William Averitt (b. 1942)
This diverse and powerful cycle of songs is set to the poetry of Langston Hughes (1902-1967).
While Averitt’s setting pays homage to numerous African-American musical styles, it is primarily a tribute to its poet. Wonder offers a dreamy vocal landscape set over a piano heartbeat, giving way to the alternately sinuous and driving When Sue Wears Red. Dream Dust features a pointillistic piano part worthy of the title, easing the listener into Song for Billie Holliday, which brilliantly captures the evocative power of the voice of its namesake. Feet o’ Jesus, despite its brevity and a cappella scoring, makes a powerful impact through its rich jazz harmonies and poignant, surprising final cadence. The cycle concludes with the rhythmically driving Fire, in which the speaker grows desperate seeking absolution for past sins. William Averitt is Professor Emeritus of Music and formerly Coordinator of Composition at Shenandoah Conservatory.
Phoebe K. Knapp (1839-1908)
Arranged by Byron Smith (b. 1960)
This 19th-century Christian hymn was composed by. Knapp to a text by Fanny Crosby, and has appeared in numerous African- American collections. It is the arranger, rather than the composer, that the listener hears most in this rendition; Byron Smith converts this simple tune into a harmonically and rhythmically complex tour de force, at times rendering the tune almost unrecognizable, but at the same time elevating it to heights it could not have attained on its own. Smith is founder and director of the Spirit Chorale of Los Angeles.
Wake Up, My Spirit
Adolphus Hailstork (b. 1941)
Noted most for his instrumental compositions, Hailstork has enjoyed performances by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and New York Philharmonic. His choral output covers a remarkable variety of styles, from spiritual arrangements to impressionist motets. Wake Up, My Spirit is rhythmically driving and jubilant throughout, and seems to revel in bouncing from key to key with ease. Hailstork is Eminent Scholar and Professor of Music at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.