Three African-American Songs
On Sunday, March 17, 4pm the Music, Gettysburg! Concert Series presented the vocal and piano music of Hollis Thoms and Garth Baxter. One of the selections was my Three African-American Songs, based on texts by E. Ethelbert Miller (Washington DC poet), August Wilson (our American Shakespeare), and Frederick Douglass (Maryland native). The mp3 below is the premiere performance of that song cycle featuring Joseph Regan, tenor; Jason Thoms, baritone; and Andrew Stewart, piano.
The first song is based on love poems by Miller and I allude to the "blues" in my musical setting. The second song is based on Wilson's one act play "The Janitor" and I allude to jazz" in my musical setting. The third song is based on a spiritual and Douglass' famous letter to his former slave owner. The first song is for tenor and piano, the second for baritone and piano, and the third for tenor, baritone, and piano.
This song cycle is my attempt as a white man to approach the black experience by setting these wonderful texts to music. To the extent that these settings seem authentic, I hope, gives witness to my empathy and understanding.
1. Ethelbert Miller-three love poems, for tenor and piano
2. August Wilson-setting of "The Janitor", for baritone and piano
3. Frederick Douglass-setting of his famous letter to his former slave owner
Song Cycle is 23 minutes
Pictured below: Garth Baxter, composer; Jason Thoms, baritone; Joseph Reagan, tenor; Andrew Stewart, piano; Hollis Thoms, composer