Meet the Artists
Wendy Hymes holds BA, MM and DMA degrees in music from Principia College, Indiana University and Louisiana State University respectively. Her principal flute teachers have been Marie Garritson Jureit, Jacques Zoon and Katherine Kemler. She has played with Synchronia (a contemporary American music ensemble), St. Louis Philharmonic, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra as well as chamber music with leading soloists such as violinist Rachel Barton, the late organist Lucius Weathersby, with whom she collaborated on the Spiritual Fantasy album (Albany Records). Ms. Hymes is known to exert definitive interpretations to standard repertoire from the Baroque era to 20th-century composers. She sets the pace in intercultural music, especially those by non-European composers from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. She has given over 30 world premieres, including regular feature at the Compositions in Africa & the Diaspora symposia and the Festivals of African & African American Music., and recent Jubilee Celebration Festival in Accra, Ghana. Her doctoral dissertation entitled African Art Music for Flute: Selected Works by African Composers provided the initial inspiration for this CD, and her recent article New Horizons: The World of African Art Music for Flute in the Winter 2008 issue of the Flutist Quarterly (a journal of the National Flute Association) is a continuation of her efforts to give voice to flute repertoire from other parts of the world.
Darryl Hollister received his B.M. and MM from Michigan State University and the New England Conservatory of Music, respectively. He has studied with Ralph Votapek, Deborah Moriarty, and Patricia Zander. He actively serves as accompanist for the Dedham Choral Society, Coro Allegro, the Framingham Heritage Chorale, and Commonwealth School Chorus and Chorale, the Boston College Chorale, Nashua Choral Society, and the Boston Concert Opera. A champion of new music and works by African-descent composers, Mr. Hollister has premiered numerous works, including Gyimah Labi’s Baptism of Fire:Symphony Concertante for Three Pianos and Orchestra, Dialects in African Pianism, The Spring of Esentre Paul Konye’s Concertino Africana for Piano and Orchestra, Gary Nash’s Three Ivory Magnolia Fantasies, and of course, the works on this CD. His piano recitals have been acclaimed at Harvard University, Cambridge University and the University of London, as well as the Kennedy Center.
Richard Moore (Narrator in Just Before Dawn)
Richard Moore is a retired professor of English. He performs regularly with the New Orleans Opera Chorus. He is an avid lover of classical music and enjoys reading poetry.
Liner Notes by Dr. Wendy Hymes:
The works presented here offer us a glimpse of the spirit and traditional musics of Africa. The composers’ diverse training backgrounds have led each to connect with different African and Western musics, but each has succeeded in finding their own unique voice and how to connect with diverse audiences on multiple continents. While some performers find this cultural duality fascinating, it is also a formidable barrier to many performers. Though written for western instruments using western notation, as in contemporary compositions that employ extended techniques, the performer must familiarize himself/herself with new elements, such as a barrage of polyrhythm, new melodic and harmonic sensibilities as well as the foreign cultural traditions that influenced the composer which are integral to the piece. The listener will benefit from reading the background information about the pieces on this CD, and the notes that follow should be pertinent. Another source is the Winter 2008 issue of The Flutist Quarterly (a publication of the National Flute Association).
Fred Onovwerosuoke’s diverse background gave rise to a varied compositional style. Born in Ghana to Nigerian parents, he hasraveled to more than thirty African countries doing field work in African traditional musics, played violin, piano, organ, guitar and became an experienced choir and instrumental ensemble conductor. He is as much at home discussing Handel and Mozart as he is the balafon and the djembe. Through a desire to foster a better understanding of Africa through music and other art forms he founded the St. Louis African Chorus in 1994, an organization that has become a rallying platform for many African composers who until recently were unknown.
Bongani Ndodana-Breen represents a younger generation of African composers. Born in 1975 in Queenstown South Africa, Ndodana studied music at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa and composition with Roelof Temmingh at the Conservatory in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Ndodona-Breen has composed operas, oratorios, symphonies, chamber music and choral works. He has been composer in residence with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, conducted with the Cape Town Opera, and since 2000 has been the Artistic Director of the Ensemble Noir in Toronto. Ndodana’s musical style is described as “influenced by the lyricism and rhythms of Africa, blended with an eclectic post-modern approach to contemporary music.”
Ghanaian composer and musicologist J.H. Kwabena Nketia is world-renowned for his many scholarly writings including his landmark book, Music of Africa in 1974, and has held teaching positions in Universities around the world including the United States, Australia, and China as well as in Ghana. Born in 1921 in Mampong, Ghana, Nketia studied music at the Presbyterian Training College and abroad at the University of Londodn, Birkeck College, Trinity College of Music, Columbia University (studing composition with Henry Cowell), the Juilliard School of Music and Northwestern University. He returned to the University of Ghana, Legon to teach, where he now is the Director of the International Centre for African Music and Dance.
His writings both continued the traditions of his successor and mentor, Ephrahim Amu, and improved on them such as his concept and interpretation of time and rhythmic patterns. His compositions include choral music and 55 works for solo instruments and ensembles, mostly in the 1950’s and 60’s, which are just now being published and made known to performers.
Joshua Uzoigwe studied music in Nigeria while at the King’s College High School, the International School and the University of Nsukka, then abroad at the Guildhall School of Music in London, and then the University of Belfast, where he studied ethnomusicology under John Blaking, receiving an MA (1978) and PhD (1981). His research of traditional musics focused on the Igbos of Nigeria from 1977-79. He held teaching positions at the University of Ife in Nigeria, University of Nigeria at Nsukka and the University of Uyo in Nigeria. Uzoigwe used what Akin Euba calls “creative musicology,” which he describes as using information obtained from field research and analysis of oral tradition musics as the basis of composition. Many of his works use African Pianism as in Talking Drums (1990) and Agbigbo (2003) for solo piano, as well as contemporary techniques like polytonality, atonality, and the twelve-tone technique. His 1998 book Ukom: A Study of African Musical Craftsmanship shows Igbo traditional music’s great influence on his compositions.
Justinian Tamusuza was born in 1951 in Kibisi Uganda. Early on he studied Kigandan traditional music: singing, playing drums and tube-fiddle, endingidi. He studied music with the Reverend Anthony Okelo and with Kevin Volans at Queens University in Belfast, Ireland, and received his doctorate in composition from Northwestern University in Illinois, studying with Alan Stout. His dual music background therefore incorporated African and Western music equally. Tamusuza has been a representative on many juries and taught at Northwestern University and Makere University in Uganda. His first string quartet, Mu Kkubo Ery’Omusaalaba, was featured by the Kronos Quartet on their CD “Pieces of Africa,” and many commissions have since followed.
The Works Presented on the CD
Fred Onovwerosuoke: Three Pieces for Flute and Piano (Tracks 1-3.)Featured on this recording are his Three Pieces for Flute and Piano, which present three transfigured African tableaux’s. Though Just Before Dawn is the third piece in the series, I felt it the most appropriate to open this recording because of its progressive tonal language, which is more representative of African art music as a whole. The piece is a product of the composer’s American journey when he experienced new influences while studying music. Though living in the United States, his compositions maintain an African perspective. The piece is a musical setting of a poem by the composer, and uses a combination of pentatonic, hexatonic, and twelve-tone harmonies to portray the poem’s imagery of a forest at night and its bird calls. Two improvisatory sounding flute cadenzas accompany the narration of the poem. Rushing flourishes by the flute and piano at the end of the piece portray the forest’s now awakened joyous birds. Iroro, meaning reminiscences, and draws from the initiation dances of the Igbe priests and priestesses, a cult of the River Goddess in Nigeria. Iroro portrays xylophones and large bamboo flutes in the accompanying piano, with the lead flute played by the alto flute. The first African composer to write for the alto flute, Onovwerosuoke harnesses its haunting timbre in modal and improvisatory-sounding melodies to reflect the trance-like state of the ceremony participants. The soprano flute returns in the middle section as the actions of ceremony participants become more animated in their prayers until they receive an answer from the Goddess. Ayevwiomo, is a programmatic piece portraying a typical celebration that accompanies the birth of a child among the Urhobo people in Nigeria. Ayevwiomo, meaning a woman has given birth, begins with an elder inquiring about the arrival of the child to the expectant parents, heard in the flute at the beginning of the piece. An affirmative response is followed by a 7-day-long dancing celebration of the whole village. The introspective middle section of the piece characterized by Islamic-sounding harmony reflects the day before the naming rituals are performed, followed by more celebration. Ayevwiomo combines elements of African Pianism such as the portrayal of an instrument called the isologu, or thumb piano, and a wooden or metal gong in the piano during the second fast section with Neo-classical Haydnesque figures and phrasal structure.
Bongani Ndondana-Breen: Visions for Solo Flute (Tracks 4-5)
In Visions, Ndodana uses the pentatonic scale, rhythmic motifs as a means of sectionalizing each piece, drastic changes in rhythmic texture and louder dynamics to indicate moments of climax, and the Minimalist technique of slow changes in harmonic rhythm. In the composer’s words, the title of Visions describes “fragments of memories—a vision of Africa, the people and places I once knew and grew up with now clouded by distance and time, an attempt to hold on to fragmented memory and self.”
J. H. Kwabena Nketia: Republic Suite for Flute and Piano (Tracks 6-12. Republic Suite was written to commemorate Ghana’s first Republic Day which celebrated the country’s independence, and was premiered with Nketia on the keyboard and Charles Simmons on flute before a select audience including then President Kwami Nkrumah on July 1, 1960, in the Great Hall of the University of Ghana. Each movement is a musical depiction of aspects of Ghana’s independence from Great Britain in 1957: the conflicts and resolution of conflicts during Ghana’s first transitional government (movement 1); thematic material based on the initial phrase of a popular street song by Busia in the Dagomba Highlife style which represents the joy of the common people for having achieved independence (movement 2); a dance in the style of the Francophone countries which surround Ghana (movement 3); the violent clashes between the Ashanti people during their fight for independence symbolized by a traditional folk tune “I Won’t Sleep Tonight” (movement 4); an energetic dance of the Ewe people representing the unification of Togo (movement 5); an Akan children’s play tune originally played on the bamboo atenteben flute (movement 6); a tune based on Nketia’s field recordings of a heptatonic (7-tone) flute called the mulizi of the Bashi people of Congo, an Akan tune and a rhythmic piano accompaniment reminiscent of the styles of the Diaspora (movement 7). Nketia draws upon techniques from both Western and traditional African music in a piano accompaniment alternating between being melodic and the rhythmic percussiveness of African drum patterns, a call and response texture between flute and piano voices, countermelodies, counter rhythms, and parallel harmonies common in Ghanaian traditional music combined with common practice harmony.
Joshua Uzoigwe: Oja Flute Suite (Tracks 13-15)
Oja Flute Suite takes its name from the wooden endblown flute native to the Igbo people of Nigeria. Ilulu refers to the first part of the ukom ceremony called ilulu nkwa, described by Uzoigwe as the “solo musical lamentation and invocation of the dead, plus the retuning of the drum row.” Ilulu’s perpetual variation form, improvisatory sound, and speech-like nature “provide musicians with an adequate means of articulating the intense feelings and emotions certain social-musical events engender in the minds of people.” Ogbe Nkwa comes from the second part of the ukom ritual based on the dance of the Ogbe, a class of the Igbo tribe. Strict rhythm belies the dance function of this ritual’s music, with pentatonic harmonies, gentle cross-rhythms and sweeping melodic lines. Uzoigwe was plagued by ill health during this time, which probably caused him to rearrange a previous composition, A Sketch for Trombone, as the last movement of the suite. Giving the piano part D Major in the treble and B-flat Major in the bass, the sketch shows Uzoigwe’s affinity for contemporary styles.
Justinian Tamusuza: Okwanjula Kw’Endere (Track 16)
Okwanjula Kw’Endere, meaning “Introduction of the flute,” is the first movement of a larger chamber work Ekivvulu Ky’Endere (“African Festivity for Flute”) written for flute, viola, prepared harp, marimba and maracas and premiered by the Ugandan group, Abaana B’Engoma. The Ugandan bamboo flute called the endere is used widely by shepherds in a pastoral setting as well as in traditional festivals like weddings and as royal court music of the King of Buganda, the kabaka. Tamusuza uses microtonal fingerings, flutter tonguing, simultaneous singing and playing, harmonics pitch bends and key clicks to simulate the spirit of Kigandan endere music. The microtones and pitch slides portray characteristic amateur traditional singers “who join in the communal singing, but now and then go out of tune” and the “vocal music where there is usually an inflectional rise on the final pitch or just before.” Adam Lesnick refers to this music’s “poly-rhythms [which] dazzle the ear with misleading accents, tripping up the happy and complex weave of simple pentatonic melodies.”