Tone Poem Tuesday

There are two possibilities with regard to this amazing piece of music, which I’ve just heard for the first time ever the day before yesterday: Either this amazing work has been studiously ignored for decades since its composition, when it should be heard every year around Passover time, much as The Ten Commandments is screened each year; or, it is heard every year around that time, and White Musical America is just that good at ignoring the amazing work of Black composers.

Sadly, I can see it breaking either way.
Robert Nathaniel Dett was a Black composer, native to Canada but who eventually spent most of his life and career in America after his family moved there when he was eleven. Dett was born in 1882 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and would die in 1943 at the age of sixty, from a heart attack while touring with the USO as a choral director. In between he wrote a good amount of music, apparently making heavy use of Black folk songs and spirituals in a typically Romantic style.
Dett’s oratorio The Ordering of Moses was premiered by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1937. That performance was to be broadcast live by NBC, but the broadcast was cut short due to “technical difficulties” that apparently left many wondering if the issue had been technical at all, or due to large volume of complaints lodged with NBC for broadcasting a Black man’s music. That doesn’t matter now, because we can hear Dett’s amazing work now.
Here is The Ordering of Moses by Robert Nathaniel Dett.
(The entire work isn’t available in one video, so the above is an embedded playlist. As this doesn’t always work well for me, here’s the link to hear the work directly on YouTube.)

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1 Response to Tone Poem Tuesday

  1. Roger Owen Green says:

    A serious highlight of your recent entries! And the embedded feature worked.

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