Kellen Gray & RSNO - African American Voices - The Observer

The three composers on the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s African American Voices (Linn), conducted by the orchestra’s assistant conductor, South Carolina-born Kellen Gray, are enjoying a vigorous revival. William Grant Still (1895-1978), George Walker (1922-2018) and William Levi Dawson (1899-1990) combined classical training with the Black vernacular music of their upbringing. Dawsonplayed as a jazz trombonist (with Louis Armstrong and others); his melodic Negro Folk Symphony (1934) bursts with powerful orchestral gesture and taut rhythms. Working in Black musical theatre and collaborating with George Gershwin and Paul Whiteman, Stillbrings a blues-jazz sonority to his Symphony No 1 “Afro American” (1931), both exuberant and atmospheric. Walker, from the next generation, studied at the Curtis Institute of Music and in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. His short, contrapuntal Lyric for Strings (1946, revised 1990), intense and elegiac, was written to commemorate his once enslaved grandmother. The RSNO honours this repertoire with playing of buoyancy and dexterity.

The Observer
22 October 2022