mandolin and Piano was judged to be the winner, but when Frye died two years later, he had still not performed the piece. The Sonata would have to wait to be heard until 1981, when Neil Gladd learned about the piece through a mutual friend of the composer and gave the first performance in Washington, DC.

Receiving its first performance on this concert is The Seven Ancient Greek Lyrics (2007) for mezzo and mandolin by Victor Kioulaphides, a piece that came into being because of Neil and Victor meeting online at the Mandolin Cafe web site.

The program also includes songs with piano by Ned Rorem, Elizabeth Vercoe, Charles Ives, and premieres of two works by Neil Gladd.

For more information:
Concert web site

Click red map pin below for driving directions to the Inaugural Concert of American Music, the Washington Ethical Society, 7750 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C.

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