Notes from IS-AAM Festival 2000
- Report by Mike Wright 

North Devon, UK. First UK concert of classical organ music by African and African American Composers took place in the UK at Great Torrington, Devon.  On Saturday 15 April, the International Society - African to American Music and the centre for Intercultural Music Art presented Out of Africa a festival of music and art by African and African Americans at St Michael and All Angels Parish Church, Great Torrington, Devon.

This included a recital of music by African and African American Composers by Lucius Weathersby, joined by flautist Wendy Hymes on flute in a concert of art music, jazz inspired music and spirituals performed by a leading American organist played on the 1864 ‘Father’ Willis Organ. Lucius R. Weathersby is an eminent organist, pianist and composer from Dillard University, New Orleans where he is Assistant Professor of Music and Chairperson of the Music Department. He has previously performed in the UK and has received critical acclaim for his concerts and compositions.

The event, also included an exhibition of art and sculpture by Dr Willie F. Hooker (USA). Dr Akin Euba (Nigeria) gave a lecture on his epic work, CHAKA, and Dr Wallace McClain Cheatham (USA) gave a lecture on his acclaimed work Fanfare and Toccata that was given its UK premiere.

The Concert, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK had a wide and varied programme. It opened with Spiritual Fantasy by Lucius R. Weathersby (b. 1968 USA) followed by a premiere arrangement of Summerland by William Grant Still (1895 – 1978 USA) for flute and organ featuring Wendy Hymes (USA). This was an arrangement from the second of Three Visions for piano, which is becoming well known. The haunting Yoruba Lament by Fela Sowande (1905 – 1987 Nigeria) showed a wonderful harmonisation of a pentatonic chant from Nigeria. Prelude and Fugato and Joie by Violet George Bowers (20th Century USA) gave little clue to African influence. However, Spiritual Set by Noel da Costa (b. 1929 Nigeria) is a very challenging work that calls for very imaginative use of African/African American embellishments. The Fanfare and Toccata (UK Premiere) by Wallace McClain Cheatham (b. 1945 USA) is a powerful work that ideally suited the Willis organ and showed up its ‘full compass and power’ originally described by its maker. Were You There, a traditional Spiritual arranged by Uzee Brown (USA) was an appropriate prelude to Palm Sunday. The programme also included UK premieres of Jacob's Ladder by Ralph Simpson (b. 1933 USA) and the Organ Suite by Kevin George (20th Century USA).

Finally, Lucius Weathersby gave a most unusual improvisation on The Cornish Floral Dance. It was not surprising that he had never heard this traditional tune a rather basic ‘ditty’ but he gave it a new intercultural rendition that will be remembered in Great Torrington for a long time. In addition to the concert, Lucius Weathersby recorded some of the works at Torrington for a forthcoming CD.


Hon. President, Judith Anne Still
Chair, Mike Wright

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