"Lost Voices, Found Histories: On Silences and Soundings"
Ellie M. Hisama, Kenneth H. Peacock Lecturer
Room 130, 80 Queen's Park
Free and open to the public. Presentation will be followed by a casual reception.
Lost Voices, Found Histories: On Silences and Soundings
The baritone Oscar Seagle’s conclusion of a 1917 concert in Brooklyn, New York with five of Harry T. Burleigh’s spiritual arrangements was one of the earliest concerts at which white performers sang spirituals in recitals. While some white singers embraced Burleigh’s arrangements and followed Seagle’s initiative at the close of their recitals, others rejected the practice after discovering that Burleigh was African American. While these singers deemed Burleigh’s arrangements to be musically worthy, their racism kept his music out of the recital hall and away from their performing bodies. The Daughters of the American Revolution’s infamous refusal in 1939 to allow Marian Anderson to perform in Constitution Hall because she was African American likewise aimed to keep a black artist out of a traditionally white space. When the performance ultimately took place at the Lincoln Memorial, not only was the stage occupied by an African American performer, but the music of African American composers was also honoured that day with Anderson’s decision to close her performance with spiritual arrangements by Burleigh, Florence B. Price, and Edward Boatner.
The recent surge of interest by musicians, concert programmers, scholars, and writers in “lost” composers of colour and women composers including Burleigh, Price, Ruth Crawford, and Julius Eastman prompts one to recall the words of Masha Gessen: Is it a revolution or a series of retributions? This lecture considers how exclusions in the sphere of music can be addressed by students and scholars, and concludes by reflecting upon possibilities for public-facing music scholarship and community engagement.